Forum highlights life skills gained through giving back

ServiceExpo400University of Indianapolis students continued to engage in a variety of curricular service-learning experiences to address social issues facing communities this semester, while gaining the interpersonal and social skills essential to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse population. The Center for Service-Learning & Community Engagement is the driver of the initiative to put the University motto, “education for service,” into action throughout the year.

At the recent Service Expo & Student Engagement Forum, students, faculty and staff highlighted the many ways they have been involved through service and service-learning projects. Together with community leaders, participants discussed the importance of young professionals engaging themselves through service and promoting social justice.   

Students shared stories of personal and professional growth. Caylie Wimmersberger ’22 (biology major, Spanish and art minors) worked with the Waters of Indianapolis, which cares for elderly clients. She taught English to Spanish speakers and vice versa.

“I had to go through dementia training before I was able to volunteer, which was very helpful because soon after this opportunity arose, I applied for a job with senior caregiving. During my interview, I was able to reference the fact that I had gone through dementia training and had been working with several seniors. I ended up getting the job and continue working with them,” Wimmersberger said.

Victoria Akles ’21 (human biology and Spanish double major, pre-physical therapy concentration) said her service-learning experience at Joy’s House, an adult day care service for adults who are unable to care for themselves, helped her determine a future career path in physical therapy with a focus on geriatrics and special-needs pediatrics.

“Some things I learned from this experience is how to communicate better with elders, especially those with dementia, Alzheimer’s or Down’s Syndrome. At first, communicating with them was a little difficult because I am hard of hearing and sometimes it is difficult to understand what they are saying. Once I adjusted, conversing with them was so much fun because each guest is unique in their own beautiful way,” Akles said.

ServiceExpo2Rose Hayward ’18 (applied psychology, undergraduate certification in gerontology), grew her skill set in teamwork, time and stress management, and working with the dementia population during her project with Still Waters Adult Day Center. She plans to work with the older adult population, particularly those with cognitive impairments, following graduation in December.

“I learned how important it is for the people taking care of and working with those with this type of impairment to stay mentally healthy. Stress management is extremely important when working in a high stress environment. Serving at Still Waters confirmed and strengthened my goal to serve and work with this population in the future,” Hayward said.

Hayward accepted a position at Still Waters as a direct care staff member following her service-learning project. She credits Michael Poulakis, assistant professor of psychology, for encouraging her to pursue the subject.

“He saw how interested I became in just a freshman entry level course, and showed me that I was more than capable. He has continued to be interested in my development as a student and a person. I couldn’t be more thankful for the influence he had on my decision to pursue a degree in psychology,” Hayward said.

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