SHSU Students Veronica and Jessica Stubblefield talk to a resident outside the Trinty Cafe about child safety gun locks as part of a community service project.
A criminal justice class at Sam Houston State University will give away free gun locks in Trinity, Walker and Montgomery counties as part of a community service initiative at Sam Houston State University.
Under the Academic Community Engagement Program, students in designated courses will be required to provide three hours of community services for each one hour of course credit. Dr. Raymond Teske, Jr.’s Child Abuse class is piloting the project in the College of Criminal Justice, and students are expected to hand out 800 cable gun locks to the public for free in Huntsville, Conroe, College Station, Trinity, Groesbeck and Kingwood.
"It's not just about helping the community, but helping yourself," said Veronica Stubblefield, a student in the class, who recently helped hand out 85 gun locks in Trinity. "Basically, it’s having a passion for other people and not just yourself… Our purpose was to keep accidents from happening. For example, a young child picks up a loaded and unlocked gun and it accidently goes off. They were not trying to shoot the gun… This can change someone else’s future by making them aware of things they need to do because ignorance of the law is not a defense."
The gun locks were acquired from Project Child Safe with the help of the Sam Houston State University Police Department, the Huntsville Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
"Through this project, students can help improve the quality of life for families and children and maybe even save the life of a child," Teske said. "The purpose of this assignment is to allow students to gain knowledge about gun safety for children and public perceptions about guns and use the information to make a difference in their community and future professions."
As part of the project, students will create poster and displays boards, with information on laws concerning gun locks, the need to secure guns from children, suggestions for securing guns safely, statistics on gun deaths and injuries to children, and displays on how to properly use gun locks.
"Keeping guns locked up and out of children's reach isn't just the right thing to do, its the law!," said SHSU Student Kevin Derr.
Academic Community Engagement is a teaching method that combines community engagement with academic instruction. Through the effort, the University hopes to prepare students for a life-long commitment to community engagement. Like Honors courses, the ACE classes will be designated on a student’s transcripts.
"It helps our students apply what they learn in the class to real world situations," said Dr. Joyce McCauley, chair of the Engaged Scholars Committee at Sam Houston State University. "It is one thing to hear it, and it’s another thing to hear and do it. It allows them to build networks in their profession and gives them a preview of what it is like…Ultimately, we want students to reflect on their roles as citizens in a democracy. What students learn here at SHSU can have immediate application in the community—to make life better. We want our students to believe they can make a difference."
The ACE courses, which began in the Spring semester, require at least three documented hours of community services for each one hours of course credit, and students must provide written reflections about their experiences. Instructors also must identify course objectives that students will address through the service experience and community partners who can provide meaningful service activities and outcome measurements. Following the course, the instructor has to assess what students learned through their community project. The courses are approved by the Engaged Scholars Committee, a university-wide entity with representation from all colleges.
"My goal is the service," said Teske, a former member of the Engaged Scholar Committee at SHSU. "This is a child abuse class. When they are out there, people will start telling them stories. They get to interact with people while they do the project."
Many colleges at Sam Houston State University already use community services as a teaching tool, but it was never formally incorporated into the curriculum. Among some of the examples are business courses that aid local small companies with management plans; history courses that use volunteer efforts at the Sam Houston Folk Festival to enhance learning about historical events; sociology classes that evaluate school lunch and recycling programs; and computer science classes that refurbish donated computers and provide network maintenance for local public schools.
In the future, the College of Criminal Justice hopes to designate internship programs as Academic Civic Engagement courses, and Dr. Victoria Titterington also hopes to add community service to the Aging, Crime and Victimization Course. By volunteering at community-based organizations for the elderly, Dr. Titterington hopes that students will get exposure to the aging process and be more effective in dealing with elderly crime victims and offenders in students’ future careers.
Sam Houston State University was recently recognized by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching with the 2010 Community Engagement Classification. SHSU is among 311 colleges and universities nationwide and the only institution within the Texas State University System to earn the designation by offering civic engagement and service-learning opportunities. The University’s official motto is "A Measure of a Life Is Its Service."