Center for Social Concerns ends SSLPs, introduces NDBridge

The summer service learning program (SSLP) and its international counterpart (ISSLP) have been phased out by the Center for Social Concerns. NDBridge is the University’s new summer community engagement program, limited to rising sophomores. The previous programs were open to students in each of their three summers.

NDBridge will continue to offer eight-week service-based immersion experiences, a one-credit supplementary course and international options through NDBridge-International to the smaller applicant pool.

JP Shortall, associate director of the CSC, said that the new program will build on the SSLP framework.

“NDBridge will combine the best elements of the SSLP/ISSLP programs while also providing additional resources and structures to enhance and deepen the experiences of our students as they engage in domestic and global service-learning opportunities,” Shortall wrote in an email to The Observer.

Shortall cited the difficulties the previous programs faced over the past three years as the reasoning behind the CSC’s decision to replace SSLP and ISSLP with NDBridge.

“The past three years have presented significant challenges for community engagement programs both at Notre Dame and around the country,” he wrote. “As disruptive as these challenges were, they offered us an important opportunity to assess best practices in community-engaged learning, both nationally and globally,” he wrote. “In light of these assessments and changing student interests on campus, we decided it was a good time to make some changes to our summer community engagement programs.”

The program’s goal is to “get students to think hard about injustice, work with communities around the world that face it and consider their responsibility to the common good while at Notre Dame and beyond,” according to the NDBridge website

Shortall added that he hopes the Notre Dame community can gain “a sense of connection to communities around the country and the world, a sense of solidarity with their joys, hopes, griefs and challenges” through the program.

NDBridge will seek to deepen the experiences and connections of their students through the living situation for students in the program, Shortall said.

“In NDBridge rising sophomores will live with other students in intentional communities of four either at or near community partner sites,” he wrote. “Students often find themselves searching and/or disoriented after their first year in college, and programs like NDBridge serve to reorient them with meaning and purpose. The four-person intentional living-learning communities will offer opportunities to enrich the work the students are doing each day through common meals, prayer, reflection and discussion, with special emphasis on engaging with the local community.”

According to the website, “applications for NDBridge opened Oct. 31 and close at 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 2, 2022.” Students will then be selected for interviews, receive offers and enroll in a preparatory course.

Shortall said that students should apply because the program “connects some of the most important things about being a person: meaning, purpose, a sense of community and self-discovery. And it’s a great way to participate in the University’s mission ‘to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.’”

The next information session for NDBridge is on Nov. 17 at 5 p.m. in the Geddes Hall coffeehouse.

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Center for Social Concerns withdraws resources for community engagement

The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) no longer provides vehicles for students to rent, free of charge, to do social service as part of community-engaged learning courses.

The CSC’s website states “effective June 1, 2022 the center will no longer offer vehicles for reservation.”

This change has impacted community-based learning courses across disciplines like romance languages, writing and rhetoric and the program of liberal studies (PLS). These courses include a service requirement at sites like La Casa de Amistad, the Logan Center or the Center for the Homeless in downtown South Bend. 

Elizabeth Capdevielle, assistant teaching professor in the University writing program has been teaching sections of community-based writing and rhetoric since 2012. Capdevielle explained her involvement with service stemmed from an interest in the campus “bubble.”

“I was very interested in sustainability issues and in the Notre Dame bubble itself,” she said. “I wanted students to get off campus to see the urban side of our community and also the rural context in which it exists.”

Capdevielle said the CSC used to sponsor her community-based course in previous years by allowing her students to use rental cars.

“They had a set of vans out in a parking lot by Stepan Center. Students could go to Geddes Hall and check them out and get the keys,” she said. 

Capdevielle said that the rental process included online training for students signing up to drive the vans and that the CSC would pay for gas and maintenance of the vehicles. She mentioned that the vehicles were shared among everybody doing service projects sponsored by the CSC, including different courses, other kinds of service visits and community-oriented retreats.

These community-based writing and rhetoric were not only an opportunity for students to reflect on the service work they did but also impacted the sites more directly, Patrick Clauss, director of the University writing program, said.

“One of the [application materials] that [the Logan Center] needed as part of the grant was profiles of their clients,” Clauss said. “Writing and rhetoric students interviewed the clients and drew up really nice biographies of the clients.”

Clauss said that the change came as a surprise when it was announced in June. The department canceled the five sections of community-based writing and rhetoric scheduled for this fall, replacing them with five sections of the standard writing and rhetoric courses, when they learned that there would be no transportation offered through the CSC.

“Our courses are first-year students … primarily and most first year students don’t have vehicles on campus,” he explained. “We don’t feel it’s fair to shift the burden and have students pay for Ubers or Lyfts.”

Clauss said the CSC told him they suspended the vehicle rental service for students due to financial and liability reasons.

