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Students get look at areas poverty
Class raises funds for Trunk or Treat for Hall children
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To help
To donate candy or raffle prizes to Gainesville State College’s Trunk or Treat event, contact Jessica Ziembroski at 248-535-0574.

Sociology students at Gainesville State College are doing more than just learning about Hall County’s social problems. To get an "A" in class, they have to spend an evening trying to alleviate them.

Jessica Ziembroski, an assistant professor of sociology at Gainesville State, requires her students to generate donations for a Trunk or Treat party to benefit impoverished children living in Hall County. It is like tailgating, but with spooky costumes, silly Halloween music and sweet treats, she said.

Gainesville State students will park their cars and open up their trunks laden with candy on Thursday evening at Jones Elementary School, where more than 200 students are expected to show up in conjunction with the YMCA. On Friday afternoon, Gainesville State students will host another Trunk or Treat event for 200 to 500 children at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hall County located near Fair Street IB World School.

Ziembroski said she’s been incorporating service learning events into her lesson plans for years. She said service learning also is a priority for the University System of Georgia.

"Students are required, as part of their course work, to go into their communities and work with those in the community on various goals," she said. "... When we talk about complex social issues like poverty, unemployment, racism, mental illness and homelessness, all these things we wouldn’t normally have a good grasp of unless we go out into the community and see what difficulties these people face in their everyday lives. I think the best way to do that is to have students engage with people in these disadvantaged populations."

Participating children will be involved in a raffle where they can win movie tickets, passes to the Interactive Neighborhood for Kids, restaurant gift cards and gift baskets donated from community businesses and collected by Gainesville State students, Ziembroski said.

"All of the Gainesville State students in my classes have had to go around in the community and ask around until they came up with a cash donation or gift they could donate to the kids. ... The point was they had to go into the community to a business or an organization. That’s to get the face of Gainesville State out there and to let other entities know the face of Gainesville State," she said.

Ziembroski said she was thrilled when all 120 of her students gladly contributed something from a local sponsor. She said she believes students who are privileged to experience a college education have a responsibility to help others in the community.

Holly Hoover, a first-year student at Gainesville State, is in Ziembroski’s introduction to social work class. The Texas native said she wants to be a social worker and help the elderly. She said she’s glad she’s getting class credit while improving the lives of children.

"When she first started telling us about it, I was kind of nervous about being involved in a learning service project," Hoover said. "But she made it pretty easy. People are actually really willing to help out. Everyone seems really on board with it."

Hoover said she was shocked to learn the majority of public school children in Gainesville and Hall County live in poverty.

"It’s a great way to bring it to the attention of everybody," she said of the Halloween event. "... I just didn’t realize how high the poverty is in Gainesville. I hadn’t ever really come into Gainesville a lot. I was completely oblivious and ignorant of what a big issue it really is."