Community Engaged Scholarship - CHS Professor and Students Providing $100 Solutions
Dr. Carolina Valencia, director of the Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences Program and the College of Health Sciences’ (CHS) Leavell Fellow in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, is on a mission to bring positive change to the local community – and she’s challenging CHS students to help her do it on a dime.
In January 2019, Valencia was named as the College’s first Leavell Fellow in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Her successful application was based on principles she had read about in a publication issued by the founders of the $100 Solution. The organization, which began as a small, grassroots initiative, has quickly grown into a global not for profit organization that seeks to provide university students with practical knowledge and skills, using $100 micro-grants that the students manage to create projects that generate sustainable changes in local communities. Valencia’s plan to begin incorporating these practices into the BS-RHSC Program curriculum in fall 2019 is now in full swing.
“We’re transforming an existing class, DRSC 3331 Evidence-Based Practice in Rehabilitation, into what are called CUREs (Course Based Undergraduate Research Experiences),” Valencia said. “CUREs are learning opportunities that integrate service learning and research. Since service-learning is a method of teaching, learning and reflecting, the course will be guided by five pillars: partnership, reciprocity, capacity building, sustainability and reflection.”
The DRSC 3331 class is an elective course in the Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Sciences degree, which Valencia plans to offer each fall. Students in this year’s class have already received their $100 grants and have divided themselves into seven groups to begin working on their projects. To date, each group has completed an assessment of needs and gaps in service (confirmed by participating community partners), a literature review about their chosen topic, a distinct plan of action to serve the nonprofits and education agencies in need, including an evaluation component that measures impact, and purchases needed for their intervention.
“We’re very excited to have led the establishment of partnership between the $100 Solution and UTEP,” said Valencia. “The students also recently completed a conference call with them where they presented their action plan and received valuable feedback regarding their projects.”
Fall 2019 $100 Solution projects include:
- Coffee Cart at Tippin Elementary School: Children in the special education program at the school will be tasked with pushing the cart around campus on a weekly basis to deliver coffee to teachers, in an effort to build social and life skills.
- Recreation, Quality of Life and Youth: Children between the ages of 7 and 17 living at the El Paso Center for Sexual and Family Violence facility will participate in weekly team sports activities coordinated by the UTEP student team. Center staff have identified a need among the children for positive interactions with adults, particularly males.
- Gross and Fine Motor Program for Elderly Women: Residents of La Casa de Las Abuelitas homeless shelter will participate in activities designed to address mobility in walking and fine motor coordination, in an effort to improve perceived qualify of life.
- Dance it Out: Senior citizens visiting the Polly Harris Senior Citizen Center will participate in weekly free dance classes organized on site by the student team. Participating seniors will identify music and dance styles of interest. The team seeks to understand if increasing physical activity will improve stability among the seniors.
- Mindful Kids: UTEP students will work with young children to deliver scheduled mindfulness activities to improve stress management.
- Seniors Move: Residents of the Sunridge Cambria Senior Living Facility will participate in video exercise programs in an effort to enhance physical (flexibility and balance) and cognitive function, as well as confidence and independence.
- Calming Corner: The UTEP student team will build a “calming corner” complete with supplies within a Special Education classroom at El Dorado High School. Calming Corners provide a comforting space for students when they feel overwhelmed during class, with an aim to improve classroom environments and increase perceived health-related quality of life of the students who use them.
Following the semester-long interventions, project teams will evaluate their results and present at a poster presentation and celebratory event that will include community partners. As for the future of each project – participating agencies have committed to training current staff and other measures to ensure long-term sustainability.
Valencia is also partnering this fall with Dr. Eva Moya, associate professor of Social Work, to expand the scope of sustainable service-learning projects. Five students in Moya’s Special Topics in Social Work class also received $100 micro-grants from Valencia’s fellowship. Moya tasked the students to identify inequalities in their community using photovoice – a community-based participatory research method that uses photography to document and memorialize data. The students will form a plan of action based on identified needs. While the projects won’t be finalized until spring 2020, the students have preliminarily identified literacy as their focus area, with a potential to begin little libraries in marginalized communities around El Paso, and have already begun speaking with stakeholders about the projects.
“I see this as a wonderful opportunity for me to introduce my undergraduate students to macro practice at an earlier stage, so they can come into graduate education, if they choose, with a greater sense of humanity and compassion for the vulnerable citizens of our community,” Moya said.
Stay tuned for Facebook updates on the $100 Solution projects throughout the fall semester!
For more information about the $100 Solution, visit: https://the100dollarsolution.org/