Kaitlyn Czerwonka and Leesa Potthoff went to Florida for Spring Break. However, their time off from Augustana College was much different from most college students.
The Augie Seniors spent a week with high school students who are visually-impaired at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine, Florida. By the time the two Elementary Education Majors left, they had written and designed a children's book.
"We felt like the students there were teaching us so much more than we could ever really teach them," said Kaitlyn. "By Tuesday, while walking back to our hotel, we were like - okay, how in the world do we bring this back?"
"By our last couple hours at the school on Friday afternoon, our students were reading our book."
The book is called "Francis' Superpowers Dealing With Blindness" and features 'a day in the life' of a boy named Francis, who is visually-impaired and uses his superpowers - such as a cane, sunglasses, and more - to walk to class, send an e-mail, or take a test.
One page reads: "This visual impairment does not stop Francis from doing all the things that other kids an do, because Francis uses his superpowers!"
"It's not that they can't do something," said Leesa. "It's that they do it in a different way."
The book looks like any other. However, if you look closely, the text has braille printed over it and the pictures are embossed so you can feel Francis' superpowers as you read about them.
The college roommates say they are very passionate about sharing the story of these students and hope it's something they can bring to their classroom after they graduate and start teaching.
"We wanted to go back and bring something to students while we have the chance and say - this is what this really is," said Kaitlyn. "These students can do things and they'll amaze you. They play football. They wrestle. They're in choir. They play the drums."
"At the end of the book, we ask - 'What are your superpowers?' Just because he has a disability doesn't mean that he's the only type of person that can have superpowers," added Leesa. "You have superpowers and you don't even know it."
Kaitlyn and Leesa say they plan to write more books about Francis and have a long-lasting relationship with the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
Their Professor, Dr. Deb Bracke, says Kaitlyn and Leesa's experience is an example of how Augustana is trying to transform "service learning" into "learning service."
"We want them to allow the experience to be more than just a chance in Facebook status, but to leave something behind and certainly these two did that," she said. "It's not just a one-shot experience where we go and come back to school and pick up where we left off. This is a great example of students who are still engaged at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind even though they're not still there."
Augustana helps students have those experiences through Augie Choice, a program that gives every student $2,000 for international studies, research, or internships. Since it started in 2010, Augustana has spent $3.824 million on Augie Choice funding.