Students volunteer at home and abroad over the summer
Megan Valley | Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Over the summer months, nearly 300 students had the opportunity to serve partner agencies and reflect on social issues through Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns (CSC), which offered the Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) and the International Summer Service Learning Program (ISSLP).
Andrea Smith Shappell, who directs the SSLP, said the program is important because it offers a new depth of learning and a new perspective for students.
“Students enter into relationships with people who live on the margins of our society and begin to see social issues from new perspectives,” Shappell said. “This change of perspective carries into their discernment of how they will respond in their personal and professional lives.”
According to the CSC website, the SSLP and ISSLP are theology courses with eight weeks of consecutive immersion; they are worth three and four credits, respectively. The CSC invites Notre Dame clubs to sponsor students to serve in the local community of the club.
Senior Alexandra Rice worked at the Roanoke Rescue Mission’s G. Wayne Fralin Free Clinic For the Homeless in Virginia where she triaged patients and worked in the office. She said her experiences helped her learn about healthcare inequality and connect her future career to her faith.
“As a science preprofessional student, I always wished to learn more about and help to address the healthcare inequalities in our country, but never truly had the chance to do so through my coursework,” Rice said. “Since the Bible teaches us that faith without works is dead, the SSLP provided a chance for me to begin the process of meaningful praxis in this area as I look forward to a career in healthcare.”
Sophomore King Fok also worked at Casa Juan Diego, a clinic in Houston, Texas, which is a Catholic Worker house. He said Casa Juan Diego is one of the only clinics in the country that serve the undocumented for free, and that the SSLP helped him learn more about his role in the future.
“It was a place where not only did I learn more about the world we are living in today, but more so about my role in it and how I can use my skills to aid others,” Fok said.
Not all students worked in clinics or hospitals. Junior Dan Thompson was a counselor at Sharing Meadows in Indiana, a summer camp for adults with disabilities. He said it was similar to any other summer camp; they held a talent show, swam, fished, studied the Bible and did arts and crafts. Thompson said the campers taught him a lot about himself and what he wants to do.
“Their honesty about their vulnerability taught me a lot about self-acceptance, which I feel was a crucial first step in my discernment about what I want to spend my life doing,” he said.
Junior ISSLP participant Elle Scott spent the summer in Gulu, Uganda where she worked for Battery Operated Systems for Community Outreach (BOSCO). BOSCO, an organization that installs radio towers and teaches classes, was founded by Notre Dame alumni in 2007.
Scott said the ISSLP gives students first-hand experience solving social problems around the world.
The application to participate in next summer’s round of ISSLP and SSLP will go live Sept. 16 and Nov. 15, respectively. Both applications can be found at the CSC’s website.