Building K-16 Writing Skills through Service-Learning Placements.

Posted by on March 24, 2011

School Partnership: Chestnut Hill College and Roxborough High School:

Project Description and Q&A with McKenzie Lovell
Currently, three service-learning classes (that are also freshman writing seminars) are working with and mentoring Roxborough High School (School District of Philadelphia) seniors on their senior project graduation requirement. Additionally, over a two day span (March 10th and 11th) the entire Freshman Academy at Roxborough, roughly 150 students, came to Chestnut Hill College from College Access Days. These days included a mock class, a campus tour, a writing skills workshop, and a resume workshop. Roxborough juniors and seniors will participate in workshops in the fall of 2011.

Q&A with MacKenzie Lovell:
MacKenzie facilitated this partnership, and currently works for Chestnut Hill College as the Student Life Assistant through Chestnut Hill’s Service-Learning Program.

Q: How was this program established?

A: This collaboration was possible because of the implementation of new Service-Learning classes that didn’t happen last year. [Roxborough already had a relationship with Chestnut Hill through the Senior Project Pilot program which was part of the School District of Philadelphia’s Partnerships in Character Education Grant and supported by PHENND.] We went from having zero classes last year to three this year and we focused on working specifically with senior projects at Roxborough High School.

Q: What was the key to building this partnership?

A: Principal support, and we got lucky over the summer that one professor decided to take this on and encouraged others to join and implement it as part of the freshman writing seminars.

Q: What made it work really well?

A: All [Chestnut Hill] freshman are in a basic writing class which is dedicated to bettering their writing skills. The first professor thought about how they could establish what they knew by teaching others, and to see how much they could help [high school] students with their writing. The other goal was that the Chestnut Hill students would be more motivated to re-learn what they need for their own writing by wanting to help out the High School students they’d formed relationships with.

Q: Was the class done on the basic premise mutual skill building?

A: As a service-learning placement, most of our students enjoyed what they were doing. What we found by and large is that students felt that working with Roxborough students was rewarding. Beyond that, professors noticed that the skill sets of the Chestnut Hill students improved. We are going to survey professors to compare writing skills learned between students who took a service-learning writing placement and those who did not.

Q: Why did you have the “college access days” in addition to the writing tutoring?

A: This year I was able to meet with the principal a lot and one of my goals was to help meet his need of getting Roxborough students to be part of a “college going environment”. We decided it would make sense to bring freshman to campus in the Spring and for Juniors and Sophomores to go in the Fall for college prep workshops.

Q: Did you use any city-wide resources or programming?

A: We didn’t use any city-wide programming, but I think we’re in line with getting Philadelphia students prepared for college, which is one of the Mayor’s goals.

Q: Have you done partnerships like this before?

A: This was a sort of “first of it’s kind” as far as our writing and resume workshop on campus for high school students. As someone who used to work in a high school, it surprised me how “cushy” it is to work with college students. It was tiring and challenging work to host the College Access Days but we were glad that we could provide them and will be continuing to do them in the Fall and Spring semesters..

Q: How have you built in a structure for next year?

A: It will stick with the same couple of professors. We have the program in a workable, long term sustainable place now both at Chestnut Hill and Roxborough.

Q: What  support at Chestnut Hill (besides that of professors) helped to run this program?

A: The Scholars in Service program students were integral in putting together the event days together. They also created and put together a “college timeline” for Roxborough students so that they know when each step towards college needs to be made. At least half of our Scholars go to Roxborough and mentor students as well. I just did the admin stuff. They are integral to what we are doing. If we pare down to those doing “office work” then it won’t  be able to function on the same level.

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