CETL Teaching Talks

The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) hosts a series of informal discussions aimed at sharing teaching concerns and discussing techniques and strategies with colleagues and CETL staff. Below are two Teaching Talks that will focus on service learning topics.

All UConn instructors—graduate students, TAs, and APIRs, as well as adjunct, tenure-track and tenured faculty—are encouraged to attend.

Please email Stacey Valliere at CETL@uconn.edu (860-486-2686) to register, and contact Suzanne LaFleur if you have questions or would like more information.

Exploring Opportunity through Service Learning

Monday, April 10th, 1:30 – 2:45 p.m. in ROWE 319

Responding to our state legislature’s priorities for innovation, entrepreneurship, and economic development, the University of Connecticut is seeing increasing pressures to help prepare students for an economy that is vibrant and dynamic in these regards. We have found it increasingly difficult to teach such concepts through traditional class methods, as the importance of the lesson is lost in a confusing array of jargon. 

At this session, participants will discuss service learning projects that help develop the entrepreneurial mindset of students while increasing their ability to find and capture opportunities across their lives.  Service learning can play an important role by redefining what an opportunity is, allowing students an interactive community to develop their ideas, and increasing student engagement through relationships with the material on their own terms.  Summary of past learning service programs and methodologies will be combined with discussion on how to create effective boundary conditions for service learning projects that maximize student learning.  Every classroom can benefit from the incorporation of innovation and entrepreneurial mindset into the curriculum with the proper project.

CETL is co-facilitating this session with Dr. David Noble, Co-Executive Director of UConn’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Consortium.


UConn Students Bridge Community Reading Programs

By Laurie Wolfley

Taken from Abstract:

“UConnReads Meets “One Book, One Region”: Integrating The New Jim Crow and Just Mercy Spring 2016 saw several UConn Avery Point professors collaborating to integrate two annual book programs— UConnReads and Southeastern Connecticut’s One Book, One Region—across the campus. Both programs took a months-long look at their chosen text, offering book talks and other programming aimed at creating a discourse community around the books’ topics. Avery Point offered film viewings and discussions on campus, as well as panel presentations open to the campus and greater community. Many courses directly integrated the books into their curriculum, and several students and faculty members attended related community events at libraries and campuses around the state. Even UConn Early College Experience classes (offering UConn courses in the high schools) got in on the act. ”

Click graphic to see the full-size PDF:


Laurie Wolfley is the Senior Faculty Development Specialist at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, an Avery Point Service Learning Facilitator, part of the English Faculty, as well as the ECE Coordinator for American Studies and Maritime Studies at the University of Connecticut, Avery Point.


New science writing course aims to make science accessible for all

Dr. Michael Willig gives a lecture at Oak Hall on Tuesday, November 29, about the various dimensions of biodiversity and how factors affect it, and how climate change may change the abundance and distribution of certain species. Dr. Willig is a professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn and is also the Director for the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering.  (Akshara Thejawsi/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut will offer a new science writing course designed to instruct undergraduate students of all majors on how to clearly communicate the contents of scientific papers to broad audiences.

“We’re just starting enrollment for [Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895],” ecology and evolutionary biology professor Dr. Margaret Rubega said. “Our intent is for the course to be as interdisciplinary as possible.”

According to Rubega, the course, which is taking place during the spring semester, is to teach undergraduate students how to analyze and write about scientific papers for general audiences.

“We want students to learn how to take very technical information and write about it in a clear, concise and maybe even a lively way,” Rubega said.

Another one of the course’s goals is to provide STEM majors with a way to apply and get a product from the information they learn in their STEM courses, according to physiology and neurobiology assistant professor in residence John Redden.

“Both Dr. Rubega and I had an interest in teaching a STEM W class, but looking at these courses for STEM undergrads, we saw they were all technical writing,” Redden said. “The majority of science undergrads won’t be doing technical writing on a daily basis. They’ll need to explain what they know to their mom, their dad [or] their patient.”

Rubega and Redden said in the future they hope to connect Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895 with a service learning course Redden is now teaching.

“We want them to be linked together somehow,” Redden said. “We’re still working out the details.”

Graduate-level science writing courses may become affiliated with Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895 over time, Rubega said.

“With my colleagues in [ecology and evolutionary biology] and journalism, we received a grant to teach grad students in science communication,” Rubega said. “The grant allows for alumni of the grad program to be TAs for the undergrads.”

