UL System’s Eight Universities Participate in National Learn and Serve Challenge

BATON ROUGE – The University of Louisiana System joins thousands of young people, educators, community partners, civic leaders, and business partners across the country this week in celebrating service-learning as a part of the National Learn and Serve Challenge. Since 2006, 79 projects funded at UL System campuses by a Learn and Serve America grant have tackled community problems from truancy to hunger to energy conservation.

“This is an important opportunity to thank the numerous dedicated faculty, staff and students in our system for making a positive impact on Louisiana’s communities. As part of the role, scope and mission of our eight universities, service-learning harnesses brainpower for the betterment of our citizenry and instills an important lesson of civic responsibility for our students,” said UL System President Randy Moffett.

Learn and Serve America’s Higher Education Program Coordinator, Kirsten Breckinridge, praised the UL System for its efforts over the last three years.

“The ULS Learn and Serve program has done an outstanding job of spreading service-learning across the state of Louisiana. Over thirteen thousand students have participated in service-learning, providing service to the state’s communities by cleaning and restoring coastal lands, providing tutoring and mentoring to at-risk youth, and a myriad of other projects addressing everything from health to economic development. The leadership provided by Dr. Moffett and the schools’ presidents and provosts has also been exceptional – providing a model for how other state education systems can truly embrace their students’ civic education and incorporate service into their educational mission,” said Breckinridge.

To date, almost 13,500 college students and over 800 faculty and staff have volunteered 115,000 service hours and engaged 323 community partners. Those impacts are expected to grow this year. Out of the 79 projects funded by the UL System grant, 28 are still in-process including nine mentoring programs through a partnership with the Louisiana Department of Education.

The UL System is the largest higher education system in the state, enrolling almost 82,000 students at Grambling State University, Louisiana Tech University, McNeese State University, Nicholls State University, Northwestern State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

For more information about the National Learn and Serve Challenge visit A detailed report on the UL System’s service-learning programs including full descriptions of all 79 projects can be found at

Below are descriptions of active Learn and Serve America programs at each university:


Enhancing the Cultural, Mathematical, Scientific, Writing, and Technological Skills of High School Students

Dr. Rory Bedford

This project will allow Grambling students to assist in the academic development of area high school students by establishing a mentoring program. The program will promote one-on-one interaction between GSU’s Pre-Calculus and Biology students and high school students to facilitate social, cultural and academic development. Students will participate in tutorial sessions, test taking skills workshops and will be introduced to resources and opportunities available through the Department of Education to enhance their basic skills and improve their chances of having successful careers in business, industry, and education. During the project, students will become familiar with disaster preparation skills, such as preparing a survival pack as well as the appropriate action to take given various disastrous situations. The program seeks specifically to help at least 50 mentees discover the full richness of the sciences over one academic year. One hundred mentor students from Grambling State University and 50 mentee students will benefit from the program.


‘Hoping for the Best – While Preparing for the Worst’ Infusing Disaster Preparation into the First Year Experience Program

Dr. Ellen D. Smiley

The project will allow professors, members of the Campus Emergency Response Team (CERT), members of the City of Grambling Fire Department and other trained responders to teach disaster relief preparation to 60 Grambling State University students and ultimately to 1000 students per year through workshops. The goal of the project is to ensure that students have a general understanding of what to do when faced with a disaster. Students will also learn how to develop a survival pack if evacuation is necessary. Students will utilize the on-line Red Cross training workshop to learn how to assist others who may be in need during a disaster.


Sparta Conservation Service-Learning Project

Dr. Aaron Lusby

The Louisiana Rural Development Center will coordinate with Louisiana Tech’s Department of Agricultural Sciences faculty to develop and implement service-learning materials for students in selected agricultural sciences courses to increase public awareness of issues concerning conservation of the Sparta Aquifer (the major water source for North Louisiana and Southern Arkansas). It is important for North Louisiana to have an inexpensive, sustainable water supply, especially during times of emergency. Students will engage community businesses and public officials to solicit participation in a conservation campaign through presentations and distribution of promotional materials such as pamphlets, window stickers and videos in an effort to continually inform and/or remind the public about water conservation.

Mapping the Future Landscape for Two Southwestern Louisiana Parishes

Dr. Bogdan Strimbu

The project identified areas in Calcasieu and Cameron Parishes where new parks and open spaces could be developed and how existing parks could be enhanced to endure hurricanes. Students enrolled in the Geographic Information Science program at Louisiana Tech University processed remote sensing images and digital maps for the two parishes to better understand how to use geographic information software and enhance a series of plans and maps for Cameron Parish and the City of Vinton to identify the best location for parks and open spaces to mitigate hurricane impact on the landscape. The project also determined the best species composition that would minimize the force of hurricanes.


