Grambling Professors Show the Importance of Giving Back to the Community

Grambling Professors Show the Importance of Giving Back to the Community

Shown from left to right are President Willie Larkin, Matt Sheptoski, an assistant professor of sociology, Beatrice McKinsey standing in for Catherine Bonner, a lecturer of English, Mary Ghongkedze, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, and Rory Bedford, director of Service Learning.

Three Grambling State University professors were honored for their service learning work during the 2014-2015 school year at the Lunch, Learn and Appreciate event on Sept. 24. Mary Ghongkedze, an assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, Matt Sheptoski, an assistant professor of sociology, and Catherine Bonner, a lecturer of English, were selected from more than 80 projects to receive the Banner Recognition for Outstanding Service Learning Projects.

“They were chosen for having outstanding, good projects. We look at all the projects and see which ones have great impact. We have a lot of outstanding projects, so it is hard to narrow them down,” said Rory Bedford, director of the Office of Service Learning.

After touring Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe last year, Grambling’s Psychology and Sociology club members asked their adviser, Sheptoski, if they could organize a book drive to collect more reading materials for Richwood’s small library. Sheptoski, along with club President Jack Chandler, delivered more than 225 books for the inmates at Richwood.

“Last fall we organized a trip to the Richwood Correctional Facility in Monroe. As soon as we were taken into the prison library, we saw that there was a real lack of materials,” Sheptoski said. “Being open to the moment and opportunity, we took it upon ourselves to speak to the warden, who was very open to the idea of us collecting and donating books. It was a real success, so we are doing it again this year beginning Oct. 1.”

Ghongkedze was honored for a project during her Human Growth and Development class to assist an elderly couple in need. To better understand health and wellness issues for the elderly, the class assisted the grandparents of a classmate by unloading potted plants, sifting through soil and cleaning garden ornaments.

“I think having service learning is a real plus for the students and faculty members. It really does make a difference in our lives. If we reach out to those in the community, they know who we are and we can all work as a team,” Ghongkedze said.

Bonner was honored for transforming her English 101: Freshman Composition 1 classes into a service-learning experience. Bonner and her students have helped hundreds of people with in-class projects that include documenting the stories of senior citizens, helping elementary children write their own books, judging school essay contests, helping people with disabilities write letters, organizing letter-writing campaigns and creating adult-literacy projects.

Guest Speaker Eric Rowles, president and CEO of Leading to Change, emphasized the importance of service learning to address the real needs of people in Grambling community.

“Today was a day of celebration of heroes that are raising up our campus, raising up our community, and raising up our students to a level of service that GSU is known for,” Rowles said. “Every single person has an impact on our students, and today was a day of honoring those that have put their time in knowing that you set the legacy for the people who come behind you.”