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Citizenship Class Takes Students to Extremes with "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
October 7, 2009    

Mercedes Dones-Patricelli (in truck) and Lamisse Amiz, an international student from Oman, unloaded drinks from a truck while at the site of a house being rebuilt by "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."

A group of students taking a class on active citizenship at UNH put the theory in motion recently when they volunteered to help a Lyme family selected to get a new home from the popular television show, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

The 16 first-year students are enrolled in the education course “Be the Change You Want to See: Active Citizenship in a Multicultural World,” taught by Bruce Mallory, professor of education, and instructor Vilmarie Sanchez. The class explores concepts related to being an active citizen in a diverse world.

It was the students who came up with the idea of doing their community service work with “Extreme Makeover,” in New Hampshire last week to rebuild the Lyme home of Jay and Elena Marshall, whose 10-year-old son, Cameron, is battling leukemia. The Marshalls have seven other children.

“We’d been talking about what we wanted to do for community service and a few of us said ‘let’s build a house,’” said UNH student Lydia Bartlett. “When we heard “Extreme Makeover” was in New Hampshire, we thought ‘how perfect is that?’”

The Gilmanton resident called helping rebuild the house “an amazing experience.”

“I couldn’t do anything like carpentry but just putting in light bulbs, just being able to help—it was great to be part of that,” Bartlett said.

Mallory and Sanchez traveled to Lyme with the students on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3. Sanchez noted the experience provided direct application of course content thus far and the opportunity to connect with students outside the classroom.

“We all form the fabric of this learning community on a very localized level at UNH and we are also part of the New Hampshire community. This course is about exploring how to be in community and discovering what roles we take on to make our dents in society,” Sanchez said. “I was thrilled with the energy in the classroom as they made their plans and I was delighted to be sharing time and space with the students on Saturday morning.”  

UNH first-year student Milty Terzis was equally thrilled.

“I thought it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Terzis, of Boston, said. “Especially doing it with my class; it made it so much better. Helping out that family—I never did anything that special before.”

The students worked Friday, Oct. 2, from 6 p.m. until midnight. They stayed in the basement lounge of the Episcopal Student Center at Dartmouth College and got up early the next morning to work the 6 a.m. to noon shift. Tasks included everything from unloading supplies to hanging drywall to putting light bulbs in all the lights.

“We include this kind of activity in our course in order to help students experience and practice the concepts we discuss in class, regarding what it means to be a responsible, active citizen in a pluralistic democracy,” Mallory said. “We want our students to engage in community-based social change projects while thinking critically about the conditions that lead to inequities or limited opportunities for some members of society.” 

The television show on the Lyme family has yet to air.

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