For All New GGC Students, the Community is in the Classroom

The learning environment for all new students at Georgia Gwinnett College will stretch far beyond the school’s modern classrooms and 200-acre campus in Lawrenceville this fall, as students roll up their sleeves to paint, clean, build, landscape, and serve throughout Gwinnett County.

The learning environment for all new students at Georgia Gwinnett College will stretch far beyond the school’s modern classrooms and 200-acre campus in Lawrenceville this fall, as students roll up their sleeves to paint, clean, build, landscape, and serve throughout Gwinnett County.

As part of GGC’s distinct First-Year Seminar, each freshman at the emerging College is required to participate in a local community service project. An informative lecture precedes the service learning component and asks students to think of three things they hope to gain from the experience.

“Service learning helps our students put theory into practice and to establish a connection with the community,” says Dr. Mary Greiss-Shipley, director of student success programs at GGC. “It helps them become an integral part of the community by becoming aware of the diversity and social issues around them. It heightens their understanding of the differences and commonalities of other people, and helps them develop a sense of empathy for others.”

GGC students are teaming up with Gwinnett Great Days of Service (GGDOS), a local non-profit organization comprised of more than 30,000 volunteers who completed 170 service projects last year. GGDOS volunteers helped with interior and exterior painting, trash pickup, woodworking, food and clothing drives, a myriad of landscaping needs, and the construction of fences, roofs, and handicap restrooms. All new GGC students will be required to participate in the GGDOS which will make the College one of the largest participants in the nation.

“Our students are going places they don’t know much about, they’re asking questions, and they’re participating in things that are new to them,” says Greiss-Shipley. “As a result, they’re learning self-confidence. They’re engaging with their peers, faculty, and the community. It’s helping them learn new skills, work as a team, and think critically to solve problems. The program really reinforces their citizenship.”

The service learning component at GGC teaches students, first-hand, that helping neighbors in the community can be an enjoyable and fulfilling hobby, and, perhaps, even more. “Some students do really, really well in service learning,” says Greiss-Shipley. “Those students who may not excel in math or science may paint a beautiful mural on a wall.” And who knows where that experience may lead—in life or in a career?

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