Strengthening English Skills of Children of Immigrants through Tutoring

Dr. Greg Schelonka

This project serves the needs of primary school students in the North Central Louisiana area who do not speak English or who struggle with the English language. Many of these families arrived in the area post hurricanes to assist in recovery. Louisiana Tech students will teach English as a Second Language and engaged in a cultural exchange. This experience will allow students to make connections not only with immediate members of the local community but also with the subjects of literary and cultural works about which they have learned in their studies of the Spanish language and Hispanic cultures.


Service Project: Multimodality Language Learning in Children

Dr. Kerri Phillips

The goal of the project is to utilize multimodality learning and low-cost technology materials to enable children displaced during emergencies with strategies to promote continuity of learning. This grant hopes to improve educational opportunities for children through the use of low-cost technological support; and help students gain an understanding of the diversity of classroom teaching strategies needed when children displaced during emergencies are merged into new academic environments.


The Solution, Act II: A Mentoring Program

Dr. Linda Griffin

This grant plans to utilize 50 of Louisiana Tech’s Student Government Association students to mentor 50 eighth grade students from four Lincoln Parish high schools. The program is focused on academic tutoring, social interactions, and field trips to assist high school students in acquiring greater levels of understanding of technology and communication skills. Resources, information and opportunities available through the Department of Education, will reinforce their ability to compete in the workforce. Public schools most impacted by the hurricanes will benefit from mentors to assist in the ongoing challenge of motivating young people to complete their high school education. Career exploration sessions led by a Licensed Professional Counselor or intern will provide mentees with a unique opportunity to take career assessment and to use resources in the Career Resource Laboratory. In improving numeracy and literacy, students also gain access to career technology which they can transport and apply as they progress in high school.




Coping Skills and Disaster Recovery Strategies for Low-income Parents

Dr. Allison Gibbons

The overall goal of the project is to improve community social services in South West Louisiana by exposing low-income parents to information on coping skills and recovery strategies, including how to access available community resources. This will require students to be involved in activities which include identifying crisis needs of low-income parents in the 5 parish area through an interview process structured as a research activity; preparing & publishing a Parents’ Resource Guide that provides information and guidelines on accessing community resources as well as information on family coping strategies; and holding face to face focus groups with sample groups of parents in the 5-parish area.


Service-Learners and the Oak Park Middle Orchestra Program

Dr. Michael Buckles

This project seeks to provide quality string music instruction with high quality instruments, teacher support and skilled string playing undergraduates from McNeese for the enrichment and advancement of the Oak Park Middle orchestra program. Because of the continuing recovery efforts in Lake Charles from Hurricane Rita and Ike, the provision of quality art instruction for those who can least afford it will help to enhance the quality of life of this population was well as the community at large. The service-learners will participate in many of the activities rprovided by teachers aides, such as classroom setup, paperwork, classroom management, participation in rehearsals, conducting instrument-specific rehearsals and tutoring those with special needs.


Expanding Services to a Growing Hispanic Community

Dr. Diane Kim Bowman

This grant will provide needed services to the growing number of Hispanic families in Lake Charles by initiating a service-learning program that matches students from Spanish class at MSU with La Familia Resource Center and associated area agencies. Post Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, has seen a tremendous surge of Hispanics in Louisiana, many of whom require social services. McNeese students will practice cooperative learning with students and facilitators; evaluate and increase their linguistic and cultural skills and match these with community needs.


Reading and Writing in Circles: Improving Eighth-Grade English Language Arts Skills

Dr. Delma McLeod-Porter

This project will utilize 25 English Education majors and tutors from the Write to Excellence Center to conduct reading circles of 4-6 students for 25 eighth-grade students from Oak Park Middle School in Calcasieu Parish. The program will be sustained by adding 10 new mentor/tutors each semester. Students will improve their reading and writing skills, develop an ability to discuss literary elements and learn to write critically about feelings that emerge from discussing literature. In addition to enhancing these skills, the program will also introduce students and their families to the resources and opportunities available through the Department of Education, with family night discussions emphasizing the importance of preparing for college and careers, testing strategies, TOPS requirements, financial aid programs and scholarship opportunities.



One Campus One Community: A Mentoring Program and Community Partnership

Dr. Michele Caruso

This project will be conducted by the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and will consist of pairing 50 college students with 50 middle and high school students within a 25-mile radius of the university. The courses will emphasize tutoring and college preparatory assistance activities. The students will also enjoy social activities that will broaden their horizons and familiarize them with future opportunities, including higher education. The project will focus on facilitating engagement between the students of Nicholls and the surrounding communities, pairing an additional 50 college and 50 K-12 students each year to impact 150 K-12 students over three years.




Green Foods: Local Organics and Healthful Living

Dr. Michael Cundall, Jr.

