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Considerations for Volunteer Resource Managers In Engaging Service-Learners

The debate continues over whether or not students in service-learning placements should be considered volunteers, and this type of unpaid labor often falls under the purview of a volunteer resource manager. Indeed, engaging service-learners is one strategy that can be used to extend the work of an organization.

There are many studies about the impact of service-learning from the perspective of the student and the campus. This quarter’s Research to Practice looks at one of the few studies that analyzes the impact of service-learning on the community partner. This study, “Service-learning from the supply side: Community capacity to engage students” (Littlepage, Gazley & Bennett, 2012), is based on a sample of over 1,000 nonprofit and religious organizations in two counties in Indiana. It provides important insights for volunteer resource managers who are considering or already engaging service-learners.

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Stephany - RWU - Bristol, RI

At my previous organization, we treated service learning students as we would treat any other volunteer or unpaid intern in terms of how we counted the hours.

Now, working on the University end and assisting students and faculty with service learning opportunities, I can attest as challenging as it was from the nfp side to often find a fit for these students, it's just as challenging from the academic side to find organizations willing to take on service learning students/faculty for projects or on-going service.

Speaking from experience and what we did at my previous position, we were inundated with requests for service learning projects which were embedded within courses. We eventually developed a series of on-going projects which could be done in a semester and had the students focus solely on one or two of those projects. We'd also encourage them to join us for our other volunteer projects. So for instance, we'd have students organize a student membership campaign at their campus, or organized a fundraising event on campus with funds going to our organization. Students would develop a volunteer day of service for their campus, organize a donation drive for our various programs. We were there to work collaboratively with them, but they were responsible for the entire project.

As for students at the organization individually, we treated those like interns. We had them apply as interns and established them within a program or department.That worked best for us when we had individuals looking for a service learning opportunity.

The most important thing is to have the support of the program managers and directors - you can't have a successful service learning program without their buy-in.

Denise - NSO - Detroit, MI

Do organizations track and use service-learning(Intern)hours as part of their volunteer hour counts?