For Salt Lake Community College student Danielle Swartz, hard work really does pay off.
After volunteering as a teacher’s assistant to preschool-age kids at The Children’s Center in downtown Salt Lake City for her Intercultural Communication service-learning class project, Swartz received a $1,744 scholarship for the spring 2021 semester from the Engaged Learning Office.
Swartz, an American Sign Language major, will speak at the Engaged Learning Celebration on Feb. 5 at noon.
Lucy Smith, coordinator of the Engaged Learning Office, said Swartz stood out from others who qualified for this scholarship by relating her project to what she learned in class.
“She clearly linked the theories she learned in class to her project,” Smith stated.
Swartz used her time to apply the theory of proxemics, the study of the use of human space within a culture, hypothesized by anthropologist Edward T. Hall.
“I can teach students theory,” said Tamra Phillips, Swartz’s Intercultural Communication professor. “But the point of a service-learning project is to connect that theory to something practical.”
The Children’s Center provided Swartz with a perfect environment to apply proxemics, since the center mostly instructs kids with autism. In her report, Swartz noted that the children she was helping were so young they did not have a clear idea of what personal space is.
“Children who barely knew me wanted to sit on my lap to do puzzles,” Swartz said. “Others wouldn’t even let me sit next to them until they knew I was regularly coming back to the classroom to help. When working with autistic kids, respecting their space goes a long way in gaining trust.”
Swartz’s website also distinguished her work from the other students, according to Smith.
“In addition to having a good service-learning project, students up for the scholarship need to have a good e-portfolio,” Smith said.
Students who receive this scholarship present their website to more than 70 people at the Engaged Learning Celebration. Swartz used the web hosting service Weebly to create her e-portfolio.
Swartz included her portrait on the home page, along with a convenient navigation bar — with links to her future goals, courses, and life outside the classroom — at the top of the screen. Under the Courses tab, in COMM 2150, users can find her report on her work at The Children’s Center.
“Applying the theory of proxemics to my service was strange at first,” Swartz reflected. “But understanding that not everyone has the same boundaries as I, is helpful in making lasting relationships. Respecting others’ space shows you care, and that means a lot to these children who may not have the most caring environment at home.”
Swartz learned a valuable personal lesson in addition to applying the theory of proxemics to a real-world environment.
“A big part of volunteering is getting out of your comfort zone,” Swartz said. “Volunteering becomes easier once you get over yourself.”
Swartz plans to use the scholarship money toward tuition this semester.