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SMWC student takes service learning to heart

A college course’s service learning requirement brought Tiffany Winhold to Educational/Family Services (EFS) in West Terre Haute four years ago. Her experience volunteering there led Winhold to incorporate service into both her daily life and her future goals.

Winhold, a senior equine studies major at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, first came to Educational Family Services to fulfill a requirement of a college writing course to tutor students and write about the experience. She’s returned every semester since because she found she enjoys teaching and helping others.

Located just outside the Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College campus at 3850 U.S. 150 in West Terre Haute, Educational/Family Services is a not-for-profit sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., and a part of Guerin Outreach Ministries. It provides free tutoring services to school-age children as well as GED preparation courses for adults. In addition to student volunteers like Winhold, retired Sisters of Providence and members of the community at large join two paid staff members in boosting education levels in the local community.

Originally from Pleasant Plains, Ill., Winhold currently volunteers about four hours a week at EFS. In her years at EFS, she has tutored elementary, middle school and college-age students in areas from math and spelling to English and science.

“I have seen students improve their math skills, reading skills, writing skills and research skills. With some their grades increased, and they have become more social,” she said.

One of Winhold’s favorite memories was when she was tutoring a student who had trouble paying attention and didn’t really want to learn.

“One day, while we were playing a game that I had made up to help him with spelling, he told me that learning was fun, and that he liked to learn,” she said.

\Winhold, herself, has taken to heart what Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College tries to instill through the service learning components of some of their coursework.

Sister Rosemary Nudd, SP, the service learning coordinator at SMWC, was Winhold’s English professor in the class that first introduced her to service at EFS. Sister Rosemary defines service learning as a teaching tool which uses significant community service to fulfill course goals,

“I learned a long time ago how important active learning is. Telling is not teaching. Service learning is a way to enhance course work. It makes the course work talk to the student where the student is; it brings learning to a more practical level,” Sister Rosemary said.

One of Sister Rosemary’s goals for her introduction to college writing course is to simply get students writing. She knows that it is easier for students to write on something practical and concrete rather than something abstract. So for the class, students are asked to tutor once a week at EFS and then write about their experiences.

Service learning has been incorporated into relevant classes at SMWC since 1997-98. It has been employed in tax law courses where students help prepare taxes, in theology courses where students may work with needy people in the community and in developmental psychology courses where students work with young children and the elderly.

Sister Rosemary says service learning fits with what Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College is about.

“This institution was founded on Saint Mother Theodore Guerin’s mission. The college’s motto is Virtus cum Scientia: Virtue and Knowledge United. Service learning demonstrates our motto,” Sister Rosemary said.

Winhold found that in her four years of volunteer service at EFS, she was not just teaching; she was learning.

“I have gained patience and knowledge by working with different students who learn differently,” she said.

Winhold expects to graduate this coming May. She hopes to work at a horse farm as a trainer, and she hopes to find a local tutoring program where she can volunteer.

“EFS has made me realize how much I like to teach. It has also made me think that I should have double majored in equine studies and education,” Winhold said.

Penny Sullivan, Director of Educational/Family Services, says it will be difficult to find a replacement as committed as Winhold.

“Tiffany is dedicated, caring, personable, and helpful,” Sullivan said.

Educational/Family Services needs more volunteers to serve students on their waiting list to be tutored. For more information on how you could help, visit www.GuerinOutreachMinistries.org or call 812-535-4206.

About the Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence, a congregation of 214 women religious, with 300 Providence Associates, collaborate with others to create a more just and hope-filled world through prayer, education, service and advocacy. The Sisters of Providence have their motherhouse at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, located just northwest of downtown Terre Haute, Ind., which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 1840. Today, Sisters of Providence minister in 13 states, the District of Columbia and Asia, through works of love, mercy and justice. More information about the Sisters of Providence and their ministries can be found at SistersofProvidence.org.

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Sisters of Providence

The Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, are a congregation of Roman Catholic women religious (sisters) who minister throughout the United States and Taiwan. Saint Mother Theodore Guerin founded the Sisters of Providence in 1840. The congregation has a mission of being God's Providence in the world by committing to performing works of love, mercy and justice in service among God's people.

Media contact

For inquiries or information, contact Jason Moon at jmoon@spsmw.org or 812-535-2810.

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