Human Services - Coursework that Changes Lives - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Program Spotlight The College
July 7, 2017

Human Services - Coursework that Changes Lives

As a requirement of the Human Services Major at Geneva College, students must take HSV 303: Agency Field Experience.  The course explores the issues related to the delivery of human services in diverse settings.  The students complete two, 40-hour rotations in two different social service agencies along with a 10-hour rotation involving Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Beaver County.  The course challenges students to integrate and apply theoretical constructs with their field observations.   

While students are challenged to explore different populations and services during their 40-hour rotations, all students are given the opportunity to engage in program development and fundraising by participating in the BBBS rotation. This service learning component has a unique history.  In 2012, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Beaver County and Geneva College partnered to begin offering an innovative program to kids waiting to be matched.  Although BBBS had been matching Littles with Geneva students for many years, the waitlist for community matches was growing.  In response to a course assignment, a group of Geneva students developed a program proposal designed to address the needs of those waitlisted kids.  After a meeting between the staff at BBBS and Geneva College faculty and students, the proposal was revised and became a reality due to the cooperative relationship between BBBS and Geneva. The college integrated it into HSV 303 as a permanent field rotation.

HSV 303 students plan and execute three different Tuesday evening events each semester.  Students in the course volunteer and recruit volunteers to swipe their meal cards to cover the cost of supper for each of the Littles.  Following supper, the Littles get to participate in difference activities. Past events have included “Amazing Races” across campus, themed holiday parties, fun crafts, energizing relay races, and a variety of games designed to build teamwork. The students consider the unique interests of the kids in planning their events achieving the objective of the program to help the Littles “feel special” as they wait to be matched.

Because BBBS pays for transporting the kids to Geneva, the HSV 303 class also plans and executes a fundraiser each semester to help offset the cost of busing the kids to campus. This effort not only teaches students valuable skills needed to effectively fundraise, but it also serves to assist BBBS in offsetting the program costs. These fundraisers have included candy grams and participation in the BBBS bowl-a-thon. Last fall, all of campus became engaged in supporting BBBS by donating money to have their favorite professor receive a pie in the face.  The event raised over $250 for BBBS.

The program design is mutually beneficial to both Geneva College and BBBS. The Psychology and Social Services Department appreciates the willingness of BBBS to offer HSV students opportunities to practice essential human services competencies outside of the classroom. In return, Littles who are waiting to be matched can still be mentored. Students submit final journals each semester summarizing the lessons learned from the experience. They have discovered the importance of building on the strengths of the Littles, the need for flexibility during detailed planning in program development, and the rewards of mentoring kids.

What do the Littles think of the program? They express their approval each time they excitedly ask when they get to return to Geneva College.  Although this program is different from the traditional BBBS format, the willingness of BBBS of Beaver County to “think outside of the box” results in change in the lives of Geneva College students and BBBS Littles. 

- Stephanie Schindel, Assistant Professor Geneva College