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Service-Learning Programs

Faculty across disciplines recognize that learning deepens through hands-on activities, interaction with community members, and applying classroom learning to meet the needs of others. During the 2022-23 academic year, 56 APU faculty employed academic service-learning in 107 course sections across 23 departments throughout the university, for a total of 1,205 student placements with 167 community partners resulting in more than 28,360 hours of service to and engagement with the local community.

Academic service-learning at APU empowers students with a commitment to high-quality service opportunities directly tied to scholarship, thus advancing the objective of postgraduation employability.

Some of our most significant partnerships in service-learning that allow the university to contribute most to the community are with local K-12 schools, private and public. Through service-learning courses, our students have the privilege of working with schools in the Azusa Unified School District, with private schools in the city of Azusa, and with neighboring cities and school districts.

In addition to local school districts, other sites served by the highlighted programs include Neighborhood Homework House, Elizabeth House, Foothills Pregnancy Resource Center, Redeeming Love, The Let It Be Foundation, Mt. San Antonio Gardens, Oak Tree Lodge, the Department of Children and Family Services, and North Valley Caring Services, to name just a few.

COMM 230 Small Group Communication

Students in this course are assigned to small groups that take on action enterprises (e.g., fundraisers, special events, improvement projects) that significantly benefit local organizations to bring about relevant change in the community; perform some type of community service; conduct training workshops; etc. This course worked with 10 community partners over this past year, providing real benefits to the community while enabling students to learn about small-group dynamics.

EDLS 405 Diversity in the Classroom

Finishing its 27th year, the C.H.A.M.P. (College Headed and Mighty Proud) Program has impacted the lives of 12,757 elementary school students in the Azusa Unified School District. Students in the Diversity in the Classroom course lead small groups of local fourth graders through a curriculum meant to introduce college to the students, working through topics such as majors and careers, financial aid, and college admission. This program includes a visit to APU and a special graduation where parents, teachers, students, and principals are invited to APU to celebrate together.

JOUR 300 Editing

Students in this course work with junior AVID students at Azusa High School to help the students edit and revise a major writing project. APU students apply knowledge they have learned in their editing class to help the high school students become better writers. They spend time building rapport with the students and one-on-one time editing their material.

PUBR 300 Public Relations Management

Students in this course carry a public relations campaign through the entire four-step process of research, program planning, implementation, and evaluation, learning to critically examine situations faced by organizations and how those organizations handled those situations through public relations efforts, preparing the students to enter professional life as creative strategists. In spring 2018, APU students worked alongside North Valley Caring Services in Los Angeles.

SOCW 310/311 Human Behavior and the Social Environment

The Cougar Pals program links Azusa Pacific University students in SOCW 310/311 with middle school students from the Azusa Unified School District. APU students act as mentors to students who have been identified by their school counselors as needing encouragement, motivation, or academic assistance. AUSD students may be referred due to ongoing academic difficulties, self-esteem problems, problems at home, friend issues, or being new to their school.

UNRS 384 Urban/Rural Health

Nursing students and faculty have the opportunity to serve the Los Angeles Skid Row homeless community every spring semester. In class, students learn about urban Los Angeles and the complex health challenges experienced by the 58,000 homeless in Los Angeles County. During a street-based health fair, for example, students witnessed and helped alleviate some of these issues first-hand, providing foot washing, shoulder massages, and wound care. Students also collaborated with a local community clinic, the Center for Community Health, to ensure that clients received a follow-up appointment and medical care. Urban/Rural Health nursing students from Azusa and the High Desert Regional Campus were able to share their clinical skills and Christ’s love with one of the most underserved populations in Southern California.

The C.H.A.M.P. program is a service-learning experience for APU students enrolled in EDLS 405 Diversity in the Classroom, integrating practical site experience of diversity in elementary school settings into the college classroom. This education course is designed to engage prospective teachers with issues such as race, culture, gender, ability, and wider social forces that affect traditional success and failure in the education setting.

