Leading Students To Community Engagement-Student Testimonies
Student Comments Based on Service Learning Experience
SOCL 141 - Racial and Cultural Minorities
Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville Campus
Professor, Michael L. Sanow, Ph.D.
-Addendum to Keynote Speech of Dr. Michael Sanow on Students' Service Learning Experiences-
EBLO (Education Based Latino Outreach)
This child (she was working with) was encouraged to speak English all day at school, and would go home to a household where probably only Spanish was spoken. She had clearly adapted to living “in two worlds” depending on the situation.
It made me realize that that child had an awesome responsibility. She had to listen carefully to relay the correct information to her mother. She probably had to do this in other areas of her life as well…
When I saw this I thought, “Wow, the immigrant experience continues.”…
My Service Learning experience helped me (appreciate) the importance of community for an ethnic subculture. (BF)
Being immersed in a program that aims to help a minority group in our community helped me to see the importance of gaining an understanding of all people. (WF)
I learned the skill of working with people who were not exactly like me…It is important to work together. More things get accomplished when people work together! I learned a lot…just about how people should be treated even though they are different. Being different isn't bad and when we accept the people we live in this country with the better off we can be. (WF)
BEANS AND BREAD (A Soup Kitchen)
(Reflecting on the people she served) They all seemed to be humbled by their status, like they wanted to do better but circumstances have prevented this. Could one of those circumstances be the color of their skin?…(although the signs “No Jews, Blacks or Dogs” have gone) I cannot help but wonder how many people in authority still feel the same way and act upon this whenever they think they can get away with it. (BF)
HELPING UP MISSION
(Transitional Housing for Homeless Men in Recovery)
I thought about the lecture we had in class a few weeks ago that inspired me. This lecture related to my experience at (Helping Up Mission). Dr. S talked about taking advantage of opportunities and making them an entry point, not an end point. My mind reflected back to the Mission and I thought about how this mission was an entry point for the lost to get their lives together…
I learned from the story (of a college professor who succumbed to drugs and lost everything and was now living at the Mission) that none of us are above temptations that drive us to failure. We must always continue to work hard and to find more constructive ways to deal with our problems. The entry point starts now where we are, not when we're lying on our face in hopelessness…
This assignment was necessary to enhance my understanding about the course and life. My thinking was definitely changed in ways that I could not imagine. I see the people differently and value them. I value their opinion and their judgment…I learned to …consider others first before you consider yourself. I know when I act, I will ask myself how this will affect others around me? Also I learned to be sensitive to others. In conclusion, I believe …service learning was a great opportunity. This experience will affect my life forever.
This project made me feel a little ashamed of myself, because I realized how many times I take things for granted…this project also made me feel good about myself because I knew that I was doing a small part in helping these men by serving them a warm meal and giving them someone to talk to...
Part of the reason I took this class is to get over some of my negative feelings about race and cultures. I developed a fear of male strangers about a year ago when two men assaulted me. I have never been able to overcome this fear. I generally base my stereotypes of black males because the two men who assaulted me happened to be black. I think that this project has given me the opportunity to overcome some of these fears. It has helped me by giving me the opportunity to work with men. At first it was a little scary and uncomfortable, but I ended up enjoying the experience. (WF)
My service learning experience is a testament to the effectiveness of “real life” learning…
I have had little or no exposure to the city of Baltimore and all of the exposure I have had has been negative…I felt I would be considered an “outsider” at HUM…I just had a bad feeling about it overall…
I was confronted many times with the issue of religious beliefs. It became offensive at some points; as though the men were telling me I was worthless (not believing as they did). I knew they all meant well, but even by the time I left I could not see eye to eye with them about their religious views. Had I done this a few years ago I would have thought the men to be religious freaks. After discussions in class about such issues, however, I understood that his was just another way of living. HUM had developed its own unique culture among these men. Who was I to question it?…
Without service learning, I don't believe that the cultural diversity class could be successful…After completing service learning, I can say I have been changed as a person. In everyday life, it is easy to encounter many of the cultural diversity issues discussed in class. I used to avoid such issues, but service learning has opened my eyes to the point where I no longer fear what is unknown to me…Service learning is an important part of learning about and accepting different cultures of our country. Unfortunately, it takes the experience of service learning to trigger this realization…I am a better person because of service learning…(WM)
I had many stereotypes about the site and the people before I arrived. I felt the site was in a high crime area that was surrounded by people living on the street and trash. After arriving I realized how wrong I was. Another stereotype I had was of the people. I did not expect them to act like regular human beings. These stereotypes and many others I had were immediately dropped as soon as I entered the site and met all of the people. I enjoyed the experience because it helped to open my views…
The whole experience changed my understanding of diversity. At first I thought people of different backgrounds were just being tolerated in society. This experience showed me that these people were actually cared for and would be welcomed into society. I felt the overall benefit of this experience was huge and feel it should be experienced by many other people, not only to help society, but to open their way of thinking. (WM)
I will always remember my Saturday at the mission because of the remarkable men I met. The black, white, and Spanish men I met who are trying to start a new life without drugs or alcohol…
