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Students make an impact through LAR 303 class

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Athletic shoes, Venezuela, bus routes and planting trees all have one thing in common: Brad Elder’s LAR 303 class.

Elder, a Doane biology professor, is in charge of People and Pandas, a LAR service-learning class focused on conservation. The class is hosting four projects in total this semester.

Students must complete 10 hours of community service, a local project and a global project, Elder said. This year, the local and global projects each have two teams of students focusing on different topics. The mission of the class is to practice conservation and help people at the same time, he said.

The first local project is an athletic shoe collection, he says. Students ask the Doane community to donate cleats, basketball shoes and athletic or tennis shoes to drop boxes around campus.

On April 27, the group will organize the shoes by size. The Crete community can come to take them free of charge, said junior group member Aidan Polivka. The shoes have to be athletic and in decent shape. Any remaining shoes will be donated.

“So far we are just getting our feet under us,” said senior group leader Sydney Rogerson. “We really need financial support for supplies and storage for the shoes but we are really hoping this can continue for years to come. What better way to give back to the community than giving them a slightly used pair of shoes for free that could help them in their everyday lives.”

The other local project group is focusing on bringing a bus route to go between different factories around Crete, Elder said.

The buses would be from the Crete public school system, which are already paid for all day, he said. The school bus drivers would be able to make more money as they drove more, instead of twice a day for school.

“There's lots of families that are here that only have one car,” Elder said. “There's nothing in the city that stops (the route), we just have to find a way to convince the mayor and the citizens that this is worth it. And it can't be 'it saves the environment.' Yeah, we all want to, but if it's going to cost extra money then (they aren’t) interested.”

The installation of a route would bring revenue to the city, Elder said. Businesses might even bid to have a bus stop in front of their buildings. One of the only problems is the shortage of bus drivers.

Students also have to convince the city that it’s worth it for taxpayers to subsidize the cost of the route, he said. If Crete says no to the project, they plan on proposing it to Wilber.

The two global projects in the LAR class focus on planting trees around the world and educating others about aid to Venezuela.

One group is trying to get people worldwide to download the Google Chrome extensionEcosia. The search engine uses all its ad revenue to plant trees around the world, Elder said.

One problem is figuring out how to go beyond Doane’s campus to get people to install the extension, he said. The group wants to communicate with other universities’ conservation clubs and get their members to download Ecosia.

The last project is an outreach program to raise awareness about Venezuela, Elder said. Students are trying to focus on helping people in the country by educating others.

All the projects have until the end of the semester to complete and the local ones have to be continued by other organizations, he said. Doane’s Student Athletic Association is thinking of picking up the athletic shoe project after this year.

“My role in the class is to be the cheerleader,” Elder said. “But more often than not it's toning the class down, because believe it or not [the class] likes to dream up. And then helping students see the trouble that's in front of them.”