Made possible by a generous gift from James Heston '70, Communities in Action / Comunidades en Acción is a new, unique opportunity for summer internships. Aiming to further Gettysburg College's vision for active engagement in local and global contexts, the summer experience began on June 4, 2007 with eleven students. Through immersion in Gettysburg and Nicaragua, these students will have an extraordinary opportunity of engaging in the work of community action through partnership with community development organizations. Students in both locations will reflect together throughout the summer, challenging each other to ask critical questions of social justice in our world today.
Who is serving whom? What are the assumptions of "development"? How are globalization and immigration linked? What are the key frameworks of community action? How do issues of power and privilege influence our decisions and work of community? These are some of the critical questions discussed at the three-day training at the start of the experience.
Negotiating the Beginning: (Orientation)
Reflecting through journals is integral to the learning process. At the start of the internships, these thoughts are some of the questions and issues students addressed in their journals.
- Did I volunteer all those years because I thought I had something to give?
- Isn't that my responsibility as a human being to follow through with a cause I believe in, even if I am reaping some of the benefits?
- Thinking about where I fit into the grand scheme of service, development, and change in a rapidly globalizing and complicated world is a question that I had never really tried to tackle.
- I still struggle to understand what truly is an honorable motivation for service and how is it proper to use my positionality as a Caucasian, middle-class, educated college female to most effectively enact change?
- The past few days have made me uneasy, and at the same time, more comfortable with the internship this summer. Knowing that there is no one way to approach this is daunting, because it's not a puzzle that can be solved. It does not have an answer, and I will have to continue to uncover more and more as I work. At the same time, it is comforting to know that because there is no set solution I can experiment and learn while I am doing this. Because succeeding in the internship is an on-going process, I will be learning through my experiences.
Processing the Partnership Experience: (In the Middle)
After three full weeks in their internships, students are beginning to understand the organization and their work. Negotiating the challenges of community development, cross-cultural experiences and internship responsibilities is being balanced with plenty of positive relationships and "aha" moments. Much of the reflection has been around the perception and perspective when it comes to relating experiences and listening to others. How do we tell filter the stories that we tell? What impact does the filtering have on other people's understanding? How do we tell stories so they accurately represent others and work towards social justice? Likewise, how do our life experiences affect our listening process and skills?
Making Sense of the Experience:
Quote from a student ending her experience in Nicaragua:
"What I have learned here has come through action. Diving into this opportunity and this community was a constant learning process. I don't think that a synonym for 'journey' is 'ride.' I figured out that if I wanted to learn something, I had to take the initiative to open my brain and pursue that knowledge. People have a plethora of wisdom to share-- if I wanted to hear it I had to talk to them and I had to listen. Books have great ideas-- if I wanted to explore them I had to read them. Problems have solutions-- if I wanted to propose something I had to plan and be patient.
My journey into community action was one of personal discovery and full immersion. I realized that my past and my future is linked to what I did here: the people I met, the insight they shared, the challenges I faced (and those I faced alongside the organization I worked with), and the triumphs we all achieved together. The journey has been one of progression and I believe that the community here can see that as well. It has been one of shared growth and pride, and can be made stronger through our continued partnership."
INTERNS & PARTNERS
Christine Crayton '10
Escuela Autónomo Nacional Bella Cruz
Amy Hoffman '08
Hogar de Protección "Pajarito Azul"
John Jordan '09
Red Arco Iris
Emily Mathurin '08
Ministerio de la Familia
Benjamin White '08
Masaya Sin Fronteras
Melissa Arsenie '10
South Central Community Action Programs, Inc.
Cody Georgia '08
Healthy Adams County
Jason Loh '08
The Center/El Centro
Rachel Losito '08
LIU #12: Migrant Education
Miriam Parson '08
United Way of Adams County
Sneha Shrestha '10
Adams County Literacy Council