Back to Nov. 2019 Newsletter

Supporting Local Youth

By Anna Restuccia and Meredith Stoops

This fall, for the third year in a row, Dr. Kevin Bryant has given the 35 students in his Juvenile Delinquency course the opportunity to work with and learn from community agencies that are focused on providing healthy and supportive programs for youth in Atchison.

Bryant, Professor and Chair of Sociology and Criminology at Benedictine College, worked with the Center for Service-Learning to develop a list of potential placements for his students. Service-learning allows them to observe and gain experience with environments that help create healthy communities and safe, educational spaces for youth. In this way, students can more closely witness “the role of religion, the family, schools, and peers” in prevention of delinquency, which is a main topic in the course, as stated in the syllabus.

 After choosing one of the options from the list of local programs, students initiated contact with the organization to begin serving. Bryant emphasized the importance of students making the first move and reaching out to the community, saying that he expected it would be an inspiring challenge for the college students. He observed that this challenge is worth the effort: “the students experience unforeseen benefits,” Bryant said, ”and by that I mean after they start actually interacting with youth, the course materials will come alive because they are actually dealing with real human beings.” In addition to the academic learning that takes place, Bryant highlighted that, for students, the knowledge that they will “have an impact on people’s lives here,” is an invaluable lesson in any field of study.  

Some students have the opportunity to carry over that service-learning commitment from one course to another. Benedictine student, Logan Soto, started serving with COR+, an afterschool program for middle school youth, as part of a service-learning initiative in Dr. Mikail Whitfield’s Christian Moral Life course last semester.  When he saw that COR+ was also an option for service-learning in his Juvenile Delinquency course this semester, he decided to continue his commitment there.  Now, instead of relating his experience at COR+ back to his Theology course, Soto completes assignments that help him reflect upon his time with the middle schoolers from the perspective of his Criminology course. In one such assignment, which he later shared with the Center for Service-Learning, Soto observed that “the majority of… members go to play sports with friends from school,” so he can “count on hours of tossing around the football,  or shooting hoops” with the middle schoolers.  Helping the COR+ youth led Soto to “recall the urge to fit in with a certain crowd” that he himself had when he was in middle school. In his reflection paper, Soto pointed out how these observations and memories connected to academic concepts from his class such as “role diffusion” and “ego identity.” As a result of these considerations, Soto makes the effort to encourage and inspire the kids and, in particular, to “try to get everyone to play, to make sure that no one gets left out.”

Closer to campus, Benedictine student, Jordan Gibson, learned more about her course material while helping coach 6th grade volleyball at St. Benedict Catholic School (SBCS). SBCS Physical Education teacher, Annie Hart, observed that the Benedictine students who help with the athletic program do a “great job bringing [SBCS students] together.” She also happily shared about the encouragement and admiration inspired in her students through affiliation with Benedictine. Hart commented on the growth she has observed in herself, her students, and the Ravens who serve: “I love to learn from Benedictine students just like they can learn from me and my students.” Hart, who describes herself as “a life-long learner in the true sense of the word,” wants to instill that same love of learning in her students. From what she has seen so far this semester, both the SBCS and Benedictine students have exhibited an active pursuit of new knowledge.

Service-learning courses like Juvenile Delinquency create a vital sense of reciprocity and collaboration within the Atchison community. It is expected that such opportunities will continue to support the academic growth of students and strengthen ties between Benedictine College and Atchison.