Neither CSC director Suzanne Shanahan nor associate director JP Shortall responded to the Observer’s requests for a comment.

Marisel Moreno, associate professor of romance languages and literatures has been teaching community-based learning Spanish courses since 2010. She said she found out about the new resource changes about a week before classes started.

Moreno said that although she has been able to continue her community-engaged learning courses this semester because enough students in her classes have personal vehicles to arrange carpools, she is wondering about future sections of the class. 

“Going forward with this change, I don’t see a way for me to be able to teach my courses. If it is an issue of finances and the Center for Social Concerns can no longer afford it, I think this is a bigger problem. The University needs to find the resources so that those of us doing this work can continue to do this work,” she said.

Clark Power, a PLS professor, teaches an ethics course which is centered around service learning. He highlighted the importance of institutional support for service learning courses at Notre Dame where 20% of South Bend’s population lives below the poverty line. 

“The University’s mission statement says that it ‘seeks to cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression’” Power said. “If we want to take that mission seriously, there needs to be more efforts to make service accessible to students.”

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ND Evans scholars teach golf to underprivileged kids

Sophomore engineering majors, Luke Christy and Kyle Connors, partnered with John Young Middle School in Mishawaka and the Kids Golf Foundation at Harvest Farms Country Club in Sugar Grove, Illinois in order to teach underprivileged kids how to play golf and expose them to the different opportunities that golf has to offer.

Christy argued that the inspiration behind their motive comes from their personal experiences at Notre Dame. Both Christy and Connors are Notre Dame Evans Scholars and were both awarded the Chick Evans Scholarship for caddying. 

Christy mentioned that the scholarship not only provides its scholars with financial assistance, but is also centered around being in community with others. 

“[The Chick Evans Scholarship] is targeted at helping kids who are in need of financial help go to college and live among kids similar to them as scholars,” Connors said. 

Christy and Connors both desire to give back to others in the same way that they have been given to.

“As a community, we understand the incredible privilege we have of going to Notre Dame, for having our tuition and housing covered. So, we wanted to reach out to the youth in the area to make them aware of these opportunities that golf, caddying, and the scholarship has to offer,” Christy said.

This initiative started over the summer when Christy was at Warren Golf Course where he happened to meet John Young Middle School’s principal, Mike Fisher. Christy and Fisher discussed implementing a golf unit at Fisher’s school. 

“We both kind of realized that we could sort of do something with each other. We ended up meeting over the summer to talk about logistics, and we ended up agreeing on doing a golf unit in August. This golf unit was targeted at introducing kids to golf, caddying, and the scholarship,” Christy said.

The golf unit took place Aug. 15 and 16. Christy and Connors set up a putting and driving range, as well as putt-putt games for eighth grade students. Christy and Connors assisted with different gym classes centered around teaching kids about golf. 

“In total, we were able to put clubs in the hands of over 400 kids. There were four gym classes that we did each day. We got there around 7:30 am and left around 3:30 pm and also set up the gym class for the kids each day,” Christy said.

Both Christy and Connors argued that it was rewarding to see kids being exposed to golf. “We wanted to make kids aware who wouldn’t be made aware otherwise. [After the event], there were kids that were coming up to us and were saying, ‘We’d love to caddy; how can we get into this?,’” Christy said.

Christy and Connors said it was extremely rewarding to see how excited the kids were to come and learn. “Word was traveling to the point where kids were excited before they even got to gym class because they knew what was going on. They knew what they were about to do for the day,” Christy said.

Connors argued that this event would not have been possible without their partnership with the Kids Golf Foundation.

“There’s a group called the kids Golf Foundation out of a country club called Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove Illinois, and we ended up brokering a deal, which involved hours and hours of communication between the Kids Golf Foundation and John Young Middle School. Through this deal, the Kids Golf Foundation sent out golf equipment [for the event],” Christy said.

“They sent out all of this SNAG (starting new at golf) training stuff. It’s all just like basic training stuff, like these velcro tennis balls and these really basic clubs, just to kind’ve introduce them to golf,” Connors said.

Christy and Connors said that they felt fortunate to have connected these two groups — the Kids Golf Foundation and John Young Middle School — together.

“[The Kids Golf Foundation and John Young Middle School] are over 150 miles apart, so to see how they would have been connected, you know, otherwise — and it’s not to say look at what we did — that just goes to show you how much there is out there that’s not out there in South Bend,” Christy said.

Christy and Connors said that, ultimately, they just want kids who are in similar situations financially to benefit in the same ways that they have been able to. 

“We want to be a mentor for these kids. And personally, we would like to start a youth caddie program in the area. That’s our vision,” Christy said.

Christy and Connors both said that they are also hoping to expand this initiative with more kids at John Young Middle School.

“The principal kind of already invited us back to do this with the seventh graders too because that obviously would be a great experience for them,” Connors said.