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Florida Gulf Coast University
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FGCU Student Soars Above the Rest With 960 Service Learning Hours
FORT MYERS, FL - As with any Florida Gulf Coast University student, Kristen Bell is a busy young lady. But what makes Bell exceptional is that she has accumulated 960 service learning hours and is well on her way to over 1,000 hours.
FGCU requires students, entering as freshmen or sophomores, to log 80 hours of community service by graduation. Junior and senior transfers must complete 40 hours. According to Eagles Connect, the service learning program, “the requirement signifies the importance FGCU places on the role of service in developing educated citizens and the importance given to experiential learning in the final product- education.”
Bell, a sophomore liberal studies major, got a head start on the service learning requirement. Since August 1999, her freshmen year, she has been working with third and fourth grade students on their math, spelling, writing and phonics skills at Big Cypress Elementary School in Naples. Her average day ranges from three to seven hours of volunteering while carrying a full course load of classes.
As a volunteer, Bell takes the students outside to play interactive learning games and tutors them individually to master areas in which they may be lacking. She also assists the teachers by grading papers and watching over the class when the teacher steps out. Bell has forged friendships with the children and cannot wait until she has a classroom of her own. “I would like to teach fifth-grade at Big Cypress Elementary School. I already have posters in mind to go around my classroom.”
Service Learning Coordinator Linda Summers remarked, “I was amazed when I saw the number of hours she had done, and it prompted me to take a closer look at the hours turned in by other students. What I found was that she had the most, but there are other students doing significantly more hours than they are expected to do as well.”
These commendable students juggle full course loads, extracurricular activities and often are employed. Giving back to the community has allowed students to enhance others lives as well as their own. “They (the students) invite me into their classroom with excitement. Everyday I walk in, and at least one of them will shout my name. That makes me feel really good about myself when I know they look forward to seeing me,” commented Bell.
As a student stepping into the education field, Bell is aware of the teacher shortage and the proposed increase in salaries. While both of her parents are teachers, she feels strongly about the issue. “Teachers deserve the higher pay they are asking for. It is a tough job. It wears you out and you are asked to do so much with very little time.”
In honor of her outstanding accomplishment, the Collier County School Board will honor Bell in June as the Youth Volunteer of the Year for 2001.
FGCU is an accredited comprehensive public university created to address the higher educational needs of Southwest Florida and dedicated to providing a learning-centered environment that offers high quality educational opportunities. Through service learning, students become involved in the community and learn valuable skills while enhancing self-esteem and awareness.
For more information, contact Linda Summers at (941) 590-7016 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.