NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – It’s no surprise that one of Bethel College’s core values is “an ethic of service, that … stresses peacemaking and voluntary service.”
It’s a value shared with Bethel’s sister institutions in the Mennonite world and among other church-affiliated private colleges in the state of Kansas. It’s a value that will surface as important in almost any survey of first-time college freshmen.
Doing service makes people feel good – and it just might help them chart a life’s course.
That’s the consensus of the first four recipients of a new scholarship at Bethel College, the Service Learning Scholarship. Priority goes to first-time freshmen who want to provide service to the surrounding community and who are not receiving performance awards for athletics or fine arts. Scholarship winners commit to five hours a week working for a local nonprofit agency for both semesters, and can renew the scholarship for up to four years.
Both Seth Halling and Victoria Janzen came from high schools that emphasized community service, overall or as part of particular programs. Seth attended two high schools in Hutchinson, Trinity Catholic and Hutchinson High School, and Victoria was in the international baccalaureate program at East High School in Wichita.
Since service was part of an academic program, it was organized and coordinated by an East High teacher, Janzen says. Some of her service work included volunteering with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Sedgwick County, with the Wichita River Festival and with campus blood drives run by the American Red Cross.
“My [Bethel] admissions counselor thought this scholarship would be a good fit for me, and I thought it would be nice to continue [with service activities],” Janzen says.
Her placement was with Kauffman Museum in North Newton. “Right now, I’m a history major and I’m not sure what all I can do with that,” Janzen says. “This is good work experience, in a job I probably wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for [being a student at Bethel]. It’s good experience working with the public and learning about the challenges of funding a nonprofit agency.”
Halling worked with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harvey County. “They desperately needed help,” he says. “I helped set up an audit, worked with other volunteers, whatever was needed.”
“I learned a lot of people skills,” he says. “It was good experience with a lot of different jobs.”
Alex Krahn, Mountain Lake, Minn., “enjoys helping people,” he says, and had worked with Mennonite Central Committee on short-term projects as a high school student.
“I thought this was a good idea for me – I’m not in sports and service fit me,” Krahn says. In his placement at the MCC Central States office in North Newton, he “learned about the different programs and got to talk to a lot of different people.” He put together relief kits at the MCC warehouse, occasionally did airport runs and generally pitched in where needed.
As a social work major, Andrew Grantstein, Wichita, chose a placement at United Methodist Youthville in Newton. He worked under the auspices of a program called Gear Up Kids, serving as a mentor for young people who live at Youthville because for whatever reason they are not able to live at home and helping them think about their options for after high school.
“I was interested in this because it applied to my own interests in social work and psychology,” Grantstein says. “The placement at Youthville gave me a first-hand look at the issues kids like this face. I also gained connections and references I can use later when I look for a job.”
Marla Krell, director of Bethel’s Career Development Center, works with both students and agencies to make what she hopes will be a good match. “The students fill out a form listing things like their career interests, hobbies, strengths, how they would describe themselves. I interview them to get a feel for their personality, and I ask them where they would like to go. I want them to want to go to their placement for five hours every week.
“I also work with the agencies to make sure they know this is not just a free cleaning service. I want this to be mutually beneficial and enriching, and for placements to be ongoing.”
She has already placed two incoming freshman scholarship recipients as well as one who deferred in her freshman year and will start her service as a sophomore.
“I care very much about making this work for everyone,” Krell says. “It’s an opportunity for Bethel to network in the community and to give something back.”
Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and has been named a Top Tier college by U.S. News & World Report every year since 1998. For more information, see the Bethel web site at www.bethelks.edu.