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 AACC’s Project Reach Awards Eight Colleges Funding to Support Service Learning for Students with Disabilities 

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Eight community colleges received grant awards for Project Reach: Service Inclusion for Community College Students, a three-year national initiative of AACC through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service and its Engaging Persons with Disabilities, New Special Initiatives Program. These colleges will develop opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in service learning and learn life skills that will have an impact on their employment, careers, and personal development. Service learning combines classroom instruction with community service, focusing on critical, reflective thinking as well as personal and civic responsibility. 

 Photo of Project Reach for 2006
Project Reach mentors Esther Schon (left, standing), Dale Hill (second from right, standing), Kim McNeel (far right, standing) and Joy Cook (middle, sitting), with AACC Staff Gail Robinson (second from left, standing), Quintin Doromal (second from right, standing), Faith San Felice (left, sitting), and Lynn Barnett (right, sitting), CNCS Project Officer Cara Patrick (third from left, standing), and Project Evaluator Oscar Lopez (fourth from left, standing).

Cara Patrick, CNCS Program Officer, commented that “…through Project Reach, AACC is providing greater opportunities for college students with disabilities to participate in community service and service-learning.”

The grant colleges will be part of a national survey of disability support services programs that will collect current information on programs and resources for students with disabilities in order to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the role that community colleges play in providing education and training. The grant colleges will also offer training in service learning and disability support services on their campus, integrating the inclusion of students with disabilities in service learning experiences. 

The awarded colleges are listed below, with brief descriptions of their individual projects:

Reach, Soar, Fly! The project at Brevard Community College, in Cocoa Beach FL, will recruit students with disabilities to engage directly in civic participation while enhancing coursework and transitioning from college to careers. These students will tutor K-12 students in reading and math at Brevard County Schools, their primary community partner. Some student leaders with disabilities will be selected to serve as liaison to other students with disabilities, recruit peers into service learning experiences, and in some instances, will be matched with other students to work as a team.  Education, social studies, psychology and existing community service learning courses as well as non-credit preparatory courses will be part of the project.

Students with disabilities in the ReachAbility project at Edmonds Community College, in Lynnwood, WA, will train and mentor Woodmoor Elementary School students in water-wise gardening through the cultivation of native plants in a Human Ecological Stewardship course. These native plants will be used in local habitat conservation areas, parks and landscaping of homes built by Habitat for Humanity. The college students will be responsible for assessing needs, testing accessibility, and mentoring younger students with the appropriate and proper use of construction tools and equipment. Another opportunity for students with disabilities is through the college’s ongoing “Building Beyond the Walls” project with Habitat for Humanity that builds accessible homes for low-income families. Students with disabilities will participate in the activities while developing skills in construction management and trade skills. 

Project Hands On: Integrating Students with Disabilities to their Community and to Life Long Learning Experiences through Service Learning at El Camino College, in Torrance, CA, will offer students with disabilities a transition course from school to careers utilizing service learning components. The course, Education Development 21, or Career Exploration, will pair students with a job host whom they observe on the work site one-hour per week for 10 weeks. This experience will allow students with disabilities, many who have no previous work experience, to understand the variety of work tasks at the job site and the professional demeanor of all successful employees. 

Henderson Community College’s Career Connections for Students with Disabilities program will provide students with disabilities enrolled in service learning courses, such as developmental reading, a one-credit workshop entitled Employability Skills Seminar. This intervention focuses on employment skills, resume writing, interview techniques, job search, and job marketing strategies. The students enrolled in a developmental reading course will read age appropriate materials to four and five-year olds enrolled in the Head Start class on campus. Other possible courses that include this program are human services, elementary education and pre-nursing.  

Access through ServiceMiami Dade College’s program, will offer service learning experiences to students with disabilities through their disability support services office. Aside from identifying students already taking courses with service learning, the staff will work with instructors to develop service learning modules or assist students in service learning courses for the next term. For other students with disabilities seeking service learning experiences, one-day events, such as MLK Day will be offered. Workshops will be developed and offered for faculty and for community partners to increase their ability to involve students with disabilities in service learning. Two students with disabilities will be hired as project assistants to promote the program and serve as liaison with their peers. A career program will provide career training and customized job placement assistance. A checklist will be developed to help students with disabilities and the agencies where they serve identify what accommodations are necessary for a successful experience. The primary community partner, Shake-A-Leg Academy, is a comprehensive program for underprivileged children and youth that has a water sports program and an education center.

Service Learning Outreach, the program at Minneapolis Community & Technical College in Minneapolis, MN, involves a student organization, R.A.T.E. (Realizing Abilities Through Education) and their webpage for the promotion of service learning activities to students with disabilities. Students with disabilities in service learning experiences will also participate on a panel with their site supervisors to discuss experiences and answer questions. Advisory meetings will be held with students to share the value of service learning to their career exploration. Career Services will provide workshops to guide students in networking with organizations, interviewing skills, and ideas for discussing disability and accommodation needs with the volunteer sites. To increase SL opportunities, especially opportunities in gateway classes, such as developmental reading and English, meetings will be held with faculty to discuss feasibility and inclusion. A product of this is a print guide for inclusion of students with disabilities in service learning. The primary community partner is Courage Center, a not-for-profit rehabilitation services organization for all age groups with physical disabilities.

Project SERVE–Students Encounter Real Vocational Experiences, is the program at National Park Community College in Hotsprings, AR. Success Seminar, a course required by all first year students, will offer service learning components for students with disabilities through the development of modules by two faculty members. Students with disabilities enrolled in the course will be completing their service learning experiences in a fourth grade class at Jessieville School District primarily in tutoring reading and math. Students with disabilities will also have available career services, with information on resume writing, interviewing skills and job fair activities.

Prairie State College’s Label Us Able: Achieving the Dream through Diversity and Service Learning, involves three areas of student development. One-day service learning projects (i.e. National Youth Service Day), will include a critical reflection experience that highlights the underlying philosophy of service learning and underscores the values of civic engagement and community empowerment. Through career development services, students with disabilities will be trained in resume writing, interviewing skills and mock interviews, job search techniques and labor market information. There will also be service learning workshops for students with disabilities that focus on learning and work-related goals. SouthStar Services, a non-profit training and rehabilitation services organization, will serve as primary community partner. 

The eight Project Reach colleges will be assisted by experienced mentors from Gadsden State Community College (AL), Glendale Community College (CA), Meridian Community College (MS), and Paradise Valley Community College (AZ). 

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