A Legacy of Service

The Role of Tougaloo in the Civil Rights Movement

Tougaloo College played a key role in the struggle for civil rights in Mississippi. Founded in the aftermath of the Civil War, Tougaloo was always an integrated institution, even during the Jim Crow era. Its liberal arts curriculum celebrated the dignity and worth of all people, and its graduates carried that message with them into the communities they served.  More than any other institution in the state and perhaps the nation, Tougaloo has acted through the years on behalf of full civil, political, and social rights for African Americans.  Today, Tougaloo continues to educate African American students and nurtures not only their intellect, but also their idealism. As a result, Tougaloo graduates stand out as people who make a difference, once they graduate.

Community Service at Tougaloo College

Cut It Out December 2010 009The Office of Student Persistence and Academic Success (OSPAS) acts as a liaison and facilitator for service opportunities between the Tougaloo College community, non-profit service organizations in the Jackson metropolitan area and various home communities serving Tougaloo College.  The staff will assist students looking for opportunities to volunteer in organizations which match their interest or career goals.  The OSPAS encourages all members of the college community to engage in community service projects.

Community service has its roots deeply embedded in the foundation of Tougaloo College. Service provides students the opportunity to use their gifts and talents to help those in need and to support local non-profit organizations. Additionally, community service is an integral part of students’ learning experience, contributing to their intellectual, social, and spiritual growth and development as well as providing a framework for students’ roles as members of both local and global communities.

“The mere imparting of information is not education….The educational system of a country is worthless unless it [revolutionizes the social order]. Men of scholarship, and prophetic insight, must show us the right way and lead us into light which is shining brighter and brighter.”    Carter G. Woodson

Community service helps foster civic responsibility and encourage students’ learning and development through active participation in thought-fully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of a community.  Service is also used as a means to explore careers, apply course work, fulfill personal goal, and develop meaningful relationships.

Community service offers many benefits to the community and the college, while offering an opportunity to celebrate our students’ commitment to social justice and service deepening the roots of their journeys beyond Tougaloo College.

What is Community Service?

Community service is an unpaid, required act which has a direct impact that is intended to better one’s community in conjunction with a non-profit organization and working directly with the population being served. There is a penalty for not completing the service. Service is rendered over a period of time. Examples of community service are working in an organization to maintain or develop a web or social media site, developing marketing material, conducting educational presentations on behalf of the organization, providing tutorial services and homework assistance, working with elderly people in the Silver Sneakers Program or a nursing home, etc.

Volunteering is performing a service for free to another person, non-profit or for-profit organization, company or issue of one’s own choosing without any worry of punishments or rewards. A person feels strongly about something and wants to offer their time or services to help. One volunteers when one participates or assists in walk-a-thons, moves furniture, assists staff on campus, serves as an usher at an event, picks up trash, participates in a campus clean-up day, assists a local accountant that prepares taxes or teaches Sunday School at your church.  Generally if it is a one-time event or a t-shirt is given for participating, then it is most likely not community service.

Types of Service

Feb08 112Direct Service: Efforts that put individuals in direct contact with those in need, i.e., soup kitchen, homeless shelter, tutorial, etc.

Indirect Service: Efforts that use and funnel resources (especially administrative, organizational, or financial resources) to the community through individuals or organization; there is little to no involvement with service-recipients

Advocacy:  Service wherein individuals use words and talents to help eliminate a specific problem.

The goal of community service is to serve and learn from circumstances relating to the homeless, the poor, the disabled, the hungry, etc. This includes populations such as families, individuals, children, disabled, elderly or animals, etc.

Community Service Requirements

Community service projects must total sixty (60) hours. As Tougaloo College puts special emphasis on bridging the gap between town and gown, students are asked to partner with social service agencies or organizations. Community Service projects must be completed in a social service agency or organization including community based non-profits.  A social service agency is defined as an organization whose mission is to improve the condition of disadvantaged people in society.  A non-profit organization is one formed for the purpose of serving a public or mutual benefit other than the pursuit or accumulation of profits for owners or investors. A listing of approved local social service agencies and community based non-profits can be found on the community service website.  The list is not meant to be all-inclusive, but to give students an idea of the types of services that can be performed to receive credit. Individual projects that are not in conjunction with an approved non-profit organization will not be counted towards meeting the graduation requirement.

Typical service project examples are:

  • Tutoring pre-school children and youth
  • Working in daycare or Head Start Centers
  • Organizing or participating in voter registration drives
  • Preparing  taxes
  • Working as a hospital volunteer
  • Performing projects with the aged

Students are strongly encouraged to complete their requirements by the end of their junior year, as well as, exceed them.  A concentrated experience with one agency is the most effective way to serve and learn from others.  Students are strongly urged to complete the service by the end of the semester before the semester in which they plan to graduate to avoid a delay.

