A Semester of Service: Research Writing

Students in Beth Parfitt‘s Research Writing classes spent part of the semester combining their research skills with community service. Parfitt has included a service learning component in the past four sections of this class, which she teaches every spring semester. She explains that service is a good research tool and something that has helped her learn more about Boston. In the past, her classes have produced a magazine documenting their experiences working with Boston Cares and public service announcements for the ONEin3. This is the first time students in the class have been allowed to select the organization with which they served. The assignment associated with their service consists of a series of letter addressed to different members of the Emerson and greater Boston community, communicating the issues present in their service and the overall experience. “It’s such a familiar genre,” says Parfitt. “Everyone’s written some sort of letter.”

Research Writing Website Screen Shot

The first letter, addressed to Parfitt and Suzanne Hinton, Associate Director of the Office of Service Learning and Community Action, proposes an organization where the student wishes to complete their service. It includes research about the organization and the logistics behind when the student will complete the required service. This letter states the organization’s mission, why the student wishes to work with the particular organization, its importance or personal connection to the student. The second letter is an open letter addressed to a group or individual of the student’s choosing. It usually includes the student’s service experience and addresses their service organization’s focus issue, although Parfitt says students can choose the direction they wish to take with their writing. The third and final letter is written as a thank-you to the organization and any other individuals with whom they served. This semester, students worked with the Boston Living CenterSamaritansCity YearThe Learning Ally, and the St. Francis House, among others.

Parfitt says the role of the course is to bridge the gap between what it means to be a student and a citizen, engaging them in research about their new community, which will help get them involved. She hopes the assignment will teach students about Boston, the issues faced by the community, and their own role in it. “I hope they understand the process and that they’ve learned how to be a citizen,” she says.

Student Work:

Alex Freeman – City Year Proposal

Dear Ms. Parfitt and Ms. Hinton,

It was 2006, and I was in my last year of high school, which was a post-graduate year that I did in order to beef up my credits for college. Let’s be honest, I really had no idea what I was going to do once outside the confines of high school. It was that year that I first learned of the organization City Year from my social worker at the time. Read More…

Chris Paredes – Plastic Water Bottles

An open letter to plastic water bottle users,

Imagine this. There is an endless supply of grapes available to you, practically in every building you enter throughout the day. Real grape vines are built into the infrastructure of your house, dorm, office, and school. You really like eating grapes. Actually, come to think of it, grapes are the most important thing that you can feed your body, if you want to stay alive. It’s been proven that without consuming any other other sort of nourishment, a human being can live up to and beyond 40 days on grapes alone. So it’s pretty convenient that the one source of energy that your body needs to function is free. Some people like to substitute synthetic products, like “fruit snacks” for their daily grape servings, but really, grapes are our only imperative nourishment. Read More…

Brenna Sweet – Learning Ally

Dear Boston Community Members,

This is not a letter asking for your monetary donations. I intend to open your minds, not your wallets, and ask you for your willing spirit and time. The Learning Ally, formerly, and as my Mother remembers it, “Recording for the Blind,” is a non-profit organization that provides recorded books for students, adults, and veterans who are blind, dyslexic or are affected by other learning disabilities, and helps them reach their true educational potential. Read More…

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