This semester, 65 students in service learning courses served at St. Francis House, a nearby organization that supports people experiencing homelessness. Students in Claudia Castañeda’s Power and Privilege course and Yasser Munif’s Global Protest: Tahrir Square to Occupy course contributed nearly 800 hours of service over the semester. St. Francis House strives to meet all of their guests’ needs under one roof, providing meals, shelter, showers, access to medical care, and seasonally appropriate clothing. Students served in departments across the organization, which allowed them to gain a human perspective on the issues discussed in the classroom. Their hands-on experience facilitated rich conversations about the institutional systems of power in society and the increase in poverty and homelessness following the most recent economic downturn.
Students enroll in service learning classes with a range of previous service experience. Dan Begin ’16, an acting major, had very little experience working with people experiencing homelessness, but described his service at St. Francis house as “amazing – I spent three hours serving a barbecue chicken meal and everyone was grateful for the food.”
No two students will have the same service experience, but overall the students are very positive about the outcomes. After engaging class discussions and reading thoughtful reflections, Munif reports, “this is a very powerful experience. Some of the students are realizing that volunteering for one semester isn’t enough.” And, despite final exams ushering in the end of the semester, the need for dedicated students to serve this deserving population continues.