When Ashley Heger decided to come back to school at 24 years old, she knew that the major decision would depend on the opportunity to customize her major. As a senior at UNC Asheville, she’s done just that, developing a passion and pursing a degree in community development. She hopes to add the distinction of Community Engaged Scholar to her resume at graduation, upon completion of at least six service-learning course hours, a successful service project and presentation, and a paper submission to the Journal of Undergraduate Public Service Projects.
Heger’s project at the Burton Street Community Center started in Professor Ken Betsalel’s Civic Engagement course. Twice a week, students worked directly in the community through fieldwork, with an additional more-traditional class meeting used to apply political thoughts and theories to their experience.
“It is unlike any class I have ever taken,” Heger said. “The traditional academic experience fused with applied community work has been invaluable to me as a student and community member.”
Now, she’s working to create a youth program and community partnership with Ingles and B Clip Productions to fund a healthy-living cooking class for after-school students.
“Personally, this program allows me to spend more time with these students but in a very different capacity. Instead of tutoring, I will be able to share two of my passions: cooking and eating. The important part is sharing. Students will be learning to share tools, knowledge, and most importantly sharing a meal together. After each class we will enjoy what we have made together and send some home to enjoy with family.”
Junior Cody Bushong also is examining how food gets to families in need, but from a different perspective. The health and wellness promotion major has been applying his interdisciplinary knowledge of information management to help the YMCA Healthy Living Pantry streamline their systems and inventory.
Bushong’s work with the pantry started as a service-learning project in spring 2014, where he saw first-hand how useful a new computer system would be to the staff. He’s implementing a system to allow clients to “check-in” each time they visit and provide staff with a way to collect and keep track of data pertaining to the food pantry’s clients and food inventory – data that is indispensable when applying for grant funding.
He’s found the experience to be essential to his education as well.
“The parallels between my experience working on my community service project and the course content of a class called Health Parity: Domestic and Global Contexts, taught by Assistant Professor Ameena Batada, have been intriguing,” said Bushong. “There have been many occasions where I’ll be discussing something with YMCA Healthy Living Pantry staff about a task or an issue, and I’ll immediately be reminded of a discussion in this class we had on the same issue. Even the terminology I learned from this class has helped in my community service work. What this has shown me is that the Health and Wellness Department will provide you excellent opportunities to get real-world experience and allow you to utilize the knowledge gained in the classroom in a real-world setting.”
Learn more about service-learning opportunities and UNC Asheville’s Community Engaged Scholars from the Key Center for Community Citizenship and Service Learning.