English Students Take on Rhetorical Histories and Traditions Service-Learning Project in Partnership with St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center
English students recently partnered with St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center to improve its training materials for volunteers and staff members as part of a service-learning project. Not only did they develop these much-needed materials, but students also created a plan to invigorate the Center’s use of Facebook and other social media in order to better communicate the organization’s vision and mission and the range of services they provide.
The students worked closely with the Center’s Director, Sister Christine Wagner, whose goals for training the 200-300 volunteers include: educating them on the mission and offerings of the Center; helping them feel like a part of the Center; and embed them even more into the day-to-day operation of the Center.
The students created a toolbox which included two Powerpoint presentations, one Prezi, a script to be used for a videographer to develop into a training video, and a plan to update the center’s use of social media. They presented their materials to Wagner and senior staff on April 12. Additionally, they have held meetings with Wagner and the Center’s communications director to discuss how to implement and sustain some of their recommended changes.
“I am incorporating these materials in the work of the Center for immediate use,” said Wagner. “This has been a very worthwhile enterprise for us this semester.”
According to Dr. Jim Bowman, Assistant Professor of English, after preliminary coursework about rhetorical traditions of civic engagement, students consulted available resources of the Center, such as brochures, a Powerpoint presentation currently in use, newsletters, publications about the Sisters of St. Joseph and the Neighborhood Center, articles Wagner has written for society bulletins, and other materials. They used those materials, combined with on-site visits and a focus group with volunteers and senior staff, to determine the message and form appropriate for revising their own rhetoric for distribution within the Center.
Students also examined how other health care providers with a history of serving their communities explain themselves and their services and wrote a critical and comparative analysis to provide to the Center. In addition, they blogged in class about their experiences, and wrote analytical and reflective essays on the relationship between rhetoric, community engagement, and learning.
Established in 1993 as a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph, St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center provides comprehensive health care, counseling, adult education, and social work to individuals and families who lack access to health insurance.