The Benefits of Community Service

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Based on the study by Shelley Billig, Ph.D., “W.K. Kellogg Foundation Retrospective of K-12 Service-Learning Projects” (2000), there are multiple benefits to performing community service.  However, the most significant benefits are the psychological, social, and cognitive benefits experienced by students.

Psychological Benefits:

Overall, sources indicate that students have shown increases in positive feelings and mental health, and decreases in depression and stress after participating in community service activities.

Less Stress & Depression, and More Life Satisfaction
  • From their analysis of collected data, Peggy Thoits and Lyndi Hewitt (2001) assert that "voluntary association membership contributes to decreased psychological distress and buffers the negative consequences of stressors (Rietschlin 1998); it increases life satisfaction and decreases depression (Van Willigen 1998)."
That "Feel Good" Feeling
  • According to an article in Current Health 1 magazine, "[i]n a recent survey by Prudential Insurance Company, the number-one reason that young people named for volunteering was that it made them feel good. Eighty-nine percent said so."
Improved Mental Health
  • Steven Smith (1999) indicates that "[v]olunteering appears to be related to longer life spans and improved mental health," although he also notes that "...the type of volunteering is likely to make a big difference in the effects on mental health."

Social Benefits:

By participating in service projects, students forge bonds with each other as well as other members of the community. These bonds enhance their interpersonal skills and increase their social network. Additionally, volunteerism can lead to increased care for others and a desire to cooperate and get involved in positive ways, even among those who had previously exhibited antisocial tendencies (Smith 1999). Another major benefit of volunteering is the feeling of social connectedness that appears to be waning in our increasingly segmented society. Many students have reported an increased sense of social responsibility, and a subsequent desire to "give back" to the communities from which they have come.

Trust, Cooperation, and Citizenship

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  • According to Steven Smith (1999), "[v]olunteering by teenagers... appears to modestly inhibit antisocial behaviors." He also indicates that, in addition to reducing negative inclinations such as mistrust and lack of concern for others, volunteering can create positive forces. "Volunteerism can create social capital-- that is, social networks of trust and cooperation-- that can then promote greater political involvement in public affairs." (Smith 1999)
Improved Communication Skills
  • In a 1991 article by Marty Brewster et al., various students offer their testimonials which link increased volunteerism to increased communication skills. Additionally, Matthew Nelson of the University of Michigan attests to similar gains in his personal reflection on past volunteering experiences. 
Positive Opportunities for At-Risk Youth
  • YEP08 079Many sources indicate, and indeed many organizations have been set up on the premise, that community service projects help redirect energies of at-risk youth to more positive social activities. "For example, City Year, is a largely volunteer program that brings together young people from diverse backgrounds to work on community projects. It is hoped that participation in City Year activities will... offer youths more direction and hope for the future, and provide a learning experience on serious social problems." (Smith 1999)

Cognitive Benefits:

There is a common saying that "you learn something new everyday." This definitely holds true for volunteering. With each new experience, old skills are developed as new ones are learned. New information is integrated with past experience, and one's knowledge base grows. Additionally, the lessons learned from volunteering frequently support and enrich understandings of how the community is set up to function. Furthermore, when students reflect upon and share their experiences, they experience great cognitive gains. Diane Hedin (1989) says that:

  • "One of the best supported findings of research about community service is that students learn most (knowledge about the people for whom they volunteer, attitudes about being responsible, and being active citizens, and problem solving skills) when they are in programs that have regular opportunities to process and talk about their direct experiences."

These cognitive gains are a large part of the reason for incorporating volunteering and community service into various curricula and requirements.

Political and Civic Awareness

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  •  An article by Steven Smith (1999) states that "[t]hrough participation in voluntary associations, individuals will develop a keener appreciation for civic affairs and understand more completely their obligations to participate in the political process." Indeed, people learn about the politics of their civic systems by experiencing and observing the effects of the policies on their communities.
Exposure to Diversity, Multiculturalism, and Different Ways of Thinking
  • Sandra LeSourd (1997) states that "[p]erspective taking is the intellectual ability that is germane to affirmation of differences for clarification of the public good." This means that it is necessary to take the perspectives of others in order to truly understand the benefits that come out of differences. By becoming involved in various aspects of community life, facets which students would be unlikely to involve themselves otherwise, students gain new information to consider and new ways to think about things. Frequently, they learn a lot from conversing with those whom they help or work with, as they may encounter new points of view. According to LeSourd (1997), this is beneficial because the “ideals of democratic life cannot encompass all members of the national community until people of different traditions listen to the voices of others.”  
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
  • According to Diane Hedin (1989), "[t]he situations in which young people learn most are ones in which they have the opportunity to determine what needs to be done at developmentally appropriate levels of responsibility." When students are given the opportunities and responsibilities of decision making in a task that is interesting and important to them, they tend to think more deeply about the issues at hand and "use their most complex thinking skills" (Hedin 1989) to solve the problem.