LSU English Faculty, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Receive Service-Learning Award


BATON ROUGE – LSU English faculty, along with the local non-profit organization Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, or GRG, received the Outstanding Service-Learning Collaboration award on Feb. 28 at the 2013 Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement in Higher Education in Louisville, Ky. This award recognizes the ongoing eight-year partnership in which LSU service-learning students studying composition support various initiatives of GRG while developing skills in persuasive communication, research, writing for audience and professionalism.

The individuals recognized were GRG board members Dorothy Thibodeaux, Danna Spayde and Patricia Robinson; Ann Martin, instructor, English; Deborah Normand, retired instructor, English; and Jan Shoemaker, retired CCELL director and former instructor, English.

The partnership began in 2004, when Shoemaker and Normand developed the service-learning collaboration between GRG and Normand’s introductory writing classes at LSU; upon her retirement in 2009, Normand passed her role in the partnership to Martin, who has maintained the vision and work.

GRG is a nonprofit organization committed to helping grandparents and other relatives in Louisiana who serve as the primary caregivers of their grandchildren. According to the 2010 Census, Louisiana has the third-highest proportion of children living with grandparents in the country; there are more than 10,000 grandparents responsible for meeting the basic needs of grandchildren in Baton Rouge alone.  

Service-learning students involved in the partnership have engaged in activities such as developing literature around pertinent issues or resources that might aid GRG members. Students also participate in a variety of fundraising and volunteer activities that support knowledge dissemination, group meetings, annual conferences, grandparent resources and respite activities.

Through it all, students research the needs and goals of their community partner while learning about different types of families and the critical issues that they face; they also develop solutions based on researching resources and applying for them, such as grants. By creating written works, “students’ writing is not left on the shelf, but lives and works in the real world,” Martin said.

“Students have helped us to get the word out about resources and events surrounding our mission, and by being the boots on the ground conducting interviews, helping to tell stories and collecting data of interest to all of our stakeholders,” said Robinson. “They also gave us our first newsletter name, ‘Grandpaper,’ which we love and still use today.”

Award recipients were recognized during the eleventh-annual Gulf-South Summit, a conference attended by administrators, faculty, staff and community partners from colleges and universities throughout the nation. Since 2003, the Summit has recognized LSU service-learning with twelve awards ranging from Outstanding Community Partner to Outstanding Faculty.

LSU service-learning activities are facilitated through the Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership. For more information, visit or call 225-578-4245.

Billy  Gomila 
LSU Media Relations