In doing my service learning assignment, I think I have a clearer picture of a world much different from my own. I think I have a better understanding that the world does not end at my backyard. (BM)
I think the service learning assignment is a great asset to this course because it puts you there in an atmosphere with cultural diversity among people who feel different things about themselves, the program, the streets, society and life in general. (BM)
Although Caucasians are the dominant group (in American society), their willingness to share food, clothing and shelter, in a manner which allows man to keep his pride in tact, is an indication that cooperation between the races in this matter will enhance the standard of living for all those involved in America's continued progression…I've heard it said that “if you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” The (HUM) is certainly “teaching men to fish,” in that they offer homeless men not only the necessities of life, but also the opportunity to develop spiritually, find a job so that they can support themselves, and assist them in acquiring an apartment. This will in turn render them capable of providing for and protecting the women and children in their family, making them significant contributors to the growth of American society-isn't that part of the definition of man?…
Some people are so caught up in their own problems, that they simply find it extremely hard to make time to aid others in solving their problems. However, I am under the belief that assisting others in the solution of their problems may assist you in solving a similar problem that you may be experiencing-if not now, then maybe a future problem, or its prevention. I am grateful for the chance to give something back, with the benefit of a learning experience; whoever's responsible for this idea has outdone themselves/themselves. (BM)
MARYLAND FOOD BANK
(Food Distribution Center for Food Distribution throughout State of Maryland)
I know that everyone pretty much stereotypes in their own way somehow, but you would not have come to that conclusion with the volunteers we were working with. This project made me realize that people can put their dislikes behind them and work together with people whom they might not be very fond of. You do not need to make fun of people who are different than yourself all of the time. You can learn to work with them and you should give them a chance so you can see how nice some of them really are…I think everyone has a good side to them, even though there is a lot of hate in the world. This project was a very good thing to do in this type of class because for me it disproved some of the bad things about people and the way they treat each other sometimes.
(Working with the diverse group of people at the MFB) helped me to realize how many different people make up the enormous melting pot that we call the United States of America. What makes this melting pot even more interesting is that so many people can work together for the benefit of people that may not have the things others are blessed with. I am just happy that I was able to help others even as little as I did.
This service learning project…has helped me to understand that we have to be open to people that are different from ourselves. We have to stop judging others simply because of the way they dress, where they live, what they believe in, or what color their skin is…the service learning project helped me to see that we should all help each other as much as we can and we should all be accepting of each other. (WM)
Volunteering at MFB allowed me to work in an environment that I was not used to, surrounded by people I have never been around before…If I had been working with a group of people just like me, I probably wouldn't have gotten much out of the experience. However, because I was able to work with a new group of people, whose backgrounds were different from mine, I tried to learn more about them…(WF)
I believe the most important thing to be learned from this experience is that when people work toward a common goal, anything can be achieved…For the most part our individual identities, our differences, did not affect how we were treated or how we treated each other. (WF)
(Food distribution for Homebound persons with HIV/AIDS)
During my hours at the service center, I felt helpless. What I was doing didn't seem much, so I wanted to do more. I also felt ashamed of the way I complain about things, when there are others who are worse off than me. All they are trying to do is live, put food on the table, and have clothing, but because of their conditions they can't do it on their own…
(Two men who were volunteering only because it was a “company thing”) were making comments about people living with HIV/AIDS…They thought they were better than the people living with HIV/AIDS…
Listening to the voices of those who help people living with HIV/AIDS enables me to better understand their lives and how society still has hatred among those who are of different background such as race, age, disabilities, and religion. Going into class, I knew there was some hatred and prejudice, but I didn't know how bad it really is. Doing service learning at this site has made me more aware of the problems in America and even in the Baltimore area. (WF)
MY SISTER'S PLACE (A Daytime Drop in Center for Homeless Women)
I had a lot of mixed feelings about this project. It is a lot more difficult to work side by side with homeless women, than it is to just walk by them on the street. After spending a few days with these women, I had a difficult time dealing with the fact that at the end of the day I can go home, but these women do not have a home to go to. I felt an overwhelming sadness because of the hand life has dealt them…
A lot of ideas that I had formed in my mind about these women were very one sided and unfair. The fact that I thought maybe all homeless women were addicts or alcoholics just because they live on the street was very prejudiced. Or the idea that they would all be mean and uneducated just because they were homeless is also very prejudiced. This assignment caused me to explore a little of my own prejudice about other people although it was not racially based…
I always thought of service learning as something I had to go and do because someone else said so…(now) I look at service learning in an entirely different way. I do not feel like it is a forced act of community interaction anymore, but an opportunity to help those in need. (BF)
