Community builders continues to grow

Sixth graders from Waverly Shell-Rock and St. Paul’s Elementary learn what it means to be a leader from Wartburg students. — Emily Novotny/TRUMPET

Community Builders, a program that is a requirement of the ID 315 course, Leadership Theories and Practices, has grown over the years with volunteers and the number of sections the class offers.

The Community Builders program was started by Dr. Fred Waldstein 12 years ago. In 2010, Dr. Waldstein received the MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship international award. At that time, Wartburg was the first of two colleges and universities to receive that award.

Bill Soesbe, assistant professor of education and ID 315 professor said that over the years, the program has grown in terms of adult volunteers and the number of course sections offered.

“The number of adult volunteers went from 18 to nearly 30 and last year we added a third section of the class for one semester to meet the needs of the student body,” Soesbe said.

Students taking the class partner with Waverly Shell-Rock and St. Paul’s Elementary sixth graders to help them understand leadership, community service, service learning, volunteerism and the importance they play in their communities, Amanda Sanderman, School Partnership Coordinator said.

“To the leadership students, if they can lead this group, they can lead a board group, classroom, or any other situation and that’s why we focus on the leadership side of it,” Sanderman said.

Soesbe said the program was created out of a set of needs for the middle schools, community and Wartburg. These needs ranged from learning more about leadership, how to educate citizens of the community and a place where students could practice their leadership skills.

“Community Builders serves as an opportunity where students can go out and actually perform service, leadership and practice what they have been talking about,” Soesbe said.

The focus of Community Builders is always the same but each semester, the focus is different. First semester is focused on local communities, educating students on various organizations in the area and second semester is focused internationally, educating students on international issues, Sanderman said.

Richard Beeler, a student enrolled in ID 315, meets five times during the semester with his group of sixth graders, teaching about what it means to be a leader, volunteering and what service learning is through different activities and discussions.

“I think Community Builders is important because it gives Wartburg a chance to have a leadership role within our community,” Beeler said.

The program wouldn’t be as successful as it is without a collaboration of a lot of different people, entities and organizations, Soesbe said.

“The leadership students learn self-awareness, about who they are, and what their strengths and weaknesses are,” Soesbe said. “The sixth graders get educated on how they can contribute to their community.”

Soesbe said the students also have an ownership for their own learning and the success of the program lies with the students.

“They’re the ones that are going to make and have made this program great,” Soesbe said. “You get out what you put in and they’re learning that very quickly as a part of their experiences

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