Honors Programs Offer Community Involvement for Students
Naomi Narat found that the Schoenbrodt Scholars Program, known for its flexibility and “design your own honors experience” concept, opened doors for her to gain new experiences on campus and in a city that she’d always hoped to see and explore: Chicago. She visited during an alternative spring break program with Howard Community College’s (HCC) Center for Service Learning. She served food in homeless shelters where she had humbling conversations with people experiencing homelessness, donated time to a local food pantry, and helped inner-city kids with homework.
“I want to be a pediatric nurse someday, so having the opportunity to volunteer some time with children was eye opening and motivating,” said Narat, who was dually-enrolled at HCC as a Schoenbrodt Scholar during her high school years, eager to get a jump start on her goals. “It’s an experience I never expected to have so early on in my college experience, and one I will absolutely never forget.”
Mercedes Gallagher, a Rouse Scholar – another of HCC’s three honors programs – pursued a different volunteer opportunity, with an equally powerful outcome. For her capstone project during her final semester of study, Gallagher concentrated on HopeWorks, a Howard County-based nonprofit that provides support, guidance, and advocacy for victims of sexual and intimate partner violence.
“I was interested in helping HopeWorks because I thought its mission was important and valuable,” said Gallagher. “But once I got involved, I got so much more enjoyment than I ever expected. I gained a new appreciation for the value of volunteers and realized I can see myself building a career in the nonprofit industry. I had never even considered that kind of work before I got to HopeWorks.”
Gallagher and others who are part of the Rouse Scholars program are encouraged to pursue community service and leadership activities to build competency as a complement to the knowledge their intense academic curriculum entails. Students are organized into small, collaborative cohorts, helping them build meaningful connections with others who have similar interests and goals.
“Honors courses aren’t about creating more work for our students, but are instead about asking them to apply a higher level of critical thinking as they work on projects related to the course,” said Dr. Laura Cripps, director of the Rouse Scholars program. “Our scholars build connections with one another that continue well into their adult lives. I continue to be awed when I hear about these long-lasting relationships, and how they have helped shape our students into successful scholars and leaders.”