Students Volunteer at Substance Abuse Center
Sociology professor offers service learning as part of course
As a part of her criminology and intimate, marital and family relationships courses, Kristi Hoffman, associate professor of sociology at Roanoke College, offers a service learning component. Instead of writing a research paper, students can choose to participate in a co-curricular learning experience in the local community.
Students spend ten hours per semester volunteering at the Bethany Hall Recovery Home for Women in Roanoke. Bethany Hall is a residential treatment facility that has been helping women recover from substance abuse for over 35 years.
This is the third semester during which Hoffman's students have been involved with the abuse treatment center.
Hoffman believes that the Bethany Hall project dispels for students many stereotypes about drug offenders. "By being involved with the project, students develop a sense of empathy that they cannot get from a textbook," she says.
Shelly Cooke, a junior at Roanoke, became involved with the Bethany Hall project as a part of a criminology class. Essentially, students baby-sat children while their mothers were in group therapy. Cooke says that it was an experience she will never forget. "The aspects of everyday life that these children have to deal with never crossed my mind when I was their age," she says.
"I commend these children and their mothers for their strength, determination and understanding that there is a quality of life out there that is better for them and the fact that they are trying to achieve it. They are an inspiration to us all," Cooke says.
Sarah Sancomb, a sociology major from New Market, Va., says she learned a lot from what the women at Bethany Hall had to share. "Being open is a part of the program to help them recover," she says.
The project also develops valuable connections between students. Hoffman mixes freshmen with juniors and seniors so that students can meet others within their major. "Students have a common experience to relate to, which gives them a relationship that is beyond the typical classroom connection," Hoffman says.
Hoffman admits that it is a lot of extra work to implement a service learning project. "It challenges me. I've learned new ways to manage the workload and I see that as my service to the community."
Hoffman obtained her B.A. in sociology from University of Virginia and an M.S. and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech. She has been doing service learning for about five years. Hoffman is a former director of the Co-curricular Learning and Service Program (CCLS) at Roanoke and is currently the coordinator of the Faculty-Staff Learning Community. She also has been involved in projects such as tutoring at the West End Center.