Shippensburg writing class teaches lessons in life
Dr. Karen Johnson’s basic writing class at Shippensburg University are using
their grammar studies to learn some lessons from life.
using a service learning project with a theme of poverty to help my students
connect research and learning, with the real world,” said Johnson, associate director
of the university’s Learning Center.
spent the first few weeks of the semester learning about the different types of
poverty. Recently, they chose a service learning project. “They could either
choose the Homeless Shelter in Harrisburg or serve breakfast on Saturday
mornings at Christ United Methodist Church in Shippensburg or something of
their choice,” said Johnson.
student Joe Lococo said he went to the homeless shelter “on a Saturday morning
for five or six hours and we painted fences and weeded, just doing whatever we
could to help out.”
Matthis, a first-year student who also went to the shelter, said, “When I got
there, it was an eye-opener because I didn’t know what to expect. It was
heart-breaking to realize people live that way.”
providing service at the shelter or the church, students interviewed either a
service provider or someone being helped. Lococo interviewed a woman staying at
the shelter. “Her story was powerful to me because she is a single mom raising
children in poverty. She has it in her mind that she will get a job and put her
kids on the right path. She’s not giving up.”
students are working to turn their collection of oral histories into written
narratives. When complete, they plan to send the collection to the residents of
the homeless shelter to emphasize the value of each story and experience.
Lauren Nearhoof, who serves as Johnson’s writing fellow, said, “It touches you
as much as it touches them. It meant so much to them that you wanted to talk to
their children, paint their fence . . . little things like that, that you don’t
think are important, mean so much to someone else.”
project, Johnson said, is important for the students. “Service learning helps
students apply writing in a way that becomes more meaningful and rich,” she