ervice learning the builder of our community

Researching Community Partnerships (Rough Draft)

Gloria Spencer

Grantham University

Service learning the builder of our community

Good education is a very sensitive social issue all over the world with each person focusing on ways of improving the quality of education where they come from. This is largely attributed to the high demand for quality education all over the world. Quality education is not only a necessity for survival today but also a vital aspect in the employment sector with each employer looking for the most educated and fit person for any job application. Service learning can be a great way of delivery this as students can be able to easily volunteer in schools and other educational facilities to educate their peers and the community thus boosting the amount of knowledge they may have had previously. While service learning is hard to balance between school work and other extra-curricular activities, students should be encouraged to participate in service learning through community service because it adds value to the student, it improves students’ performance in school, and it enables interpersonal learning in students.

Service learning is a teaching technique used by institutions to teach students by combing learning objectives with community service, where they use their academic knowledge in order to meet and address specific community needs. Through service learning, students can easily learn in various ways such as interpersonal learning, academic learning and even developing their cognitive abilities. However, the challenges that students may face from service learning include time constraints and being at unease from working in environments that some may consider to be foreign. The Netter Center for Community Partnership happens to be one of the most famous service learning and community partnership programs in the country. The organization revolves around partnering with the communities in order to find solutions to the community needs such as education, environment and even health programs. “The Netter Center operates a variety of programs and initiatives that support its core mission of bringing to bear the broad range of human knowledge needed to solve the complex, comprehensive, and interconnected problems of the American city so that the local community of West Philadelphia, Philadelphia, the University itself, and society benefit” (Netter Center for Community Partnerships, 2017)

The organization partners with the community in art-based programs, internship programs for undergraduate and graduate students and even other schools in order to improve the quality of education. These partnerships equip the students with greater social values, skills in other fields other than academic know-how and improving the community’s welfare generally. One of the past partnerships that Netter Center had with the youth in the community was a partnership to address violence and youth safety in the community. This was successful for a while before being stopped as a result of inadequate correlative support for the project that could have brought a significant change. However, this project is one that the center should consider partnering with the community for its success to be achieved. This is because violence in the society these days is a major concern to everyone requiring prompt action to be taken. “The young people conveyed their daily struggles to escape the violence and drugs in their schools and neighborhood.”(Kinnevy & Boddie, Fall 2001)

Volunteering opportunities in the organization crop up each and every time giving the students and the rest of the community a chance to better their community. Some of the activities they are involved in include Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative which is an activity set up to enable volunteers to gain nutrition education through growing, cooking and even consuming their own produce. Other partnerships they have include afterschool programs meant to educate younger children by offering free tutoring, and even programs that prepare high school students for careers in health care. This is not only beneficial to the volunteer but also the community by opening up many opportunities for both the young and the old while creating the cohesion among them. Performing of service learning enables a student to incorporate what they have learned in class into the community activities while volunteering enables a student to learn out of the class from experiential activities. According to the authors, “Like Harkavy and many other proponents of service-learning, we believe that this type of learning enhances academic performance, increases student understanding of an increasingly complex world, and discourages students from formulating and acting on easy ideologies(Kinnevy & Boddie, Fall 2001). Service learning also enables students to gain critical-thinking skills that will enable them to find solutions for complex issues affecting the society. Comment by Michelle Spencer: How is it beneficial to the volunteers?

The Netter Center for community partnerships is a great asset to its community as a result of the numerous learning and volunteering opportunities it has provided. Through all of this, volunteers are open enough to serve their community freely with nothing in return. Nonetheless, service learning is similar to volunteering except that the student has to apply what they learn through their education to provide the services. The disadvantages to this are however minimal. They include inadequate time given to demands for school work and other social activities. (Pearce, 2018)

From this research, I have been able to positively gain the understanding of the importance of service learning to both the students and the community around them. Challenges such as working in culturally diversified communities can also be solved easily in organization as long as each cultural difference is positively embraced without any prejudice that may result in the arising of conflict. Students should therefore work effortlessly to ensure the mission of the organization is achieved through serving the community when called upon even during the volunteering processes.

