Today’s #AskTingleTU column is the second in a four-part series introducing you to the new Center for Experiential Learning and Career Success (The Center). As a reminder, Experiential Learning (EXL) is “hands on learning” or “learning by doing” and it takes numerous forms: course-embedded projects, undergraduate research, service learning and internships. Whereas the first column highlighted the value of internships, today’s focus is on Service Learning.

As a quick primer, Trinity students are REALLY good at Service Learning. In the most recent reporting year, you logged over 125,000 hours of community services, which amounted to a 2.9 million dollar economic impact on the city of San Antonio. Trinity students read more than 1,600 books to children, donated 200 pints of blood and served 11,200 hot meals with our community partners such as Haven for Hope and the San Antonio Food Bank. In fact, Trinity has been named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest recognition a school can receive from the federal government for commitment to the community, every year since 2008.

In hopes you’ll read the entire column — which I know you wouldn’t if I rambled on using academic jargon — I’ll let students describe the value of experiential learning in their own words. This week, Maddy Loeb, senior history and Spanish major, and Ana Ruiz, senior business administration major, describe their experience with Service Learning while at Trinity.

Take it away Maddy!

“Since my first semester at Trinity, I’ve had the privilege of volunteering with a program known as Multi-level Educational Youth Outreach (M.E.Y.O.), an after-school program for kids on the West Side of San Antonio. This program is one of the best parts of my week, and has had a major impact on my experience at Trinity. Working with those kids and witnessing the strong community on the West Side has provided me with a fresh perspective on my education. One that transcends the confines of the classroom. It is so easy to become immersed in the rigorous academic lifestyle at Trinity and consequently lose sight of how truly privileged we are to attend this university. My time with M.E.Y.O. gives my Trinity experience new meaning and purpose. It reminds me that I am tasked not only with academic success to benefit my own future, but also on behalf of these kids and others, who without dedicated advocates for their education, will not be afforded the same opportunities. In this way, service within the San Antonio community has shaped my future for the better and has made my time at Trinity more worthwhile. The smile on a nine-year-old’s face as they conquer multiplying decimals with confidence — well, it’s simply unbeatable.”

Ana Ruiz also began serving the San Antonio community during her first semester at Trinity. She describes the experience this way. “As an incoming freshman I was asked if I had the preference to live in a community service oriented hall: HOPE Hall. I knew I was interested in volunteering while at Trinity, but I did not know much about it. Regardless, I decided to take a chance and join the hall. As I look back, I think of how the click of one checkbox transformed my entire Trinity experience.”

“In just four years, the hall has grown, not only in the number of our members, but also in the amount of people that we serve, the stories we hear and the connections we are able to make. I am grateful to have been able to witness this growth.”

“Engaging in service learning has given me the opportunity to grow from a scared first-year to the Director of Community Outreach and Relations for the hall. It has allowed me to learn the importance of serving others. Some say, that service is like putting drops of water in a cup. If there are enough drops, the cup will be overflow and the mission will be fulfilled. While this is a great analogy, HOPE Hall has taught me to view community service more as drops of water which cause a ripple. While the impact may be small it first, it gains momentum and continues to spread beyond what we could ever imagine.”

As Maddy and Ana describe, Trinity students are indeed served through their own service. Last year, 20 students received President’s Volunteer Service Award; a huge honor for an institution our size. As an alumnus and resident of San Antonio, I couldn’t be more proud of the dedication and commitment of Trinity students.

Want to better understand what it means to live in a community? Want to have an impact on San Antonio, Bexar County, and South Texas? Get involved — today! Email Edwin Blanton (eblanton@trinity.edu) or drop by The Center for Experiential Learning and Career Success to find your direction.