According to Redden, making scientific research more accessible to wider audiences will allow scientists and non-scientists to better communicate with one another.

“There’s a huge disconnect between what’s generally accepted as true in the science community and the general population,” Redden said. “Bridging this gap is the responsibility in part of people who understand science. [Scientists] have to put blame on ourselves for being poor teachers and communicators.”

“This new course is great for someone skeptical about key aspects of science. Scientists talk and convince each other about things…I would love to have some folks who feel skeptical about things,” Rubega added.

Further information about Science Writing for Non-Scientific Audiences EEB 3895 may be found in the course catalogue.


Alexandra Retter is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at alexandra.retter@uconn.edu.

Service Learning Student Perspective: Constitution Day

By Mackenzie Rafferty

On Friday, September 16, the UConn Office of Public Engagement (OPE), in collaboration with Dr. Kimberly Bergendahl, held a student-run Constitution Day discussion in the Dodd Research Center. As a student of Dr. Bergendahl and the communications assistant for the OPE, I was able to explore service learning not only in relation to my job, but also as a participating political science student.

I’m a third year Political Science and Communications dual major at The University of Connecticut. My passions are writing, reading, and understanding human history in hopes of better understanding our future; politics and communications are a perfect match for me, which makes my job at the Office of Public Engagement very rewarding. This semester, whether by fate or sheer luck, I enrolled in Constitutional Rights and Liberties course with Dr. Bergendahl. Seemingly by chance, the Office of Public Engagement reached out to Dr. Bergendahl and her constitutional rights and liberties course to help organize and lead their Constitution Day celebration.

This rare opportunity completely altered the teaching style of my class. For the first time in my academic career at UConn, I was able to participate in a service learning course, which happens to be one of the main values of UConn’s OPE and more importantly, one of the five main goals of the University. This experience gave me an entirely unique opportunity to be a part of the service learning pedagogy.

Taken directly from our mission statement, the Office of Public Engagement at UConn is driven to “assist in the development of engaged citizens through coordination, advocacy and capacity building for engagement activities.” One of the main ways the office fosters this civic engagement is through service learning, as well as engaged scholarships, university assisted community schools, partnerships, and collaborations with community and partner programs.

The office provides resources for students, faculty members, and professional staff to further UConn’s impact on local communities in hopes of nurturing long-term relationships with communities and partners. Constitution Day gave our class the opportunity to take part in a service learning course, which really highlighted the importance of community and civic engagement.

Service learning, as described by the OPE’s website, “is a pedagogy that promotes the formation of collaborative, sustainable partnerships between the university and the community.” Through student and faculty collaboration, the university is able to bring attention to pressing societal issues. One of the main goals of service learning is to allow for students to develop as active learners and members of the community, who also strive to take their education into their own hands.

What service learning offers is an entirely unique teaching and learning strategy that actively works to integrate meaningful community contributions with instruction and individual reflection. This strategy works to enrich both the teaching and learning experience, while also introducing concepts of civic and community responsibility to students.

My constitutional rights and liberties class had first-hand experience in engaging community engagement thanks to the service learning pedagogy. Our responsibility was to organize and hold a student-run discussion and presentation on the Second Amendment. In preparation for the day, our class met with Julia Yakovich, the director of service learning initiatives for the OPE, to discuss what our objectives should be for the presentation. Collectively, we decided that it was important to give a brief overview of the history of amendment, while also discussing modern application, and the future of the amendment.

These in-class discussions really changed the dynamic of the classroom—for the first time, students were really engaging in conversation where their ideas carried responsibility and weight. We were allowed to openly express opinions and cultivate a larger understanding of the amendment that represented classroom sentiments. We also knew that our conversations would have power outside the classroom; our ideas were to become a presentation that directly represented us in our community.

This style of conversation helped the class arrive at goals for the presentation. We knew we wanted to keep the presentation very neutral and informational. As political science students, we understood the controversy attached to the discussion of the second amendment; we wanted to ensure that any debate would factual and educational.

Three days after our initial in-class meeting, Constitution Day arrived. The presentation went smoothly, and we were joined by fellow students and faculty members. By the end of the presentation, the floor opened for questions and discussion. Many questions were raised in regards to the future of the second amendment a variety of viewpoints and opinions were heard. The discussion was extremely civil and showed the growing interest students had in regards to the Second Amendment.

