GCC Students Learn Joys and Challenges of Service to Others

Monday, May 13, 2013

As part of their course work, the students in Gateway Community College’s (GCC) Group Dynamics/Psychology 105 course provided “fun day” activities for children and ran a clothing drive to assist guests of the Columbus House homeless shelter. The projects enabled students to design and implement a semester-long community service project—along the way they learned another valuable lession: the joy that community service can bring.

Learning group dynamics while assisting the community has been a hallmark of the popular Gateway course for 40 years. While Teresa Russo DeMars, associate professor of psychology, has been teaching it since 2005, the course was designed by Professor Jesse Davis four decades ago. He taught it continuously and continues to teach it in his retirement, as an adjunct instructor. Students in the course engage in classroom/textbook learning and they break into small groups, each developing community service projects. They plan together, work closely with local agencies and seek donations for all the materials they need for their projects.

“In addition to providing students with a laboratory in which to experience challenges that they will face in future work and non-work-related groups, the course also greatly benefits our community through their projects,” DeMars said. “Over the years, students have served a wide variety of individuals in need: children, the elderly, those with disabilities, and our homeless population to name a few. I find that for a substantial number of my students, this is their first exposure to the challenges and joys of being of service to others in their community. They are often inspired to continue to volunteer for the organization they assisted through their project or other groups.”

The projects were:

  • The Blue group, “Open Hearts,“ provided a fun day for 20 children and teens at Stepping Stone, a transitional housing program affiliated with Christian Community Action. Activities included arts and crafts, a beauty station, T-shirt and pocketbook-making and group games. The participants also enjoyed pizza, cupcakes and other refreshments.
  • The “Green Team” assisted a home for special needs children called “No Place like Home.” They completed painting and yard work projects needed at the home and provided the 12 children with arts and crafts and a luncheon. In addition, they assisted the Columbus House homeless shelter, serving 15 individuals through street outreach and they held a clothing drive on behalf of all shelter guests.)
  • The “Red and Ready” group provided a day of fun activities for 40 children participating in The Family Learning Center/John S. Martinez School K-8 after-school program. The children participated in arts and crafts projects, face painting, games and sports activities while enjoying pizza, cake and other treats.


The students will soon present their final group presentations. However, the Green Team’s Clothing Drive continues through Friday. They seek donations of socks and underwear for men and women for guests of the Columbus House Shelter. Drop off boxes are located in the Gateway Women’s Center, the GCC cafeteria and the faculty dining area.