They arrived today. Forty eager, enthusiastic students, ready to devote their year to making the campus more aware of justice issues in our own backyard.
Some had come earlier to get a few projects rolling, foreshadowing this afternoon. But I still am never quite ready for the onslaught of the entire team.
If I haven’t explained it before, in my office each student has a specific cause they represent for the entire academic year. About 15 work in pre-schools, focusing on literacy skills. A few work in support roles, like our development intern who helps every program access resources to be successful. The rest have a non-profit partner they work with, like Habitat for Humanity, a mission on Skid Row, the Boys & Girls Club, or the juvenile detention centers nearby.
Quite simply, our model is to empower student leaders to recruit and train their peers to engage in meaningful service in our area.
But before they serve, they learn.
They are always learning, of course. But the very first thing these leaders do is our experiential learning day–the Urban Reality Tour. The URT is followed by a week of training on topics from how to use the copier to how Christian faith speaks to social justice. The students I supervise don’t even get their specific job descriptions until the last day of the week.
Why learning first? Learning is one corrective to the “I’m here to fix this” attitude that, all too often, we bring to service. The better we learn about, from, and with the community we want to help, the more humble we will be as we attempt that help. And the more effective that help will be.
So we’re off–tomorrow’s the URT. We’re doing it differently than last year, so I’ll tell you more about it Tuesday.