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PCC Receives Learn and Serve America Grant
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College is the recent recipient of a $390,000 Learn and Serve America grant, awarded by the Corporation for National Service. The award will earmark $130,000 a year over a three-year period to the college’s service learning programs to mentor grade school students, develop service learning courses and encourage community building through public policy deliberation.Porter Raper, who coordinates the service learning programs for PCC and is an English instructor at the Cascade Campus, said students benefit greatly from this type of learning. "Service learning enhances course content for students and gives them the opportunity to reflect about social issues. It also opens their eyes to the potential of community problem solving and civic engagement." The college began service learning in 1994 with several faculty members and disciplines. Students were able to volunteer for community organizations to enhance course assignments and concepts. Since then, the program has developed to include 60 faculty members and approximately 15 disciplines across the PCC district. Students serve and learn for a variety of organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the SMART (Start Making a Reader Today) program and homeless shelters. The PCC Foundation also offers 45 Service to Community scholarships each year to students, paid for by contributing area businesses.Raper said the Corporation for National Service grant centers around building a community partnership between PCC and the Schools Uniting Neighborhoods initiative. It will allow PCC students to tutor and mentor for two local school clusters, one in the outer southeast and the other in north/northeast Portland. In another piece of the proposal, the faculty will use the National Issues Forum model to encourage public policy deliberations on regional and national issues in these communities. The funding also provides stipends for faculty that want to develop and incorporate service learning in their curriculum.During the three-year period, Raper said the program "hopes to reach hundreds of grade school students to improve academic success and community involvement." Contact Porter Raper at 503-978-5283 for more information.