First-Year Composition Students Engage in Public Service as a Path to Writing

Marymount’s Composition Program introduces all students to the reading, writing, critical thinking, and research skills needed to participate effectively in civic discussions and debates. As the subject of their reading, writing, and research, students focus on public issues of local significance through first-hand research and an examination of new and traditional media. The course culminates in a project that contributes to the public discussion of a topic.

This year, Composition Program Director Dr. Bess Fox’s English 101 class is investigating the role empathy plays in contemporary social, business, and political life. As part of this investigation into empathy, students read articles on community service and participated in a community service project with KEEN DC, a nonprofit organization that helps children with physical and/or cognitive disabilities enjoy sports activities.  In September, students spent an afternoon serving as one-on-one coaches for disabled children as these children shot hoops, rode scooters, kicked balls, and played music. Often the children were non-verbal, so the coach had to use their empathetic imagination to communicate with them. One first-year student, Rumaysaa Balleth, wrote about how she came to understand that her athlete–as KEEN DC terms participating children–communicated his enjoyment by pulling strings on her jacket as they ran around the gym. Students are using their experiences at KEEN DC to respond to arguments in the essays they are reading for class.  Several of Dr. Holly Karapetkova’s English 101 students also participated in the KEEN DC service project.