The foundation of any strong democracy is built upon a society of actively engaged citizen, who understand the importance of mentoring future generations in their civic responsibilities. One institution at the forefront of this quest is The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) and its Center for Community Engaged Learning, which offers students a multitude of opportunities to experience the power of active citizenship firsthand.
Community Engaged Learning, also known as service learning, is a teaching method that provides students with a “hands on” learning experience that stresses the importance of volunteerism and civic responsibility while providing support to organizations that are working to strengthen American communities. This teaching strategy encourages the development of problem solving and critical thinking skills while fostering inter-cultural understanding. It develops citizenship skills and encourages ongoing involvement in the community after graduation.
The Center for Community Engaged Learning at TCNJ has partnered with numerous nonprofit organizations and businesses throughout the city of Trenton in order to help them improve the quality and efficiency of their organizations, which ultimately provides an optimal learning experience for their students. The diversity of available projects is impressive and provides numerous avenues for students to grow and learn.
A few examples of their current projects include: students from the Interactive Multi-media Program working with the Free Public Library in Trenton to create interactive media tools for the Trentonia room, students enrolled in a Population Demographics course are doing research for Meals on Wheels to help improve services to better meet the needs of program participants, while students from the school of business are collaborating with software engineering students to create new technologically based methods for streamlining processes for a Quaker nonprofit organization in order to improve organizational efficiency.
Past projects have included the Shop Trenton Program in which photography students created a brochure about businesses located on Warren Street. Once the project was completed the photographs were shared with business owners for use in their own advertising.
At a time when American engagement in community life seems to be disintegrating, TCNJ and their Center for Community Engaged Learning have created a renaissance in civic engagement, while providing support to many of the businesses and organizations that serve the city of Trenton.
Alex de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, once stated that one of the core strengths of American democracy was the active participation of its citizens in their communities, a tradition that is being kept alive by TCNJ and its commitment to the City of Trenton.