Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Extending the Campus: Service Learning

Peter Morse, a double major in political science and biblical studies from West Newbury, Massachusetts, shares his experience working last summer for the homeless community:

Finding that “perfect” summer job is always a challenge . . . you want meaningful work at a reputable organization, but as a college student you also need to make money. My experience last summer was a paid internship at the Lifebridge campus—a homeless shelter and transitional housing agency in nearby Salem. Just a short drive from campus, the organization is committed to ending homelessness in the city and on the North Shore, focusing on residential and clinical services for homeless men and women.
Homelessness is a persisting and disturbing feature of our society. Learning to care effectively for those in need through this internship has been one of the most rewarding challenges I’ve experienced as a Gordon student. My regular outreach included interviewing and writing about homeless clients, drafting fundraising and grant requests, and serving in direct-care positions. My education coupled with the realities of the Lifebridge campus exposed me to both practical skills for meaningful social work and a deep level of compassion.
One of the really encouraging aspects of my internship was the support I received from the Gordon community back on campus. Since I lived on campus for the summer, I was able to share my experiences with other students also staying on through Gordon’s summer housing offerings. My friends at Gordon volunteered with me, offered donations, and listened thoughtfully to the stories and questions I brought home from the shelter each night.
I found I was not alone in wanting to work for a compassionate organization. Other friends shared their stories of serving at tutoring programs, food pantries, and research for the blind and deaf. So, while it can be easy to get caught up in the academics and social scene of college life, my summer internship—along with conversations with other socially involved students—reminded me how a huge part of our education is what we learn off-campus. To have a college and faculty so close to these kinds of opportunities provides such diversity for students wanting to give back.
Here is a photograph of David (not his real name). After partnering with Lifebridge, he now has his own apartment and a steady job. His story touched my internship experience. He still gives back to the homeless community and volunteers there to help men and women with their struggles.

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