TLC captures hometown essence

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Growing in students, volunteerism in uncertain economic times

The lights are especially bright for one project at the TLC after-school program that teams up middle school students with college students to merge words and pictures to create a "community map" of their hometowns.

The TLC students showed off their works in progress this week at the "Lights On Afterschool" open house at both the middle school afterschool program and the elementary ETA program.

The middle school students are partnered one-on-one with students in Kay Siebler's Written Communication class at BVU. They were given disposable cameras to take pictures with, and are now working with the BV students to write captions and stories for the photos.

Donna Queen, director of TLC, feels one of the most important parts of this collaboration is the one-on-one relations the students develop.

"For one thing, (the TLC students) learn to appreciate what there is in their lives that is important to them with taking pictures, and academically they're learning more about writing," she said. "Perhaps most importantly is the mentoring process that is going on with the one-on-one relationship. I've seen great things come from with kids working one-on-one."

And while middle school students get to work with an older student, the college students are also finding it beneficial, according to Siebler, a BVU English professor.

"It's important for them because they're interacting in a very different environment than they grew up in," Siebler said of her students.

Siebler called it a "community mapping" project, an innovation for Storm Lake.

"We gave the middle school students disposable cameras and told them to go out into the world and take pictures of people and things in their community," Siebler said.

"They were suppose to take pictures of things that are important to them," Queen said.

'Community Mapping' / See Back

The college students paid for the development costs and then started to work with the TLC students on figuring out which pictures were important to them and why.

"The middle school students and college students worked one-on-one in coming up with captions about why this picture was important to them," Queen said. "It's dealing with writing and it's one on one. It's just really super to have that one-on-one interaction with college students and TLC students."

The BV students are also exposed to the diversity of Storm Lake - something lacking in many of their home communities. Experiences like this may provide them with a better understanding of different cultures, Queen said.

"Many of the college students come from small towns with no minorities, so they're learning how to work with the middle school age and minority students," she said.

The students may also work with students who speak another language better than English.

"It's a real learning experience for my students to talk to other people who are coming from a very different perspective than they are," Siebler said.

Siebler said some of her students were apprehensive at first about doing such a project, from not wanting to give up extra time a week to being uncertain what to expect with middle school aged kids.

"But once they got into the camera project, they were really drawn to the students and made connections across cultures and across barriers of age," Siebler said. "Now they're sad they have to leave them."

The project was only four weeks in length, something Siebler may change in her future classes. That one-on-one time is important.

"The middle school students really do need time to get to know them," she said. "It's imperative when they're talking to students and they're articulating ideas about their community and family. They have to be a trusting relationship there to begin with."

With BVU's focus on the New American College philosophy, this project was a good way to make a connection between the classroom and the community, Siebler said.

"And it changes the BVU students' perspective on living in Storm Lake and how they perceive the community of Storm Lake outside the university community," Siebler said. "Service learning gets (the college students) to interact with the Storm Lake community, which is good for both the community and students at the university."

"I think both groups are really growing from the whole project," Queen said. "TLC students keep coming back - if they didn't like it they wouldn't come back and they're not asking to change to a different activity, and that is really positive."

This is just one example of the volunteerism that has been going on this year at the afterschool program. TLC is averaging about 59 BVU and Iowa Central student volunteers every week.

Another new program is BV Buddies, a one-on-one mentoring program between BVU students and TLC students, while volunteers from BVU's drama and science clubs also come to TLC to work with students.

All of the volunteers have helped the TLC program, which is facing a reduced budget as the federal grant that funds it expires.

"(The volunteers have) really helped us financially this year. Having these BV students come in we actually have more staff than last year and it's costing less. And students are relating very well to college students," Queen said.

There is enough funding for TLC to continue throughout the end of this school year.

The federal grant that funds TLC is being moved to the state, and applications for continued funding won't be available until January 2003. Notifications won't be given until the end of April or beginning of May for grant recipients.

"We will not know until that time if we get a new state grant," Queen said.

When the grant program moves to the state, it will require some sort of local matching funds, so local fundraising will continue.

This year TLC is averaging about 15 more students per day than last year to 75 students per day, Queen said. The before school program is growing, too, with upwards of 15 students, varying on the day and whether need extra help on projects or computer access.

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