Each semester, APU partners with all elementary schools from the Azusa Unified School District (AUSD), assigning APU students to classrooms at the designated school sites to serve as college mentors to groups of 5-7 fourth-grade students. The APU students facilitate activities that correspond to the C.H.A.M.P. curriculum, covering such topics as college admission, financial aid, and career exploration.

The C.H.A.M.P. program has been a partnership between APU and the AUSD since 1991. Academic Service-Learning works to ensure that the program is mutually beneficial, reliably structured, and of the highest quality, with the overarching goal of providing faculty and students with meaningful service opportunities in the community that directly relate to the academic material and learning objectives of each course.

Azusa Pacific University aims to encourage the eighth-grade students of the Azusa Unified School District and St. Frances of Rome to pursue higher education. To do so, faculty, staff, and students from campus join to create a hands-on experience, hosting interactive booths that introduce the many majors a student can choose from when they are college-bound.

This heritage annual event began in 2011 and is unique in its ability to provide access to information leading to excitement about one day attending college. The Eighth-Grade Majors Fair is a strategic follow-up to APU’s College Headed and Mighty Proud (C.H.A.M.P.) program, in which fourth-grade students begin to explore career goals and dream about their future.

APU First-Year Exploring Program students, representing a variety of major disciplines, highlight a number of college majors to local eighth grade students through interactive displays and hands-on activities as part of their academic service-learning experience. The fair provides the eighth graders of Azusa an opportunity to make personal and specific connections to college education—namely, choosing a major.

To experience a little of the fun and excitement of this event, watch some highlights from the 2018 fair.

APU’s Community Engaged Learning Award was established in 2003 and is funded by the Berdena Ruth Foundation. The aim of this award is to promote the ideals of servant leadership in the area of community service. Service performed by the nominated students may have been performed within APU, in the community, internationally, and/or through an academic course. The award is given to two graduating undergraduate seniors. Each student receives a monetary award of $1,200, $200 of which is donated to a charity of their choice.

There are four areas of servant leadership for which students can be recognized:

  • Service within APU
  • Service in the community
  • Service through an academic course
  • Service internationally

This program is funded by an annual gift of $2,500 from the Berdena Ruth Scholarship.

2024 Community Engaged Learning Award

Maya Barrientos

Social Work Major

student maya smiling

Maya has immersed herself in transformative service experiences during her time at Azusa Pacific University (APU) that have deeply influenced her growth and passion for community engagement. Through initiatives like the Older Adult Partnership with Mankowski Homes and the Middle School Mentorship with Azusa Unified School District, Maya has learned the value of connecting with others and supporting them in various capacities.

Reflecting on her journey, Maya shares, "I've seen firsthand how a simple conversation can impact a person more than any action could, and how a simple task like packing bags of food can make a world of difference to someone in need." This understanding has fueled her commitment to empowering communities through collective efforts.

Looking forward, Maya plans to apply her learnings in graduate school, focusing on social work macro and community work. She aims to continue uplifting communities and embodying the values of a servant leader, inspired by the commandment, "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34). Maya's time at APU has shaped her path, and she is eager to grow further as a catalyst for positive change.

Conner Chick

History and Honors Humanities Major

student conner smiling

Conner’s time at APU has been marked by an extraordinary breadth of service experiences, shaping his philosophy and growth both personally and academically. From leading worship at Grace Church of Glendora to directing music for APU Chapel Bands and engaging in international service projects in Mexico and the Netherlands, his contributions have been diverse and impactful. Conner's philosophy of servant leadership is deeply rooted in his commitment to APU’s Christ-centered mission and the understanding of community as family.

His experiences have fostered significant personal growth, offering insights into the character of Jesus through practical service, the practice and observation of humility, and a refined clarity of his vocational interests, steering him towards a broader range of intellectual pursuits. These engagements have not only expanded his skill set but have also deepened his understanding of global complexities, challenging him to think critically about the roles of local communities and intermediary institutions in fostering societal flourishing.

