First-Year Learning Community Islanders Make Local Impact Through Writing

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – During one first-year writing class at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, students learned they can write more than just essays and that their writing can make the change they want to see in the world.

“Student writing should be for more than just a grade, it should be a vehicle to affect change,” said Dr. David Wallace, Professional Assistant Professor of English at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. “I hope students leave this class understanding they have the power, through words, to change the world around them for the better. I want them to see that they are the change.”

As a part of their class grade, Wallace’s students developed first-hand experience in writing about real-world issues surrounding beach pollution, immigration, police brutality, wage inequality, health care and college life. Their projects varied, allowing students to create an impact from their own, personal angles. The hard work resulted in film, brochures, poetry, hand-crafted magazines, web resource pages and social media campaigns.

“Our first-year learning community, Triad J in State and Local Government, focused a great deal on collective action and how working together as citizens can impact communities,” said Wallace. “Even after the class was over, some of the students expressed interest in continuing to serve the community.”

By the end of the semester, the students worked with nine different local groups:

  • Women’s Shelter of South Texas
  • Coastal Bend Humane Society
  • Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • South Texas Found Bank
  • Richard King High School
  • Corpus Christi Sealife Center
  • Children’s Advocacy Center of the Coastal Bend
  • Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition

The students raised more than $500, collected $200 worth of donated items, contributed more than 70 volunteer hours, performed multiple beach cleanups and collected more than 300 signatures for the Corpus Christi Immigration Coalition.

“It was an opportunity for students to see, in very real ways, the agency they have through their writing and in their lives outside of the University,” said Wallace.

This is the first time that Wallace used this teaching approach in his first-year writing class. Seeing the successful impact on his students and the community, he plans on continuing it in future semesters.