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NCTC to make service learning requirement for students

Students starting coursework next fall at Northland Community and Technical College will have one more requirement for graduation.

The school will begin requiring students to take part in a certain amount of hours of service learning, similar to community service.

"We think this is a win for the students because they walk away with an experience that will serve them well as they move forward in life," said Dennis Bona, NCTC's president. "We believe the community will benefit because there's a lot of need out there that goes unmet."

Bona said the requirement likely would be between 15 and 20 hours, and the hope is most of that time will relate to the program each student is in so they don't have to sign up for additional courses. For example, nursing students could provide nursing services for the elderly.

Bona, who previously worked for Kellogg Community College in Michigan, which had a similar requirement, said there are a number of benefits to having students take part in service learning while in college.

"Some of them have never done things like go to a food bank and pass out food or go to a kitchen and serve food out to the needy, and once they do that, they're very grateful," he said.

At first, students at his previous college were reluctant to take part in these projects, he said, but they grew to like them in the end.

Bona said it's important to instill a citizenship competence in all students who come to NCTC so they understand why it's important to be a good citizen in the community.

"I think it's critical. I think it would be irresponsible of us as a higher education institution to ignore that aspect of our obligation to educate our students. When you talk about rounding people out, that's a piece that sometimes gets left out."

The new requirement is even more important in today's world, Bona said, because technology has changed how many people function.

"If you're a citizen and a member of this community, you need to understand what's going on in the community," he said. "It's very easy, probably more so today than it has ever been in many generations, to isolate yourself from the community because technology enables that."

NCTC has campuses in East Grand Forks and Thief River Falls and served 4,875 students in fiscal year 2015, according to the school's website.

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

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