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August 5, 2012
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Learning through experience

A new program at Colorado Mountain College in Summit County doesn't just benefit the students, but the local community. Through CMC's new Service Learning course, students work with a local nonprofit in what amounts to a semester-long internship. But there's more to it than that: Interns aren't just making copies or running errands, they're working in positions designed in partnership with the faculty and organization, and utilizing skills acquired from previous courses. "We wanted to provide students with a bridge to the theories that they're learning about, and actual experiences in the real world," said Nicole Fazande, instructional chair at the Dillon campus. "Students don't just show up and do busywork." This summer has been the first installment of the 10-week course, designed in part by co-instructor Don Haggerty, associate provost of new program development at Champlain College in Vermont. Haggerty began visiting Summit County because his daughter lives in Frisco, and eventually, started looking for an opportunity to contribute to the community. So naturally, with his background in education, he contacted CMC.Haggerty and co-instructor Robert Cartelli, a CMC faculty member who lives in Breckenridge, counsel students throughout the program through online and in-person meetings, which includes a good amount of "very deliberate reflection" - an important piece Haggerty said that makes the course a different experience from typical internships."They haven't just done a project, they've done a project that's been leveraged into self-growth and management," he said. "You have students who are really learning about themselves as contributors to nonprofits." Summit County resident Alexandra Corti is one of the two students to take the first installment of the course this summer. It's being held again in the fall; Haggerty said the class can hold about 12-15.Corti, a Colorado University graduate who has volunteered internationally, spent time doing marketing for Fall for the Arts, a countywide celebration of art put on by Arts For The Summit in September. "This is the first time I got to volunteer in my community," she said. "I learned a lot about nonprofits, how they work, and the politics of it all."Students are allowed to choose from a list of pre-set community partners to work with (or suggest their own); Corti chose the arts organization because "I've always been interested in arts in general." Besides valuable exposure to marketing, Corti said the experience also helped her look at herself from an outside perspective. For the nonprofit, Corti's time was also invaluable. She did a wonderful job, and was there whenever she was needed, according to Fall for the Arts organizer Sandy Greenhut. Corti reached out to people all over Summit County, and outside, and even helped bring more people to fundraisers - boosts needed for the upcoming event. "We're a nonprofit, and we don't have any money, so we couldn't hire anyone to help us," Greenhut said. "I think it's a wonderful program ... and it will look great on her resume." Haggerty said the second student, Ashlee Elliott, worked with High Country Conservation, and as a result of her experience, has recently been hired to manage the new Summit Thrift & Treasure store in Breckenridge, run by local nonprofit Family & Intercultural Resource Center. In her case, Elliott was able to see that sustainability doesn't just apply to the environment, but the human aspect as well, Haggerty said. The first service learning class ends today, something Haggerty said he and Cartelli are a little sad about since they've been having so much fun helping the students along. But, they do have a fall semester program to look forward to. "We've been extremely impressed with the students that we've had, they've been amazingly engaged and committed," Haggerty said. "We feel like we've been blessed with great students and great community partners."


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The Summit Daily Updated Aug 5, 2012 11:58PM Published Aug 5, 2012 11:56PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.