We were also joined by CT State Representative Gregg Haddad of the 54th Assembly District. Haddad ended the presentation with a few personal comments. Embracing his opinion on the future of the second amendment, he discussed how the amendment has personally affected his political experiences. Representative Haddad’s commentary was important in fully embracing service learning. Haddad’s commentary allowed for the students to see how the research and presentation related directly to the community.

Dr. Bergendahl, in collaboration with her Constitutional Rights and Liberties course, the OPE staff, and Representative Haddad worked together seamlessly to create an experience that transcended the classroom—students worked together with faculty to a create meaningful product that emphasized civil responsibility and touched members of the greater community. The presentation was a great representation of the mission of The Office of Public Engagement with thanks to the service learning pedagogy


When the State Faces Financial Woes, Faculty, Students Can Make All the Difference Through Innovative Service Learning: A Call to Faculty

by Julia M. Yakovich

This may not be widely known, but the pedagogy of Service Learning can be a true catalyst for economic change. More and more faculty are investigating how they can make a difference in our communities through course efforts because Service Learning 1) efficiently offers a way for faculty to utilize an effective and innovative pedagogy where students become active learners while collaborating with communities (local or global), 2) engages students intentionally in critical reflection and social justice awareness, 3) helps prepare them for the job market, 4) bolsters on-the-ground research in collaboration with our community partners, 5) allows students to think critically about life after graduation and their place in the world, 6) connects students to local challenges and become local problem solvers and doers.

There is a place for all fields of study within Service Learning. Let’s take a closer look at business. Entrepreneurship is a sure way to increase economic activity and will be a reliable way to attract young professionals to smaller urban centers. Take for instance, our urban centers right here in CT: Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven, Stamford, New London and the like. Most of these cities are in or near our very own UConn Campuses and that is one of the many reasons we have our regional campuses; to have our faculty and students in the action. It is imperative for us to develop student entrepreneurs, because yes, they will be the ones to take chances in their early careers. Through Service Learning we create safe spaces for students to test their strengths in the open air of society. Our students have the ideas, they have the answers; we must be listening and able to assist them in their journey to creating a strong, vibrant society.

Let’s talk feasibility and implementation. Faculty have a course. Reflect on how how it can be tied to society and the challenges we face. What is the connection? Is it food? Environment? Social Services? Government? Health? Education? Business? How does it connect to your course goals and objectives? Is there an agency, non profit, small business that you have an existing relationship? If so, ask questions about how your class can align with their mission or greater objectives. There is a place for you in this pedagogy of Service Learning. The Office of Public Engagement is here and ready to help you brainstorm to take your course to the next level. Let us create a plan to connect the dots between theory and practice, content and action. You and your students could be the facilitator of the next great ‘thing’ for our fair state of Connecticut.

For instance, David Noble in the School of Business taught his Strategic Analysis course (MGMT 4209) and teamed up with Main Street Waterbury and the City of Waterbury where students researched and then proposed usable ideas for business incubators to increase the local urban economy. The next time this course is taught the students will build on to those ideas and further investigate HOW to get these ideas off the ground. Service Learning courses have pragmatic elements if planned accordingly and one semester can be a building block for those to follow. Conversely, if a faculty member teams up with a coordinating course, those courses can act collaboratively in alternating semesters. There are many ways to make service learning courses work for you.

Oskar Harmon, at the Stamford Campus has his students working on research and evaluation of tax implications, tolls, and transportation for different governmental agencies. Phil Birge-Liberman from the Waterbury Campus had students research the food desert(s) for GEOG 4200 Geographical Analysis of Urban Social Issues.

Why are these courses increasingly important to the state economy?  There is untapped potential for these intentionally linked educational and community focused initiatives (projects, research studies, internships, independent studies, programs, and grants) to address the state’s perpetual ‘brain drain’ as cited in this article from CBIA (Connecticut Business and Industry Association).

The goal of today’s universities and colleges involve filling the needs of community partners while simultaneously remedying the inefficiencies historically plaguing our urban centers and the state as a whole.

