Bennion Center honors students, faculty, community members for service

By By Melinda Hill

By Melinda Hill

U student Megan Bybee was named University of Utah Service-Learning Scholar of the Year.

The elementary education major, is a senior working toward graduation in May, and a student teacher at Escalante Elementary School.

“Even if there wasn’t an award, I’d think service learning is valuable,” said Bybee, who said she is more comfortable talking about service learning than talking about receiving recognition for her work.

Bybee organized a project that created a 20-foot by 40-foot mural on the cinderblock walls of Escalante Elementary. The project included teaching the students, organizing the student teachers and then helping the students paint the mural on the wall of their school, all of which took about five months.

“Service-learning is the perfect way to extend your learning to a real-life situation where you can be effective,” Bybee said.

The Bennion Center recognized Bybee, along with three other recipients of Service-Learning Awards, at a luncheon held Tuesday in Marriot Library’s Gould Auditorium. Other award winners included David Ferguson, a program director at the Utah Aids Foundation, as Community Partner of the Year, and Professor Fred Montague, awarded for teacher/class of the year. Montague has been teaching at the U for 13 years, and for him receiving a service-learning award was a complete surprise.

“It’s a real gift, just like the Bennion Center is a gift,” Montague said. Montague teaches a class on Global and Environmental Issues and said he believes that through service, students can be empowered to make a difference.

“None of us can solve all the problems ourselves, but we will one neighborhood at a time, and that’s what we try to instill in our students,” Montague said.

As part of his class, students participate with such community partners as Tree Utah, Wasatch Gardens, the Sierra Club and others. Montague tries to give his students the opportunity to extend their learning and find answers to problems.

“He doesn’t tell them what to think, but he does tell them how to think,” Bennion Center Director Marshall Welch said.

Besides the many professors who teach service-learning classes, the Service-Learning Program also relies on the community agencies that allow students to work with their organizations.

“Without [community partners] this program, this concept of service, simply would not be possible,” said U President Michael Young, the keynote speaker at the luncheon.

The Service-Learning Community Partner of the Year, The Utah Aids Foundation, has been associated with the Bennion Center for 10 years and Ferguson has been a project director for the last five. While working with the Utah Aids Foundation, students receive an enthusiastic welcome, good supervision and an opportunity to work directly with clients, says Joani Shaver, service-learning manager at the Bennion Center.

“My whole intent in becoming a community partner is to give medical students an opportunity to think differently about their patients,” said Ferguson. “This award is an affirmation that what we are trying to do is working.”

Although the Service-Learning Awards luncheon was held for the first time this year, organizers plan to make it an annual affair, held to honor those who have made an impact.

“Service-learning is not merely service for service’s sake,” Young said. “It is an essential part of the education process. Service-learning students are precisely the kinds of students we want to produce at the University of Utah. They understand the responsibility to use education not just for personal gain but to make the world a better place.”

[email protected]