Seniors Serve Local Organizations During Spring Semester

Posted on: Wednesday, May 1st, 2013
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by Brent Treash

Seven Emory & Henry students majoring in Public Policy and Community Service (PPCS) participated in senior projects during the 2013 spring semester, each serving at local non-profit organizations where their work focused on major social issues and policy questions.

Pictured above are Tal Stanley, chair of Public Policy and Community Service (PPCS), and PPCS seniors Mary Beth Tignor, Sophilia Hubbard, Brianne Smalley, Nick Copeland, Tim Grunstra, and Brian Stanley. Not pictured is PPCS senior Walker Tyler.

Timothy Grunstra of Bristol, Va., served with the special education classes of Jenny Mitchell and Tonya Farmer at E.B. Stanley Middle School in Abingdon, working with some of the same children he met at River’s Way Outdoor Adventure Center during his senior practicum in the fall. During this semester, Grunstra assisted special needs children with re-marking and revitalizing the walking trail at the middle school which is used during training for Special Olympics. Grunstra facilitated meetings with the students to help them gain communication and organizational skills. Students were responsible for asking the principal for permission to work on the trail and choosing materials for the project. Students were also in charge of painting and placing concrete pavers around the track.

“Through this project, I found that the students were able to grow and develop their life skills such as teamwork, communication, leadership, reliance, self-esteem and self-worth. I think that as a means of education for special education students, service-learning projects can provide invaluable experiences,” said Grunstra.

Grunstra said he learned that relationships, particularly friendships, play an important role in service work. “These relationships act as catalysts to stimulate the quality of the work produced. When I care for my students and they know I care, and conversely, they care for me, we all desire to do good work.”

He added,“From the project I gained experience being a leader, a team player, and a supporter. I developed my communication skills, and learned what it is to be reliable, engaging and a friend. These skills, I know, will always be with me and provide a platform from which I will work to serve the people and places which I claim as mine, wherever that might be".

For her senior project, Sophilia Hubbard of Lynchburg, Va., conducted a fund-raising event for the Wesley Medical Clinic in Abingdon, Va., a mission program sponsored by Pleasant View United Methodist Church that strives to meet the medical needs of uninsured people in the area. On April 19, Hubbard hosted a talent show at the church featuring E&H staff, students and members of the community. A magic act was performed by Brad Dolinger, a student at Patrick Henry High School.

Hubbard said she learned organizational skills as a result of her project. “Communication, time management and planning play a big role in organizing events,” she said.

Mary Beth Tignor, who serves as an assistant to the manager of the Glade Spring Farmers Market, helped update the rules and regulations of the market, as well as creating resource materials for farmers market vendors. The materials will be kept on reference in the Glade Spring Library. Tignor presented the materials on April 16 to members of the Glade Spring Farmers Market.

“I learned how important it is to make rules and regulations readily available to the public so that everyone feels the market is a community effort,” said Tignor of Lebanon, Va. “This project has taught me a lot about the management of an organization and how to work with different members of the community,” added Tignor, who plans to pursue a career in environmental education and community service. “I have learned that organization is the key to a well-run program.”

Walker Tyler of Stephenson, Va., organized a bike trip for seventh and eighth grade students who attend Fries Middle School in Fries, Va. Beginning in Fries, the bike route followed a 20-mile segment of the New River Trail. Walker was responsible for learning the history of the trail and its surrounding areas, arranging for the availability of bikes and transportation, as well as designing an educational component of the trip.

“While the main component of the trip was the 20-mile bike ride from Fries to the Shot Tower, I discussed with the cyclists how the river and the trail, formerly a section of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad, have played an important role in the development of Fries and Southwest Virginia as a whole,” explained Tyler. “I think the greatest thing I took away from this project is the application of concepts and beliefs we hold as PPCS students. My work provided the children with an enriching experience, but I also learned how residents of Fries rely on the surrounding environment for the development of their town.”

Brianne Smalley served on behalf of Meadowview First, a group of citizens committed to working toward the long-term, sustainable economic, and community development of Meadowview, Va. The Burke, Va., student wrote a draft of a planning grant in hopes of helping the group receive funding from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VDHCD). To assist her in writing the draft, she interviewed farmers market vendors, analyzed census data and researched the agricultural heritage and history of the area. If approved, the planning grant funds will allow for engineering and in-depth planning necessary for creating a shared-use kitchen and creamery in Meadowview.

 “This experience will help me in my career because I’ve become more confident, and sometimes more critical, of my work while serving with this project. I also hope I will continue to critically reflect and improve in my work and service after I graduate from Emory & Henry College,” said Smalley.

Brian Stanley collected oral histories along with photographs that showcased the musical heritage of Smyth County, Va. His research and documentation resulted in a video being produced by Junior Appalachian Museums (JAM), which helps communities provide opportunities for children to participate in the old-time and bluegrass music and dance traditions of the Southern Appalachians.

“My duties included conducting and recording interviews with musicians who shared their stories. I learned about the culture of bluegrass and bluegrass music and I was richly rewarded by hearing their music,” said Stanley of Fieldale,Va.

Nick Copeland of Columbia, Md., served with the Southwest Virginia Cultural Heritage Foundation, assisting the marketing committee with data analysis of sales and income at Heartwood, Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway. Examining this data, Copeland identified strengths and weaknesses of Heartwood’s marketing strategy.

“Through this experience, I have grappled with the differences between direct and indirect service and learned the importance of indirect service. This experience has given me the opportunity to work with large data sets and has prepared me for a future in a research career,” said Copeland.