Potential General Outcomes:
-Gain the attention of the millennial generation to explore our localized urban communities
-Expose students to city opportunities and develop the workforce prepared to work at or before graduation
-Support economic development efforts and create the innovation required to bolster human capital
-Integrate student intelligence into new urban initiatives
-Encourage students to stay and live in the city
-Create sustainable partnerships with universities and generate grant money for innovative projects and programs
-Develop innovative projects/entities for funders or other businesses looking to expand

What have our Service Learning Fellows been up to?




2016 Service Learning Exposition – Campus Details

Inaugural Service Learning Exposition, Wednesday, April 20th!



Times Vary at Each Campus (check links below) – Poster sessions and presentations

Faculty, staff, and students across UConn campuses have been engaging with the community through service learning for years now, and it is time to showcase their accomplishments and ongoing efforts! UConn has, through the Office of Public Engagement, fostered a mission of developing engaged citizens through coordination, advocacy, and capacity building for engagement activities. Many of these engagement activities are Service Learning.

Come to learn, share, and get inspired from Service Learning Courses, Outreach Programs, Potential Internships, Independent Studies, Teaching Opportunities, and Research – ALL are examples of Service Learning!

The Expo is where students, faculty, staff and community partners can learn of opportunities in accordance with UConn’s Academic Vision. Listen to students are making real difference in our communities while growing personally and professionally. Listen how our faculty and staff are teaching innovative and exciting courses and are fostering programs that benefit our communities!

Please share this information and encourage attendance. http://engagement.uconn.edu/


Storrs Campus – South Reading Room, Wilbur Cross Building

Avery Point – Student Center

Hartford Campus – Zachs Room, School of Social Work

Stamford Campus – Concourse

Waterbury – Multipurpose Room

Health Center – Cafeteria

Service Learning Committee

Call for Nominations: W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award

 Engagement Scholaship Consortium Banner

Call for Nominations: W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award

Apply now for the 2016 Community-University Engagement Awards. Since 2006, the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, have partnered to recognize the outstanding community-university engagement scholarship work of four-year public universities.C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award

The Community-University Engagement Awards Program includes the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards and the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Awards are given to the winners of each of four regional competitions and are presented annually during the ESC Annual Conference, this year in Omaha, Nebraska. Each recipient of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Community Engagement Scholarship Award goes on to compete for the C. Peter Magrath Community Engagement Scholarship Award which is presented during the APLU Annual Meeting, this year in Austin, Texas.

The Community-University Engagement Awards Program recognizes colleges and universities that have redesigned their learning, discovery, and engagement missions to become even more involved with their communities.

The nomination deadline for the 2016 awards is April 18, 2016:

·         Application and guidelines

·         Information about the awards program

·         Past recipients


·         © 2015 Engagement Scholarship Consortium

·         The ESC is a nonprofit, 501 (c) (3) tax exempt organization (EIN 27-0275633)

·         Web: info@engagementscholarship.org


IARSLCE: Call for Journal Submissions – Deadline Extended to May 27



Call for Submissions IJRSLCE

The International Journal of Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IJRSLCE) invites manuscripts for consideration for the fourth issue of the journal to be published in fall 2016. As you know, IJRSLCE is the annual, peer-reviewed, online journal of IARSLCE. Its mission is to disseminate rigorous scholarship on service-learning and community engagement, including research, theory, research reviews and book reviews. We seek to represent the breadth of scholarship in the service-learning and community engagement field, with articles from different countries and disciplines and representing a range of methodologies including community-engaged scholarship. The deadline for submissions is May 27, 2016.

The fourth issue of IJRSLCE will be organized into Sections representing different areas of scholarship. Sections of the 2016 issue will include:

  • Advances in Theory and Methodology
  • Student Outcomes, K-12
  • Faculty Roles and Faculty-Related Issues
  • Institutional Issues
  • Community Partnerships/Impacts
  • International Service-Learning and Community Engagement
  • Works-in-Progress

The following types of manuscripts will be considered for each section.

