Location: Bowdoin / McKeen Center / Activity / 2009 / CA$H and Culture Enhance Economic and Academic Aspirations in Community-based Courses

CA$H Support and Cultural Immersion Enhance Community-based Courses

Story posted April 16, 2009

The students in Professor Rachel Connelly’s Economics of the Family seminar (ECON 301) and in Professor Genie Wheelwright’s Intermediate Spanish (SPAN 204) were among the more than 200 students in thirteen different courses who worked in partnership with organizations in the local community this semester to address important public issues including poverty, health care, education, housing and environmental protection.


The Economics of the Family Seminar (Econ 301) partnered with the Volunteers of America Northern New England’s CA$H program to help low-income families with tax returns and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Students helped begin tax forms for clients at on-site locations as well as do outreach in the community to raise awareness about the program. Professor Connelly hoped the project would “enrich (students’) understanding of the struggles of low income working families in balancing work and family and complement our own study of the EITC.” Building upon academic readings on the EITC and family dynamics, this service learning component of the class allowed students to put their academic work in the context of the community. This year the CA$H program expects to help complete over 300 tax returns, doubling their success last year. After volunteering, students reflected on their experience by completing group papers and made suggestions which will help the CA$H program grow and be even more effective in the future.


On Friday, February 27, 2009, 60 students from Mt. Ararat High School came to Bowdoin College to partake in the Spanish Immersion Day planned by Professor Genie Wheelwright and her students of Spanish 204. The students arrived at 8 in the morning and had a full day of Spanish themed activities planned out for them. The day started out with a presentation by Professor Wheelwright about her trip to El Salvador in the midst of the country’s preparations for an upcoming election. From there, the high school students ventured over to social houses Quinby and MacMillan where they met the Bowdoin students and were split up into groups (each group had the name of a different country—La Republica Dominicana, El Salvador, Chile, etc…). Each group went to a different station where they played games and learned dances—all of which focused on the practice of the Spanish language or on Hispanic culture. Next, it was time for the Bowdoin student-led tours around the campus, all conducted in Spanish. This gave the high-schoolers a chance to see the most important buildings on campus and learn a little bit more about the college in general. Following the tour, the now hungry students continued chatting in Spanish as they enjoyed a Hispanic-themed lunch in Thorne. The highlight of the day came next, when professional dance instructor Rickey Hines gave the students a lesson in merengue and salsa. The Bowdoin and high school students and teachers danced together and had the chance to show off some of their great moves.

Throughout the day, everyone enjoyed participating, and barely a word of English was spoken. Liz Pedowitz, community-course liaison for Spanish 204, commented that, “The Spanish Immersion Day went perfectly. The high school students got the chance to spend time with the college students—something that I’m sure was beneficial to them as they come closer to the time when they will be heading off to college.” Also, they realized that they can continue their study of Spanish in college and that learning the language and the culture will continue being important.

The results, posters and stories from students’ work in these and other community-based courses this semester will be on display at the end-of-semester symposium: Celebrating Campus-Community Partnerships: a symposium highlighting Bowdoin student engagement in the local community Thursday, May 7, 1:30-3:00 p.m. Morrell Meeting Room, Curtis Memorial Library Refreshments will be served. All are welcome!

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"Our outreach experiences allowed us to develop a more nuanced understanding of the challenges facing both community service organizations and the people that they serve. Connecting learning in the classroom with first hand experience helped to contextualize the EITC and enhanced our personal appreciation for the ways in which such programs affect people's lives."
— Barrett Brown, Class of '09