December 2018 Service-Learning Newsletter

Giving Kids a Voice

By: Ginny Steinkamp

“How do you portray something that is so brutal and not innocent, but in an innocent way?” This question, posed by Jessica Yurgelaitis, a senior Art major, is the primary challenge for students in Professor Wallace’s Digital Illustration class this semester. Professor Wallace’s class has partnered with the First Judicial District CASA Association (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for their major project this semester. Students develop illustrations to accompany a children’s book written by Crystal Swope, the Atchison Programs Coordinator for CASA. “It’s going to take them through what a child in foster care might go through, and introduce the CASA worker so that way, they know that the advocate is there for them and will truly listen to their needs and will make sure they are heard… The advocate can read it with the child, and it helps our advocates to explain their role to the child and will help the child understand they are not alone,” Swope says. Swope hopes this resource will be a means for the children and CASA workers to connect and help the children to understand that they are brave and have a voice.

The skills and experience that students take away from this course will benefit them not only as artists but also as professionals. Wallace hopes students learn tremendously from working with a real client. “This has more meaning,” he says, “because it has a purpose rather than just a mock assignment, and it’s going to be used.” Students are also able to deliver a much deeper message that is typical of an illustrated narrative. “I think it’s really interesting that we as artists and illustrators can produce a book and have that reach out to the community and children and inspire them by our work,” says Hannah Smith, a senior Art major. Students are challenged both in technical areas as they adjust to using necessary technology and learning new techniques. Professionally, they are challenged as they learn communication skills and professionalism while working with a real client.

By participating in this service-learning course, CASA is able to save the dollars they would have otherwise spent and put it towards other necessities that benefit children going through the program. Swope says, “If it wasn’t for being able to reach out to more volunteers, our programs wouldn’t be able to continue.” Benedictine College students are providing an indispensable service that allows CASA to reach even more children in need. “My hope is that after kids read this book, they realize that they have a support team behind them no matter what they are going through,” says Smith. The students of Professor Wallace’s Digital Illustration class have played a significant role by assisting CASA in giving children in need a voice.