  • Research Articles. Manuscripts reporting on findings from empirical studies of service-learning and community engagement. Submissions should be well-grounded in relevant research literature, based on rigorous methodology (either quantitative or qualitative) and present evidence-based findings. Manuscripts that report findings linked to questions of broad importance to the field are encouraged; those that are primarily program descriptions or descriptions of service-learning/community engagement practices will not be accepted.
  • Theoretical or Conceptual Articles. Manuscripts that examine and advance the theoretical or conceptual foundations of service-learning and civic engagement. Manuscripts can advance new theoretical frameworks or suggest new applications of constructs from cognate disciplines, such as psychology or sociology. Manuscripts can also elaborate on or critique well-established theoretical frameworks or constructs in service-learning and community engagement.
  • Review Articles. Manuscripts, including reports of meta-analyses, that discuss the state of knowledge about service-learning and community engagement. Manuscripts can reflect a broad lens or report on the knowledge base specific to a particular discipline, type of s-l or community engagement experience, nation, culture and/or grade range. Manuscripts should synthesize findings from prior research, as well as critically assess the quality of extant evidence.

IJRSLCE also welcomes book reviews (1500 words or less) of recent books of general importance to the field.


Author Guidelines are available on the IJRSLCE website. You must register on the site in order to submit a manuscript. Please see the third issue of the journal.

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Andrew Furco (612-624-6876) or Dr. Susan Root (262-349-9339) if you would like additional information. We look forward to hearing from you!

Want your GIS students to excel as pros? Try service learning!



Want your GIS students to excel as pros? Try service learning!

By Wing Cheung

Students that participate in GIS-based community service learning projects have the opportunity to apply classroom learning to real-world problems, gaining valuable experience that can help them succeed as GIS professionals; at the same time, they can make significant contributions to their community. The benefits to the students and the community seem obvious, but service learning is not as common as one might expect, primarily because educators face a variety of challenges to implementation.

In an effort to explore the many challenges, as well as the motivations for initiating and sustaining service learning despite them, I conducted focus groups and individual interviews with educators who have implemented GIS-based service learning projects in their classes at secondary schools, community colleges and universities. I asked about the common issues they encountered when implementing their projects, as well as different practices they employed to overcome issues related to partner recruitment, institutional constraints and assessment. I hope that this brief review of the successes and challenges can help educators make informed decisions about whether to implement service learning, or how to best implement service learning considering their needs.

Why even consider community service learning?

According to the Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University,“Community engagement pedagogies, often called “service learning,” are ones that combine learning goals and community service in ways that can enhance both student growth and the common good.”

Of the educators that I interviewed, many initially decided to implement service learning because they believe that “students need real-world projects,” or they see the “need for project-based instruction.” Although some educators are required by their districts, schools or departments to implement service learning, many of them eventually went above and beyond the requirement because they “want to have students do something meaningful.”

My own experience as a GIS educator at a community college resonates with the interviewees’ responses. Although my administrators did not require me to implement service learning, all of the GIS employers who advise the development of my institution’s GIS program emphasized the importance of field experience for students. Thus, service learning only makes sense, as it enables students to build professional connections and gain experiences that will be invaluable to their future careers.

The biggest challenge: partner recruitment

From speaking with educators, I learned that the recruitment of partners is by far the greatest barrier in the implementation of service learning. In part, instructors often have to donate personal time to search for projects and to evaluate partners and the proposed scope of work for students. In particular, one interviewee remarked that she wants to safeguard her students against partners that may perceive service learning as an opportunity to exploit students for free labor. In other cases, partners may be overly ambitious in the tasks that they assign to students given the length of the academic term. Thus, in a successful service learning partnership, it is vital for the instructor to act as a mediator between partners and students, establishing realistic expectations based on predefined learning objectives early in the partnership.

Within the area of partner recruitment, the strategies mentioned by my interviewees can be classified into three categories. These strategies have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and one may be preferred over another depending on the project learning outcome(s). The three strategies are: instructor-initiated recruitment, student-initiated recruitment and hybrid recruitment.

In the instructor-initiated recruitment model, instructors seek out partners and assign them to students. While this model allows instructors to vet partners and standardize project scopes to ensure their appropriateness, most interviewees have found this model extremely time consuming. In addition, students are less receptive to a partner that is assigned to them compared to one that they have chosen on their own.

In the student-initiated recruitment model, students are asked to converse with members of the school or the local community in order to identify a cause that is of interest to them. Compared to the instructor-initiated model, instructors generally find higher completion rates when students choose their own partners, with the added benefit that students will have to practice their communication skills in order to seek out partners. However, due to the diversity of student interests and partner organizations, one interviewee cautioned that instructors will have to be flexible regarding project ideas. Moreover, the range of projects may also present unforeseen assessment challenges, which will be discussed in the next section.