Seniors in the NSU Louisiana Scholars’ College will conduct a public lecture on locally produced foods, organic foods and healthy eating choices. The panel of speakers for this seminar will include local Louisiana growers, farmers, ranchers and experts on nutrition. The statewide need for improved health intersects directly with green growing, environmentally sustainable food choices and the need to attempt to develop more local resources to further sustainable living. A strong community bond among residents will allow them to rely on and lend support to one another during emergencies, such as hurricanes, and the recovery efforts that follow.


Cyberbullying Prevention

Dr. Gerra Perkins

This project targets the problem of cyberbullying with a goal to provide NSU students, local administrators, teachers and school counselors with resources and materials to understand cyberbullying, ways to prevent it and how to educate parents and students. Approximately 60 students in the Counseling program at Northwestern State University will host an in-service for area school personnel who work at sites affected by the recent hurricanes, and will create resources to present to surrounding school parish educators. Approximately 40 local school personnel will be involved. The goals for this project are to enhance students’ decision making skills, problem-solving skills, creative/critical thinking skills, and responsibility taking; create products and provide resources that support cyberbullying prevention efforts in area school; and enhance students’ technology skills.


Spring Splash into Mathematics Service-Learning Project

Dr. Kimberly McAlister

The proposed project involves pairing students with low parental involvement from two elementary schools with teacher education candidates, many of whom have been displaced to Natchitoches due to the hurricanes along the Gulf Coast. “Spring Splash into Math” will build a community of learners through a series of family mathematics night activities. Teacher candidates will plan and teach mathematics lessons and as parental involvement is essential, these events will be held in the evening to encourage participation.

A CASA Christmas: Future Teachers Serving Central Louisiana’s Disadvantaged Youth

Dr. Michelle Morris

This project’s purpose is to partner 75 students from the university’s education program with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) to provide information about child abuse and neglect, certifying them as CASA advocates and expanding the CASA Christmas present project. The project also supports hurricane recovery needs through improving schools and providing better community social services. NSU students pursuing education as a career path will receive supplemental information about child abuse and neglect which will help them in their future roles as teachers.


NSU Tutors Reaching Near and Far

Dr. Michael Cundall, Jr.

NSU tutors consists of undergraduates from all major fields of study for the provision of free tutoring, mentoring, and related services to at least 40 at-risk youth to foster students’ literacy, numeracy and social skills. The goal is to reach and work with at-risk students in the local and outlying school districts in hopes of building strong community relationships that will strengthen students’ academic skills, with tutoring being available four days a week for two hours each. The proposed grant expands the current program’s efforts and goals and extends its reach and impact through weekend events and increased accessibility for students outside the area.


Cooking Up a Storm

Dr. Colleen Klein-Ezell

The project’s goal is to provide children with the knowledge necessary to make healthy food choices to prepare healthy meals for their families by creating an inclusive vegetable/herb garden and developing a cookbook featuring the produce grown in the gardens. Nutrition/academic lessons will provide opportunities for university volunteers to develop activities on nutrition and support interdisciplinary learning in math, science, social studies and language arts by developing activities based on state curriculum standards. As a result of this project, families in the community will have more knowledge about eating healthier foods and the importance of good nutrition.


After-School Achievement Program (ASAP)

Dr. Tena Golding

This is a collaborative project between Southeastern and a variety of community partners that will enhance the preparation of elementary students by utilizing teacher candidates to provide an after-school support program for at-risk students who need assistance in mathematics. ASAP will address the hurricane recovery need of improving schools by working with Louisiana Spirit Hurricane Recovery to counsel those most affected by Hurricane Gustav. Starting in the fall of 2009, 25 teacher candidates will engage 50 students in grades 1-6 from four elementary schools in Tangipahoa Parish in a support program that includes tutoring, mentoring activities, LEAP assistance and personal development activities. Each semester, an additional 25 teacher candidates will be paired with an additional 50 elementary students, directly impacting 150 teacher candidates and 300 elementary students over three years.



Advocation of Math, Science, and Environmental Issues in Local Schools

Dr. William Chirdon

This project encompasses a Math, Science and Environmental Awareness Day conducted by approximately 40 members of ULL’s AIChE (American Institute of Chemical Engineers). Students will visit one elementary, middle and high school within the parish to discuss the need for recycling, energy and water conservation and the effects of pollution on the local environment to over 900 students. Given recent history with respect to natural disasters, raising awareness of these issues is critical. Each school will also receive a poster to keep the students motivated in math, science, and environmental issues to complement student discussions.