The organization envisions a healthy democratic and mutually beneficial and respectful partnership with the community around it that will eventually improve its quality of life through advancing and transmission of knowledge. This would mean delivering more services to meet the demand all across the country. The Netter Center has also in turn set up regional offices as they aim to expand their service reach across all borders. (The Netter Center at 20, 2013) The students will also have to play an equally important role in ensuring this spread through getting actively involved in the activities within the organization and working in collaboration with the community to ensure the same.

Some of the challenges the organization may face will trying to achieve their vision include inadequate support for some projects within the community, cultural challenges brought about by cultural differences, financial constraints if economic policies are amended in the near future and conflicts arising from the amount of funding made to schools. The Netter Center has been for a while one of the biggest funders to some of the schools in west Philadelphia. This has had a positive impact on these schools for a long time until recently when claims of bias in school funding programs by the organization were made. This has had a negative impact on the center with most advices coming out to encourage it to do more for the community if they are to achieve their mission.

The Netter Center is at a good position currently although several improvements should be made to better its performance. The center should actively and frequently get involved with the communities they serve even more as they work in solidarity to improve their lives. The center should also spread its services across all borders to ensure no community is left out in their service provision process. The students contribute to the organization goals through diligent service provision, addressing community concerns and offering solutions to problems encountered within the community through what they have previously learned in class. Students participating in service learning are able to gain critical thinking skills for solving skills they may encounter within the community. Students are also able to apply what they learn class into the communities as solutions. Students are also able to develop civic skills in order to address community identified concerns.

Some of the challenges faced by the population served by the Netter Center include insecurity and inadequate educational resources(Kinnevy & Boddie, Fall 2001). Educational resources such as books and tutoring services are then offered to all of the partnering schools. In my opinion, the organization engages in more of solidarity work than charity work. This is because the organization aims at developing democratic, mutually beneficial, mutually respectful partnerships between the University and the community while serving the community so as to better and improve their wellbeing. Solidarity work will be made more possible when the center decides to equally incorporate the community in their service provision.

The organization has also had its fair share of problems although not tarnishing the university’s image. Such a problem is the community’s need for more services and the need to engage more students in the program. This has however been solved by opening regional centers and other universities adapting their work. There is a highly unlikely chance that students are subjected to any negative impacts when working through the organization with most students being beneficiaries to it.(The Netter Center at 20, 2013)

Culture shocks for students new to the community are the main problem students may incur from working with diversified communities. However, this may be resolved through acknowledging the variations in culture without being any biased in the process and embracing each cultural aspect. Through this, no potential risk is likely to be incurred with only cultural harmony being expressed. (Wonolo Inc, 2018)

As much as service learning maybe time-consuming, the practice has more benefits than disadvantages on both the student and the community by improving the welfare of both. Service learning should therefore be encouraged with issues arising such as cultural differences, cross-cultural challenges and challenges facing the organization being dealt with appropriately. It is therefore important to note the role played by the Netter Centre in the improvement of its community’s welfare and encourage more students to participate in the practice as it will do more good than harm to them.


Kinnevy, S. C., & Boddie, S. C. (Fall 2001). Developing Community Partnerships through Service-Learning: Universities, Coalitions and Congregations. Michigan Publishing. Netter Center for Community Partnerships. (2017). Program. Pearce, Cindi. (2018, June 27). Pros & Cons of Mandatory Community Service Projects Before Graduation From High School. Synonym. Retrieved from Wonolo Inc. (2018, July 06). Overcoming Cultural Diversity Challenges in the Workplace. Retrieved October 10, 2018, from The Netter Center at 20: Triumphs and Challenges. (n.d.). Retrieved October 10, 2018, from