Taylor Ames values the bounty of educational opportunities offered at Shoreline Community College. So much so that the 17-year-old Running Start student is willing to travel by ferry to not only work toward a transfer degree but also to help him examine and define how he feels about contemporary moral issues.
Ames enrolled in Philosophy 102 for Fall Quarter 2009, because he wanted to confront social challenges such as capital punishment, war and violence, animal rights, environmental degradation and discrimination. The writings of Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates had intrigued him for some time and the idea of applying that interest into current ethics was what determined he would take philosophy classes.
While Ames was eager for the academic challenge, the class also included a service-learning component, something he was less sure about.
“At first I wasn’t sure about the service learning part of the class, but then as I got involved, I realized how much more powerful it was, taking my knowledge from the classroom into the real world,” Ames said. The class offered a number of options to satisfy the service learning piece and Ames chose Amnesty International (AI), saying that he appreciated the direction he got from Kaelyn Caldwell, SCC’s service learning coordinator.
Ames’ first AI meeting was in the basement of a church in the Wallingford district of Seattle. The activities of the worldwide organization that supports human rights rang true to him, but it felt a little too bureaucratic for his taste. He committed to return to learn more and, after a second meeting, Ames said he realized the structure was integral to the group’s success and he was off and running.
Although Ames has been involved in activities through the Seattle AI chapter, he wanted to do more and decided to try drumming up interest for a chapter at Shoreline. Ames worked with Minister of Social Justice Ava Munson who joined him as co-founder of the AI group. “She has a wealth of experience and has endless exuberance for the volunteer opportunities that we hope to provide through our Amnesty chapter at SCC.”
Ames said he tried a table at the PUB, but his most successful
venture to date has been visiting classes to raise awareness by talking about the organization. “Getting them to sign up as members and go to events, write letters become aware and share issues would be the ultimate goal – it could be consistent part of their lives,” Ames said.
What is service learning?
Service-learning links meaningful service opportunities with the academic curriculum. It is a holistic and hands-on model of education that expands the walls of the classroom into the community.
Through intentional cycles of reflection and action, service-learning enables students to discover for themselves how academic theories are linked to the real world.
The number of courses with service-learning options continues to grow at SCC. Students currently select from several arenas – from epidemics and culture to business law to philosophy and sustainability.
One of the more hands-on activities that Ames found particularly fulfilling was the annual Global Write-a-thon, AI’s letter-writing campaign to request the release of prisoners of conscience who have been denied human rights. “Anybody can help these innocent people by simply writing a letter,” he said. Ames wrote several letters – one in support of a woman in Mexico who had been beaten and sexually assaulted, another, a trade unionist in an Iranian prison. “He is in poor health and he was trying to help others,” Ames said.
While there’s still work ahead to create an AI chapter at Shoreline, Ames said he is working with faculty members Paul Herrick, Larry Fuell and Dean Kenny Lawson to realize his goal.
And it all began by signing up for Philosophy 102.
“I really appreciate the connections I made because of this class,” Ames said. While the philosophy class itself was exceptional, he said it was the service-learning component that resulted in supporting the work of AI that was the most rewarding part. “Meeting other people who care about the same things that I care about…well, that was really good.”
Ames said that after his time at Shoreline, he plans to transfer to four-year school, complete bachelor’s degree in international relations and then join the Peace Corps.