Environmental Awareness Service Projects for Low Income Homes

Dr. Gholam H. Massiha

The goal of this project is for students from the College of Engineering at UL Lafayette to perform energy and environmental testing on low income homes in recent hurricane-ravaged communities in hopes of enticing the homeowners to use better insulation, purchase energy-efficient appliances, and modify their energy consumption habits. The data gathered from the homes by students and volunteers, which may include an inspection of the building envelope (insulation levels, windows, doors, air leakage, etc.), as well as heating and cooling systems will be disseminated to educate homeowners on energy guide labels, appliance energy use and general energy conservation.


Project RUNbus

Dr. Barbara C. Benson

RUNbus is an exhibition vehicle that provides an exciting space for learning about environmental protection, sustainability, and social entrepreneurship-issues that were heightened as a result of the hurricanes. It utilizes a collaborative team of UL Lafayette educators, environmentalists and entertainers to reach out to Louisiana communities. RUNbus participants study and help raise awareness about progressive concepts such as sustainable living strategies, while promoting existing efforts in the community. It is a refurbished 65-passenger school bus fueled by used cooking oil that exhibits practical demonstrations of clean energy, community-based food production, natural building strategies and conscious consumer choices.

A Head Start for Family and Consumer Sciences: Mentoring by UL Lafayette Hospitality Management Students

Ms. Becky Dubois

This project pairs senior level UL Lafayette Hospitality Management (HRTM) interns with Acadiana high school programs to offer Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) programs. These interns provide over 250 high school students with support on technical industry skills, career paths, postsecondary education opportunities and industry certifications. They also mentor the FCS students for local, state and national competitions held each year. The project aims to create and foster an ongoing relationship with the FCS programs in Acadiana and to ultimately create an awareness of the possibilities in the educational sector for youth interested in the foodservice industry. By training and investing in youth today, Acadiana will continue to see job growth, economic success and a trained workforce that will help to withstand and recover from future catastrophic events, such as Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike, and ensure quick recovery.


Success Bound: The Role of University of Louisiana Lafayette Sociological Society in Mentoring High School Students Towards College Success

Dr. Toni Sims

This project will utilize 50 UL Lafayette Sociological Society students to mentor 50 ninth grade students from Northside High School, Carencro High School, and Opelousas High School. Each year, an additional 50 college students and 50 high school students will be paired, impacting a total of 150 high school students over three years. With commitment and assistance from the parish school boards, this project seeks to include a 10% minimum increase in educational programs for children impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The overarching goal of this project is to unite faculty, students and community representatives from diverse disciplines to address low high school graduation rates and corresponding college entry rates among African American students.


Families, Children and Community: Understanding and Replicating the Mahalia Jackson Center Early Childhood and Family Learning Center

Dr. Holly Howat

This project will help to support hurricane recovery efforts and improve conditions in the impoverished Central City neighborhood in New Orleans by collaborating with an existing project by the Early Childhood and Family Learning Foundation to reconstruct and provide services at the Mahalia Jackson Center. Graduate students will conduct evaluation research on the reconstruction process and the initial year of services. The project is a tremendous opportunity for students of applied research to promote community recovery while leveraging the impact of existing resources and fostering productive interaction with numerous community participants.



C.A.S.T. – CPR at School Training Program
Dr. Mark Doherty

ULM kinesiology majors, working with faculty and volunteer community members, will guide sessions that focus on training middle and high school students in the Monroe area with a desire to learn basic CPR techniques. The program will allow large groups of students to participate in mass American Heart Association (AHA) Family & FriendsTM CPR training sessions. This will also enable large groups of students to handle a life-threatening emergency that might occur during a natural disaster as well as increase the potential for these life-threatening emergencies to be managed by a larger number of people throughout the community.


Project Soar: Launching a Professional Development School

Dr. Lynn Clark

This project is designed to provide targeted interventions in reading and writing for the Monroe City School and Cypress Point University Elementary sites (first-fifth grade students), practical application of teacher preparation course content for College of Education and Human Development participants (junior year teacher candidates), and opportunities for ongoing relationships between university participants and site recipients. The student population at these schools reflects the long-term academic needs of many of the communities affected by Hurricane Katrina, such as declining literacy rates, absenteeism and emotional or behavioral disorders. The UL System Service Learning grant will enhance the existing relationship with Cypress Point by providing essential and sustainable resources to meet the needs of all stakeholders.

University of Louisiana at Monroe Warhawks Mentoring Program

Dr. Wayne Brumfield

This project will utilize 50 carefully trained students from the College of Arts and Sciences to mentor 50 ninth grade high school students from Wossman High School and Carroll High School. Through one-on-one relationships, the mentors will provide personal and academic guidance, encouragement and structured college and career readiness skills training to ensure that students gain basic skills and information to succeed in high school and beyond. Individualized attention, special events and exposure to ULM’s campus and students will help mentees begin to envision their potential and to develop specific plans for future success.