Students focus on freedom

Nicole Jones

Nicole Jones

“There’s one of my girls!”

“Another bus is here.”

“My kids aren’t here yet.”

Northern Kentucky University student mentors chattered in anticipation as they watched for their 7th grade charges at the Celebration of Freedom-Focused Service Learning (FFSL) held in the University Center on Dec. 4.

Once NKU students located their counterparts, keeping up with the hyperactive 12-year-olds in the growing throng was another matter entirely. One kid scooted by with a nametag plastered on his forehead, darting easily between the adults to get one of the T-shirts being handed out to all the students.

The focus of the event was to showcase the freedom projects created by Covington’s Two Rivers Middle School students with the help of their NKU mentors.

The event started at about 10 a.m. with the arrival of the Two Rivers students. The students gradually filtered into the Otto M. Budig Theater to hear some quick remarks and a poetry reading. Exceptional faculty and students were also given awards.

“You really didn’t know what you were getting yourselves into…how many NKU students were going to be in your classes,” said Barbara Wallace, coordinator of service learning, during her introduction. “You have been exceedingly generous with your time, and with allowing students to come in at all different hours and all different classes. I think our students are richer for it.”

The NKU students became mentors by taking any of the five FFSL classes offered in the areas of religion, women’s studies, African-American history, social work and English. The courses seek to address literacy, racial issues, and principles of democracy and freedom, while connecting class work with civic and community involvement.

Jibby Brown, a teacher at Two Rivers, couldn’t speak because of a case of laryngitis. Wallace said she knew Brown would work herself to the bone. “Not really,” Brown whispered hoarsely. “It’s a labor of love.”

An award was also given to sophomore geography major Diana Mondragon for putting in more than 70 hours of service when her class requirement was only 15.

The single mother of three said, “I wanted to help as many kids as possible while trying not to overburden my own responsibilities. I didn’t want to be someone who just came to visit once a week. I wanted to be their friend.”

Her Religion in America class was not originally scheduled to participate in FFSL, but was included after registration.

Robert Kenney, who taught the class, said he gave students the option of participating in the program instead of doing a presentation or similar class requirement.

Mondragon said she had never heard of the program and was excited when she learned about the opportunity. But the students were not what she expected.

“The students