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Reflective Essays

Vol. 25 No. 3

Parent First, Essential Worker Second, Student Third: Lessons Learned from a Non-Traditional Student’s Journey in a Service-Learning Course During COVID-19

December 18, 2020


In this reflective essay, I share lessons learned when COVID-19 necessitated immediate changes to service-learning during the spring 2020 semester. The pandemic created an environment that heightened awareness about meeting underrepresented students’ needs and the benefits of solidarity and reciprocity when collaborating with community partners. As the pandemic unfolded, my focus shifted from honoring commitments to community partners and course learning objectives to recognizing that the complex realities of students’ lives made being responsive to their needs paramount. One nontraditional student serves as a case study; her story underscores the deep ways the pandemic affected a student’s personal and professional life. I close the article with four generalizable lessons learned that faculty can employ in support of students’ success in service-learning: exercising solidarity, reciprocity, and flexibility; providing guidance in project selection; serving as model learner; and embedding support for parenting and caregiving students.