Service-learning impacts students, community

Living and Learning

By Kaitlyn Byrne
MSU Ag Communications

COLUMBUS — Teens gained an inside look at the agriculture industry and service-learning during a three-week residential collegiate experience at the Mississippi Governor’s School in Columbus.
By partnering with Mississippi State University’s Center for Advancement of Service-Learning Excellence, or CASLE, the Mississippi Governor’s School engaged students with activities about farmers markets, family-run farms and barn quilts.

Students at the Mississippi Governor’s School sample local produce after a presentation on agritourism on June 18, 2014. The Mississippi Governor’s School partnered with the Mississippi State University Center for the Advancement of Service-Learning Excellence to promote service-learning and agriculture. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)

Students at the Mississippi Governor’s School sample local produce after a presentation on agritourism on June 18, 2014. The Mississippi Governor’s School partnered with the Mississippi State University Center for the Advancement of Service-Learning Excellence to promote service-learning and agriculture. (Photo by MSU Ag Communications/Kevin Hudson)

The school invited speakers from Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi Agriculture Museum, Starkville Area Arts Council and Noxubee Wildlife Refuge to discuss the impact agriculture and service-learning makes on a community.
“Agriculture is huge in our state, and this project exposes over 80 kids to different agricultural concepts, such as farmers markets and agritourism,” said April Heiselt, director of CASLE. “It was exciting to see how, through service-learning, students at the Mississippi Governor’s School were able to become strong advocates for agritourism and have committed to continuing those efforts upon their return home.”
Susan Head, Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce marketing specialist, gave a presentation about farmers markets’ growing popularity in Mississippi. Head said students at the governor’s school also visited the Columbus Farmers Market to see the action up close.
“Farmers markets have increased substantially in the last several years, and this growth signifies the consumers’ demand of fresh local produce,” Head said. “These students visited the Columbus Farmers Market and were able to visit with the farmers and learn more about production agriculture and specialty crops grown in Mississippi. This was a great way for students to understand how food arrives on their plate three times a day.”
Head said the new agricultural and service-learning component of the Mississippi Governor’s School benefited the students.
“These students gained a greater understanding of a piece of Mississippi’s rich and diverse agricultural industry,” she said. “Since agriculture is our state’s No. 1 industry, I hope they also appreciate the importance it has to our well-being, as well as to our great state.”
Tyler Cutrer, a resident adviser at the governor’s school, said the CASLE partnership increases student interest in community service.
“The service-learning component is important because it instills the importance of community,” Cutrer said. “The kids have participated in service projects these past few weeks to really understand the importance of giving back. Service-learning teaches them a skill and allows them to turn around and share that skill with their community to make it a better place.”
Cutrer, who attended the governor’s school as a student in high school, said he enjoyed watching the students get active through service-learning instead of staying indoors watching TV or playing on cell phones.
“Kids today are too involved with technology,” he said. “Service learning gets the students talking to people face-to-face and making connections instead of staring at their phones. These connections they’re making could even help them out later in life with jobs because they’re learning how to communicate effectively.”
For more information on CASLE, visit http://servicelearning.msstate.edu.
To learn more about the Mississippi Governor’s School, visit http://web3.muw.edu/govschool.