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Honors in Action: FYE at the Boys & Girls Club

Jonathan Roberts, Associate Director and Armstrong Campus Lead for Honors, at the Boys & Girls Club in Savannah playing Brain Games.

One integral part of the Honors experience at Georgia Southern is experiential learning. This is a component of an Honors education that encourages students to become active in their learning and engage with their communities. At the Armstrong Campus, First-Year students were recipients of a unique opportunity to fulfill those requirements: volunteering at the local Boys & Girls Club of Savannah.

As part of the First-Year course Brain Games, students were able to engage with course content by playing games with the children at the club. For many, this was a very enriching experience. In the case of Cameron Swanson (history education ‘22), the opportunity was particularly influential.

“This experience was particularly helpful to me as an only child in getting experience with kids, given that I want to teach them someday. I got to learn about their attention spans and about their lives,” Swanson said. “The experience is helpful for the children, too, because they get to hang out with older kids.”

Many of the students agreed that the opportunity to be a positive influence on the children at the club was a highlight of their experiences.

Student Evan Page (economics ‘22) shared a prime example of the students’ impact on the club: “The first time I went] this kid was really interested in learning how to play chess, so I taught him how to play chess. The next time I came back, he gave me a hug and said, ‘Yay, you came back!’ His words hit me right in the feels.”

From a line for hugs to being readily willing to walk away from a computer to play a game of Otrio (the new go-to game for the Honors Program), the students have had the pleasure of making connections with children in their community and helping foster those brain-game skills, like strategy, structure, and teamwork.

The Georgia Southern students have learned from this experience, too. Isaac Smith (electrical engineering ‘22) said, “What I like about experiential learning is that I feel like my education extends beyond what I just learned in the classroom. It teaches me things beyond what I can read in a book or what a teacher can show me in a PowerPoint.”

Similar sentiments were shared by Gillian Sneve (elementary education ‘22), who said that the experience allowed her to interact “with a wide variety of kids from a different background than me.” Furthermore, it helped solidify her chosen career path. Like most college students, she doubted her major, but she shared that, through her time with the children, she “grew more comfortable.”

Incorporating this volunteer experience into the course design not only impacted the students and the children of the Boys & Girls club, but the Honors program as a whole. Brain games are being routinely featured in Honors events, such as games nights and Coffee Chats, an event where students get to share a donut and cup of coffee with their Honors professors — and maybe play a round of Otrio. The program hopes to continue its partnership with the Boys & Girls Club in future semesters and continues to emphasize the importance of the experiential learning component in its students’ educations.

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