Northwestern students learn about service, leadership through meaningful projects

October 29, 2020

As part of the service learning requirements for their Habitudes class at Northwestern, a group of students organized the picking up of trash on campus. That group included Isaac Joseph, Esther Thornburg, Jacob Ervin and Natalie Linville.

“Service” and “leadership” are integral parts of Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s mission, so having students complete service learning projects as part of their class requirements helps to further the university’s mission to its students while providing a much-needed service to the community.

A number of the classes at Northwestern incorporate these service-learning components in their classes for the students to complete, including the three-credit-hour service-learning course “Habitudes.”

“Students in the class are asked to organize and conduct a community service project using the leadership skills we learn,” said Kaylyn Hansen, director of assessment and institutional effectiveness and service-learning coordinator, who is teaching three of the four Alva campus classes this fall. “Their final is a reflection paper where they are asked to analyze their experience and discuss leadership skills they used, summarize the project, discuss how the project impacted their knowledge of civic responsibility and engagement, and discuss ethical-reason and decision-making.”

Jordan Franz, associate men’s basketball coach, is teaching the fourth Alva campus class while Brooke Fuller, adjunct instructor of psychology, is offering an online version of the class. Alva High School language arts teacher Halah Simon is teaching a class at Alva High School, and Anthony Barros, adjunct instructor of humanities, teaches the course on the Woodward campus. Two classes will be offered in the spring on the Alva campus.

Hansen explained that several of the students have completed their projects, but a few groups will continue through mid-November.

Some of the projects completed this semester include:

  • Organizing a non-perishable food, personal hygiene and bedding drive for the Northwestern Campus Cabinet food pantry
  • Teaming up with Beautify Alva
  • Making an educational agriculture video for a high school class
  • Working at the Elegant Toad Thrift Store
  • Picking up trash at Hatfield Park
  • Painting at Beadles Nursing Home
  • Helping at the Pumpkin Patch
  • Helping at The Wesleyan Food Bank
  • Volunteering at a Youth Group to provide a message to young students
Habitudes students completing a project for the Campus CabinetCollecting 183.5 pounds of non-perishable foods and other items recently during a two-week drive for the Northwestern Campus Cabinet food pantry are Kaylea Brown, Kaylin Blatchford, Whitney Blanchard and Lizzy Webster, who did the project for service learning credit in their Habitudes class at Northwestern. The students organized the drive, solicited items from on- and off-campus, delivered the items to the Campus Cabinet, weighed it in and put it on the shelves.

Four women helped the Campus Cabinet restock its shelves by collecting 183.5 pounds of donated product and a $50 donation from a downtown business during their two-week drive. The students included Whitney Blanchard, Magna, Utah, sophomore; Kaylin Blatchford, freshman, and Kaylea Brown, junior, both of Cleveland, Oklahoma; and Elizabeth Webster, Cherokee freshman.

 “These girls showed a lot of initiative and determination,” Hansen said. “I was pleased to see them utilizing their leadership skills in serving others. They also worked very well together as a group. I am very proud of their hard work in helping their peers and the NWOSU community.”

Angelia Case, coordinator of the Campus Cabinet who also serves the university as an academic projects assistant and media specialist, is thankful the students chose the campus food pantry for their project and loves seeing students doing good deeds for others and being proud of their work.

“Service-learning can teach lessons for a lifetime of serving and giving of yourself,” Case said. “We are always so thankful for those who run the events, those who teach the classes giving good examples and those who give. We will put these donations to good use. We promise.”

Brown, who has been volunteering with different food pantries and nutrition programs for a couple of years, said this class project has been her favorite by far.

“It was fulfilling to see it from the beginning to the end,” Brown explained. “I think, for me, it meant a lot because I know that it will benefit people that I have never met and people that are genuinely in need of help. The most impactful part for me was seeing the weigh-in and what the room looked like before and after the items we collected had gone in. Seeing the difference that two weeks' worth of work made really made me feel like we had accomplished a lot. I think the best part of it was seeing how people will come together to help with a project; even if they can't donate themselves, they still find a way to help.”

A group comprised of Jacob Ervin, Alva sophomore; Isaac Joseph, Miami, Florida, freshman; Natalie Linville, Beaver junior; and Esther Thornburg, Hooker freshman, picked up trash that had collected on the Northwestern campus.

“I learned that a lot of the people here have little regard to what they’re throwing on the ground and just how much trash never actually makes it to the trash can,” Linville said. “I think doing this helped me be more mindful about picking up trash and not littering.”

Barros said that his students in Woodward have completed numerous projects in past semesters from helping at a soup kitchen and a domestic crisis center to cleaning at Boomer Stadium and food distribution at the local food pantry.

“One student went to a nursing home and sang songs with the residents on Tuesdays for five weeks,” he said. “When asked why she chose this for her project, she said, ‘everyone deserves to have their hearts lifted by music.’”

He added that another student mentored a third-grade boy for a full semester and bought him Christmas presents. He said the student commented that the little boy did more for him than he did for the boy. 

And, another student helped a family buy food and a small doll for a little girl after seeing them shopping and unable to purchase their items. Barros explained that this family surprised the student by showing up at the door of the classroom to thank her publicly.

“The little girl was clutching her doll and gave the student a Hersey's Kiss for her Christmas present,” Barros said. “I don't think there was a dry eye in the classroom that day.”

Students at Northwestern are always looking for ways to help in their communities. Those interested in having student-helpers should contact Hansen at or (580) 327-8150.


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