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Service learning plays a big role in Fort Hays State’s Social Snack Shack
COURTESY PHOTO Fort Hays State University students take part in the Social Snack Shack in this undated photo.

HAYS – Three Fort Hays State University students are having a rewarding experience with a hands-on project, and they want the campus community and local and area residents to participate as well. 

Every Thursday afternoon, Ashley Luna, Emma Harmon and Jessie Graves join five individuals with communication challenges in working at the Social Snack Shack from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the north lobby of Albertson Hall. 

Under the direction of the FHSU students – all majoring in communication sciences and disorders – the clients fill baggies with their assigned snacks. Visitors are given a menu of five categories from which they can choose from items such as popcorn, cereal, chips, nuts or dried fruit. A container for a free-will offering sits at the end of the line, with proceeds going toward the cost of the snack bags. 

There is a lot more going on than filling baggies with munchies. Some of the clients don’t speak at all; others are reluctant at first to speak to those they don’t know. 

However, by the time a few customers have made their way through the snack list, one client – described as shy and introverted – can be seen waving and smiling at those standing in line. 

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders started the project as another way to help clients who visit FHSU’S Herndon Clinic for speech and language services. 

“We wanted to expand the clients’ abilities to visit with others in the community rather than just our little group,” said Andrea Carmichael, a clinical instructor in the CSD Department. 

The Social Snack Shack kicked off last year and is in full swing this semester. 

“These individuals all communicate, just in a different way,” Carmichael said. “They love sharing conversation, and this is a way for them to really open up and feel comfortable communicating with others in whatever way that might be.” 

Watching the interaction among the students and clients in the north hallway of Albertson appears more like a classroom party than a class project. 

“I’m more of a hands-on learner myself,” said Luna, a senior from Victoria. “So I love this. It’s a great learning experience.” 

Dr. Valerie Zelenka, professor in the Department of Teacher Education, was filling in for the instructor of the Educating Exceptional Students class last week and brought those students to the Social Snack Shack. 

Zelenka was so impressed with the project that she is going to suggest that students in all teacher education classes take part. 

“Our future teachers, in their general education classes, are going to be working with students who have challenges,” she said. “This project is wonderful.” 

Working with the Social Snack Shack not only teaches the clients how to read a menu and listen while taking the customers’ orders but also how to socialize with people. 

The real-life learning experience is beneficial to the FHSU students as well. 

“It’s so awesome to see every week how the clients are advancing, smiling and working with other people,” said Harmon, a senior from Hoisington. “The experience is just amazing for all of us, getting to work with these clients. I can’t thank Fort Hays State and the CSD Department enough for all the opportunities they offer us.”