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Service Learning Opportunity

Service Learning Opportunity:

My Partnership with ACCESS Dearborn in conjunction with the Class PSY 2080

Shalini Tummala

Wayne State University

PSY 2080 Sec 001

Service Learning Opportunity

I, Shalini Tummala, partnered with Ms. Mona Hijazi at ACCESS in Dearborn in order to

fulfill the the service learning requirement for Honors 3000. The partnership was done in

conjunction to the class PSY 2080 Introduction to Drugs, Society and Behavior. I have gained

twenty-five hours of experience in this partnership over the Fall semester 2017 of my Junior

year. The partnership included active participation in the Substance Abuse Coalition as a

subsection of ACCESS, running information tables at within Dearborns elementary schools,

middle schools, and assisting with the ASAP youth group in the high schools.. I have gained

valuable experience in the education of a culturally stigmatized topic that serves as a supplement

to the textbook knowledge of the historical, legal and neurobiological aspects of drug use from

the class PSY 2080. This paper details out what activities I participated in, how it relates to PSY

2080, any conflicts experienced, and what further knowledge/skills I have gained in the process

of this semester.

ACCESS in Dearborn is a nonprofit organization founded in 1971 by a group of

dedicated volunteers. It now is the largest Arab American community nonprofit in the United

States. Their focus is on community service, cultural and social entrepreneurship, healthy

lifestyles, education and philanthropy with the mission statement of enabling and empowering

individuals, families and communities to lead informed, productive, and culturally sensitive

lives. ACCESS is a wide community organization with many subsections including health and

wellness, education, youth, employment services and human services. The specific subsection

that I worked in for the semester was the Public Health Department that contains the Substance

Abuse and Tobacco Prevention/Cessation Program.

Service Learning Opportunity

The Substance Abuse and Tobacco Prevention/Cessation Program is a widespread

department that provides Dearborn students and parents with the information and skills necessary

to make healthy choices about drugs, alcohol, and smoking. A huge focus of the program lies in

the prevention and cessation of hookah or the current trend vape. This is deemed an important

focus within this program due to the culture of the society in Dearborn. Dearborn has one of the

largest Arab-American communities where hookah is a common drug that can be easily used and

abused in almost every household. The program was designed to specifically fit the need present

within the community in order to address that parents must be able to recognize the negative

health consequences during the use of tobacco despite the commonality of the drug in the


Within the department of public health I first volunteered to run informational tables at

the elementary and middle schools in Dearborn including Unis Middle School, Fordson High

School, and Edsel Ford high school. Ms. Mona Hijazi warned that these informational tables are

not always positively received due to how the community refuses to talk and acknowledge topic

regarding substance abuse and mental health. She also explained that the informational tables

may seem like a small event, but it has been working in the community due to the conversations

it is starting. These conversations are starting between parents realizing they need to quit

smoking to be a better influence on their prodigy or between parent and kid to warn about the

dangers present when using any type of drug at such a young age. Also, an important aspect of

these tables was offering incentives such as pens, bags, candy and sunglasses in order to get

people to stop by and start having conversations about these topics. As soon as I started running

the tables I got to experience that first hand.

Service Learning Opportunity

The informational tables contained many brochures about the dangers of Marijuana,

Tobacco, Alcohol, and Hookah, as well as cards containing contact information for mental health

services and drug-rehabilitation services. When I opened these brochures out of curiosity, I read

the facts that we learned in PSY 2080 about each drug. It was interesting to see classroom

knowledge in a real world setting and it was that knowledge that helped me facilitate

conversations to those that walked by and asked about any specific drug. What was unique to

this real world experience, however, is the different responses elicited from people. Some people

ignored us and refused to engage even after prompting, one woman saw our banner talking about

drugs and blushed bright red and put her face in her hands, some came up to us to argue about

how only the kids that are not doing well in school would do drugs and that their child would

never do it. However, the responses werent always negative. Some people came up to us with

curiosity asking what they could do to make sure they educate their kids right, some would ask

what services we offer and how they could get in touch with a rehabilitation service that will

help them quit.

The responses elicited from the informational tables were very diverse and very different

from what I was expecting since I didnt really understand the complexities this conversation

unveiled until I was fully immersed into the Arab culture. It was a very eye opening experience

since I was able to recite the information I learned directly from class about how Tobacco is very

bad for your health while also experiencing the diverse reactions presented from the community.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from this experience is that any little gesture counts. Yes,

some people were embarrassed about the truth our tables contained and refused to stop by it at

the moment, but that encounter would lead to them asking themselves questions about the drugs
Service Learning Opportunity

they see in their everyday life. This is how ACCESS made an impact by hosting informational

tables within the schools during parent teacher conference.

ACCESS not only hosted informational tables in elementary, middle and high schools,

but also hosted these tables within the different police departments to ensure broad coverage. I

got the experience to volunteer as a part of their community outreach in Dearborn Heights Police

Department. Volunteering in the police department was an unique experience since the majority

of the people that came up to the table in this setting were people that already got in trouble for

using drugs and a good portion of them were also people that got court-mandated

drug-rehabilitation. These were people that engaged in more drug cessation conversations

compared to the drug-prevention conversations that took place in the elementary, middle and

high schools. I also got to meet the Chief of the Dearborn Police Department and have a

conversation about why the youth is turning towards vaping and marijuana nowadays. I was able

to utilize the knowledge I had gained from PSY 2080 in this conversation.

Another aspect of ACCESS that I got to experience was to be a part of the ASAP

Community Coalition meetings that hosted professionals from all over the state in Dearborn. The

meetings are held every month and are done for everyone to discuss what is being done by every

member and what will be done in the next month. During my first Coalition meeting I also got to

sit in on a lecture about the problems counties are having with finding enough beds at the drug

rehabilitation centers. It turns out Monroe county has a program put in place called the Angel

Program which allows drug addicts to walk into their local police station and ask for help with

their drug-abuse problems. It allows them to be placed into a drug rehabilitation service with

immunity as long as no charges are currently being placed against them. This program is
Service Learning Opportunity

significant because it introduces a new way to fight the war on drugs by allowing the police

department to help individuals that are repeat criminals due to their addiction to drugs. I was

astonished at the description of this program because it was a proactive solution to what I was

learning in class about the opioid epidemic with the rising number of people getting addicted to

substances. I immediately looked up whether the Angel Program or a derivative of it was in

place in Wayne County. To my dismay it was not.

I couldnt believe that the city that needed it the most (Detroit) was not benefitting from

such a proactive solution and decided that I would investigate more about it. I found out through

talking to several professionals after the meeting that the problem was lack of resources and

money in the infrastructure of Detroit. At this same time I heard about the club Optimize the

social innovation challenge that provides funding and so I took this as an opportunity to make

this idea into a reality. I am currently in the process of utilizing both the knowledge I have

learned from the class PSY 2080 and the knowledge I have learned from the service learning

opportunity with the partnership with ACCESS in Dearborn to create a positive social innovation

solution in the upcoming semester.

In conclusion, I have gained a lot of knowledge from both my class PSY 2080

Introduction to Drugs, Behavior and Society as well as from volunteering with my community

partner ACCESS in dearborn through this semester. The information and facts learned from PSY

2080 helped immensely in sustaining conversations within the service learning while the social

and behavioral knowledge I learned within my service learning helped me understand how to

start these conversations in the first place. I will be using the knowledge I have gained from both
Service Learning Opportunity

these opportunities to take a step further in participating in the social innovation challenge

Optimize Wayne.