As Conner looks to the future, he is keen on applying the lessons learned through service at APU to tackle complex decisions with integrity and compassion. Professionally, he aspires to contribute to the development of a framework that balances American political principles with a renewed focus on localism, aiming to enhance the fabric of communities through a closer examination of their foundational institutions. This ambition, coupled with his diverse service experiences, positions Conner to make a significant impact in his professional and personal life, continuing his journey of servant leadership.

Ruthie Bolton - Runner Up

Mathematics and Design Studies Major

student ruthie smiling

During her time at APU, Ruthie engaged in a diverse range of service experiences, from leading discipleship groups to supporting local and international communities through ministry and disaster relief efforts. These engagements deeply transformed her, embedding a philosophy of servant leadership modeled on Jesus' humility and love. Ruthie's approach to service evolved from seeking self-gratification to embracing humility, driven by the desire to emulate Christ’s example of placing others' needs above her own.

Reflecting on her journey, Ruthie shares, "There is no greater example of love and service than Jesus himself, and I strive to be fully present in the spaces I have been a part of to emulate Christ." Her future aspirations include integrating her passions for math, design, and education into creating a STEM-themed theme park, aiming to inspire and draw individuals closer to God's creation.

Ruthie’s experiences at APU have not only shaped her character but also solidified her commitment to serving others with humility and love. She envisions a career that harmonizes her talents with her deep desire to serve, always aiming to glorify God through her actions.

Past Recipients


  • Abigail Brown, International Relations Major
  • Matthew Campos, Psychology Major


  • Brianne Ebli, Youth and Family Ministry
  • Jada Tarvin Abu-Bekr, Social Work


  • Tatyahna Costello, Social Worz
  • Tania Maradiaga, Psychology


  • Breeann Blumenthal, Christian Ministries
  • Seth Zomermaand, Social Work


  • Alexis Diaz, Social Work
  • Hunter Roberts, Biology


  • Charles Henderson, Allied Health
  • Xitlali Topete, LVN to BSN


  • Rebekah Guerra, Psychology
  • Shea Suiter, Business: Marketing


  • Bridgette Kielhack, Business
  • Tobias Brown, Nursing


  • Kaitlyn Lee, History
  • Tyler Jamison, History


  • Lauren McNair, Social Work
  • Curtis Isozaki, Liberal Studies


  • Marissa Hilmes, Nursing
  • Christopher Waks, Theology


  • Gabrielle Aquino, Psychology
  • Brett Johnson, Communications


  • Cameron Justice, Service in the Community
  • Ricky Chao, Service Internationally
  • Jonathan Garcia, Service within APU
  • Rebecca Borst, Service through Academics


  • Allison Risley, Service in the Community
  • Adah Fisher, Service Internationally
  • Elisabet Medina, Service within APU
  • Stacey Kim, Service through an Academic Course


  • Luke Spink, Service in the Community
  • Angel Gonzalez, Service Internationally
  • Bradley Bedsole, Service within APU
  • Laurel Bishop, Service through an Academic Course


  • Lauren Metzig, Service in Community
  • Rhoman Goyenechea, Service Internationally
  • Bethany Ulrich, Service through an Academic Course
  • Phil Brazell, Service within APU


  • Matt Brannon, Service in Community
  • Megan Klingensmith, Service through an Academic Course
  • Giovanna Miraya, Service within APU
  • Megan Sievert, Service Internationally


  • Danielle Pruitt, Service within APU
  • Melanie Seawright, Service in Community
  • Michelle Siemens, Service Internationally
  • Rebekah Clark, Service within APU


  • Amy Thurber, Service in Community
  • Faith Lee, Service Internationally
  • Rosa Gaeta, Service through an Academic Course
  • Andre Borgmann, Service within APU


  • Bet Freed
  • Kyle Thompson
  • Michelle Asbill
  • Kari Mandl




Community Advancement Programs is housed within APU’s Center for Career and Community-Engaged Learning, which cultivates academically integrated learning experiences for community impact, professional development, and lifelong learning.