Lewis Central High School graduate Madelin Howard of Council Bluffs looks for supplies Monday as classes get underway at Iowa Western Community College.

Iowa Western Community College’s service learning program offers another dimension beyond the classroom.

The program combines community service with instruction and reflection, according to Matt Mancuso, who oversees the program.

Last year, Iowa Western students contributed almost 12,000 hours of service, he said — and hours are not always recorded. That was up from 10,359.33 hours the previous year.

Iowa Western has had service learning for almost two decades, Mancuso said. The college received a grant to expand the program on campus this year and hire a second full-time AmeriCorps volunteer, along with 15 part-time AmeriCorps workers.

“We’re looking to integrate service learning across more programs,” he said.

Ten faculty members will attend an all-day training session conducted by Iowa Campus Compact and meet with community organizations to discuss how service learning can be increased or enhanced in the classroom, he said.

Opportunities for service come through college activities, events held on campus by other organizations and off-campus volunteer work, Mancuso said. On-campus examples include the college’s annual Preschool Health and Safety Fair, hosting the National Junior College Athletic Association Wrestling Championship from 2016-18, American Red Cross blood drives, Earth Day Celebration, Boys town Iowa’s Fathers Matter and others.

The Preschool Health and Safety Fair is a long-running event that attracts hundreds of preschoolers every year. The undertaking involves students in Iowa Western’s nursing, nursing assistant, dental hygiene and dental assistant programs, members of various Iowa Western athletic teams, as well as representatives from Iowa Daycares and Nursing, the Council Bluffs Fire Department, Council Bluffs Police Department, Midlands Humane Society and other organizations.

Off campus, Iowa Western’s men’s soccer team has helped with the Lakin Campus Back to School Extravaganza, the cheer team has assisted at Raise Me to Read and On With Life events and students have volunteered with Special Olympics Iowa, youth soccer leagues, the Lakin Campus Fall Festival Health Fair, rebuilding Dream Playground at Lake Manawa, community gardens, Giving Tuesdays and Serve Fridays. Some students helped with recycling during the city’s RAGBRAI kickoff.

Mancuso said servicing learning helps students learn civic responsibility and social skills, explore career options and build stronger ties with the college. It also strengthens the college’s community partnerships.

“There’s a ton of benefits to service learning, and that’s why Iowa Western has really embraced it,” he said. “The best thing about service learning is it enhances student learning. Obviously, it’s good for the community organizations, as well. That’s one of the things we’re proud of is the service learning and the benefits it has for the students and the community.”

In addition, service learning is on track to become a requirement for accreditation, according to Iowa Western President Dan Kinney.

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