I believe the service learning experience gives people who live in their homogeneous communities the opportunity to step outside the box. Perhaps the larger lesson to be learned is that there is a very thin line between what we perceive as “us” and “them.” In my mind I can imagine at some point in time that the “them” (the homeless) was the “us.” Likewise, I can also fathom the “us” becoming “them” by virtue of extenuating circumstances. No wonder so many times in my life I've heard the phrase “but by the grace of God go I.” (BF)
(For these women) Reality eventually sets in once again and I knew that they would be sleeping outside that night in the cold with no shelter and no heat. This experience has made me so grateful for what I have and has made me understand that some people, no matter how hard they try get mixed up in the never ending battle of beating the system and making it in society. I always used to feel you could do anything you put your mind to, but that statement is not true for all. It is only for the people who actually have a chance to begin with and many of these women were never given that chance. (WF)
My thinking has changed through this course this semester. I know now that all prejudices and stereotypes come from just white people. ( I knew this all the time but somewhat accepted it from my own race,) I've learned that there are many other circumstances other than color that lead to racism and stereotyping…We cannot continue to treat the homeless as though they are not there. But as a community, we need to try to find ways to include them into society and to make them feel as though they are part of the community too. Our stereotypes of these women are that they are lazy…We need to change our way of thinking. We as a society have labeled these women as outcasts and we don't want to see them because they make us look within ourselves and see what little we are doing to help our fellow man. (BF)
Seeing those women and listening to their stories has made me see life differently. I used to think being in a shelter could not or would not ever be me, but it can be. (BF)
OUR DAILY BREAD (A Soup Kitchen)
If there was anything I learned in class that I also learned at Our Daily Bread, it has got to be that people going hungry is everyone's problem. One cannot just egotistically turn the other cheek and completely not claim any responsibility. It is not only up to those who are hungry to just find something to eat….It is everybody's responsibility…this is a problem that everybody is responsible for…I do think that each individual can do something to help the situation…
I learned with my experience at ODB that hunger is colorblind. Hunger is not a white issue, not a black issue, not a Latino issue, and not a man's or woman's issue…Hunger is hunger. It is despicable and it affects all races and cultures in this country and throughout the world. Hunger is a human problem. (WM)
Most of the visitors (at ODB) were African Americans. I wondered if it was some type of racism that was not allowing this minority to have the skills and opportunities to afford a proper living and not have to rely on handouts to feed themselves and their children…I think that social inequalities and poverty is a critical problem in America, one of the richest countries in the world. I wonder what would happen to these people if the volunteers were not here on a daily basis to help them.
At (ODB) I witnessed none of the types of hate (we discussed in class) and I was proud to help those less fortunate than themselves. Just as isolated cases of hate crimes are committed on a daily basis, I believe that many more acts of kindness and compassion are exhibited during the course of a day. That somehow the good outweighs the bad, but it is just that evil acts are more focused on and highly publicized. I think it is a very valuable lesson to be able to experience what it feels like to help citizens in our communities that may live very differently from the way you live. America is a multicultural and diverse racial and ethnic society and we need to learn to respect and understand that about our population. (BF)
PAUL'S PLACE (A soup kitchen with other services for the poor and homeless)
(Doing service learning assignment at PP) put me “in the trenches,” as it were, right into the middle of another group entirely. I'm often surrounded by people who are mostly like me…However, for the (understanding of the subject matter, diversity, of this course) more exposure is required. (WM)
ST. AMBROSE OUTREACH CENTER
(Multi-purpose Center, Meals, Tutoring, Counseling)
Along with identifying behavior affected by prejudice through this
experience…This helped enhance my thinking on behavior affected by prejudice because I never realized how prejudiced my own people could be. Although these people had the same skin color as me, I still did not want to be around them due to their economic status.
Thinking back on my experience as a volunteer at SAOC, I am grateful for the privilege of helping someone reach a goal in their life they may not otherwise attain. I believe in the cliché, “Knowledge is Power.” If each individual is given equal opportunity to earn skills needed to become empowered and enjoy all of the freedoms of independent living, many social problems would be solved. (BF)
SUDBROOK NURSING HOME (Nursing Home for the Elderly)
When I left the occupants of Sudbrook, it was obvious that the care I had displayed towards them by holding their hands and talking with them was appreciated…I have learned that sometimes a person simply needs an ear to voice their feelings…
Do I still have a phobia or apprehension with regards to nursing homes? Certainly not! This experience has taught me to be grateful for everything in life and to be open and realistic about what life offers. (This experience) made it clear that the challenges in life are varied and unpredictable, but with an openness to accept changes, and a willingness to embrace the opportunity to make a difference, the rewards can be gratifying. (BF)
SOUTHWESTERN EMERGENCY SERVICES
I went into (the service learning assignment) stereotyping a group of people simply because they were different than me (homeless). My viewpoint has changed.
I now realize that it is stupid to stereotype people simply because of their differences. Just because someone might be different does not mean they are inferior. I realized that money and wealth is not enough to determine a person's personality. Just because a person may not have much money does not mean that they are dirty, smelly, and impolite.
Overall, this assignment was very influential and enlightening…I went in with a total negative attitude towards the whole experience. I figured that with all the hours I spend between school and work that I would hate working for free to serve food to people who are homeless. Yet I came out of the experience very glad that I took part in it. It definitely helped to give me a better understanding of points that we have discussed in class. (WM)