In the hybrid recruitment model, students are asked to identify, deliberate and vote on a problem within their community. Once the problem is agreed upon by a student majority, instructors seek out partners for the students. This model encourages students to learn more about their community, as well as experience the process of framing viable research questions. As one interviewee pointed out, this opportunity to define a problem “is the first time for a lot of them [students]”. However, similar to the instructor-initiated model, it may require a lot of time and effort from instructors as they look for partners.

Institutional constraints

For the most part, many of my interviewees agreed that school administrators and the community are generally supportive of the idea of service learning. However, even for instructors who are enthusiastic about service learning and have institutional or external support, such as software donations, the limitation of time remains. Many instructors already are pressed for time to cover the required curriculum, which leaves little room to experiment with new practices like service learning. In addition, the latent benefits of service learning, such as civic engagement, empathy and social decorum, are often not explicitly required by state standards, nor quantifiable, thus making it especially difficult for instructors to justify service learning to school administrators or parents despite its long-term benefits.

One way to increase the visibility of service learning’s long-term benefits is to publicize the impact of student projects. This may take the form of organizing local conferences for students to present their works to school administrators or the local community, or initiating interdisciplinary collaborations with other disciplines that may be less inclined to initiate service learning on their own. One example of such collaboration, from my own experience, is the partnership established between the GIS program and the American Indian Studies program. Under the partnership, students enrolled in my GIS course help local tribes map out their cultural assets, thus learning not only technical skills in the process, but also the cultural and political issues that may arise in working with sensitive data. Many of the interviewees that I contacted collaborated with instructors from outside of their own disciplines, and hosted workshops and conferences for students to present their work to the community.

Evaluation issues

Unlike the standardized classroom environment, students are exposed to very different technical and logistical challenges in service learning, much like in the real world. Consequently, it is especially difficult to quantify or assess student efforts using a common metric. Thus, for instructors who are interested in service learning, it is crucial to keep their grading criteria broad and to focus on assessing higher level skills such as critical thinking, research, writing and reading, rather than focusing on specific competencies. This last point is particularly important, because it shows that service learning is not meant to be a replacement for standardized assessment or classroom instruction. Instead, service learning is meant to complement traditional modes of instruction and help students see the applicability of their classroom learning in the real world.


The author is grateful for the time, efforts and invaluable advice provided by the interview and focus groups participants in this study. This material is based upon work supported by the National Geospatial Technology Center of Excellence and the National Science Foundation under grant no. 1304591. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Stamford Students Team With UConn To Create Christmas For Families In Need

Newfield Elementary School students pose in front of holiday gifts that will be given to families in need through Stamford’s Neighbors Link program. Jay Polansky

by Jay Polansky

STAMFORD, Conn. — You’re never too young to make a difference.

That was the message from one well-spoken elementary school student in the Stamford Public Education Foundation’s mentoring program at Newfield Elementary School.

Students and mentors from the program presented Neighbors Link with gifts that the organization will give to three families in need.

Neighbors Link program manager Christian Mendoza said the gifts will allow families in need to have a “happier, brighter holiday season.”

He was impressed by the gifts — and decorations — that those in the program had on hand for Tuesday afternoon’s ceremony.

The presentation was a culmination of a 10-week mentoring program in which UConn students teamed with the elementary school students to inspire them to help others in the community.

UConn student Valentina Casanova told the youngsters she enjoyed her time in the program.

“I had an amazing time with you guys,” she said. Casanova said she enjoyed learning about the students’ traditions. Casanova also said she didn’t have the opportunity to participate in a mentoring program when she was in elementary school.

She was one of several UConn students who participated. Each student was enrolled in classes taught by Dr. Miller-Smith.

The university students mentored 170 elementary school students during weekly sessions to teach about civic engagement, community service, and leadership.

Several elementary school students, who were also moved by the program, stood in front of their classmates and shared their takeaways from the experience.

One student said community service not only helps people in need — it also helps you “feel good and make new friends.”

Another student said, “Some people need all the help you can give.” Those who can’t put food on the table particularly need help, she said.

A very well-articulated student said it best: Even though the students were young — some just 10 years old — they’re not too young to make a difference.

Cindy Newman, the foundation’s program manager, agreed.

“Without all of your hard work over the past 10 weeks, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing,” she said.