One aspect of the Mission of the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) is that its students gain the ability to contribute to the social well-being of American Samoa. Public service organizations such as the American Samoa Cancer Coalition, the Family Resource Center, and the two shelters housed under the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS), the Emergency Homeless Shelter and the Battered Women and Child Protection Shelter, each stand at the frontline of addressing an urgent social need in the Territory. As their community service project for the semester, each of the three sections of the ASCC class Introduction to Psychology (PSY 150) organized fundraising activities as a means of gaining understanding and establishing bonds of respect and support for the individuals who staff the above-mentioned entities. During ceremonies earlier this month, each section of PSY 150 presented their donations of money or goods to representatives of one of the three organizations.
“One of the PSY 150 course learning outcomes is that students gain an understanding of themselves and others through the application of theories in the field of Psychology,” said ASCC instructor Mrs. Tala Ropeti-Leo, who teaches the three sections of PSY 150. “Service Learning provides them with an opportunity to actually apply these theories. They learn to become active members of their community and have a lasting positive impact on society by providing a service to those who need it most. Also, studies have shown that community service actually helps individuals reduce their stress, depression and anger, and increases their self-confidence, determination and sense of purpose. I can teach and lecture about giving back and its psychological benefits, but teaching requires application, so engaging students in community service helps them put what they learn into practice.”
Working in groups, the PSY 150 students engaged in activities including bake sales, walk-a-thons, pick-a-thons and plate sales to fund their donations. During the week of the presentation ceremonies, PSY 150 Section 1 hosted Family to Family Resource Center representatives Dr. Anaise Uso and Mrs. Ipu Eliapo Unutoa, who spoke about their work and expressed gratitude for the ASCC students’ show of support. For Section 2’s donation to the American Samoa Cancer Coalition, director Mr. Va’a Tofaeono and media representative Ms. Tracey Porotesano visited the class to receive a monetary donation and express their appreciation. When Section 3 presented their donation to the two shelters housed under DHSS, they welcomed Branch Managers Sandra Fruean, manager of all DHSS shelter-operated facilities and programs, and Tufanua Avegalio, who manages caseloads for child abuse and domestic violence. Fruean and Avegalio came to the ASCC class directly after helping the returning residents from that day’s repatriation flight settle in at the Tradewinds Hotel, and they both shared insights on the services they provide, as well as their thanks to the students.
For several semesters now, Ropeti-Leo has facilitated similar community service projects for her sections of PSY 150, and many of her students have told her they found the community service project their favorite part of the course. “Every semester the students get more creative on how they do their projects,” she said, “and they come away with life skills that aren’t taught in the classroom. Many of my students who’ve done community service come back to me later for a reference letter when they apply for scholarships or for membership in the PTK honor society because these organizations usually ask if a student has done any sort of community service. So in many ways these projects benefit them in the long run.” Following Spring Break, the PSY 150 students will do presentations utilizing photos and videos to explain how they fundraised and what items their particular projects required.
Ropeti-Leo expressed her appreciation of her PSY 150 students as well as their parents for their support while the projects were underway, as well as the representatives of the three community service organizations who came to ASCC to accept the donations and share time with the students.
For more information on ASCC, visit the College’s web page at www.amsamoa.edu.