CPS Immersion Projects take students' service around the world

Each year, the Center for Public Service offers students the opportunity to make a positive impact on a community different from their own through Immersion Projects.

"It is many times an experience that causes changes in commitments, values, and sometimes majors," said Jeff Rioux, Immersion Projects Coordinator at the Gettysburg College Center for Public Service. "When students spend a semester abroad, they report learning more than they do in a typical semester at home. We get the same reports from participants on Immersion Projects, who say that they learned so much more than they expected."

Immersion Projects are off-campus, educational service opportunities at sites in the United States and abroad. Each project offers students the ability to learn more about themselves and the world through engagement in the issues of social justice.

This year, the Center for Public Service has five impressive trips over winter break that will allow students to make a difference:

Voices of Resistance is a new Immersion Experience that will take twelve students to Washington, D.C. They will be immersed in the issues of human rights by working with places such as People's Production House, a journalism training and production institute focused on producing stories that promote unheard voices. Here, students will be trained to use recording devices on their cell phones to gather people's stories and produce pieces for radio or YouTube. These students spent the fall semester discussing issues of race and gender, volunteering with immigrant or migrant families in the Gettysburg community, and have met with the Fall Convocation Speaker Deepa Fernandes, an award-winning journalist who focuses on social justice issues.

A Gettysburg group in SelmaA second Immersion Project will take students to Alabama and engross them in fight for Civil Rights both past and present. Participants will learn about leaders of the Civil Rights Movement and their push for political, social and educational equality. Through their travels to Birmingham, Tuskegee, Montgomery, Selma, and White Hall, students will experience the rich history of the area but also explore the current state of civil rights and witness economic injustice first hand.

The Native American Living project will take students to the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. In this Immersion Project, students can choose which field of interest they wish to explore with the San Carlos Apaches. Those interested in education will have the opportunity to work with Native American children and see how the schools try to balance state and federal educational goals while also teaching native traditions and history. Students also have the opportunity to examine environmental issues of the area. In years past, participants have worked with San Carlos EPA to take surveys, Recreation and Wildlife Department in counting wildlife, and with the Tribal Archaeologist to collect and move artifacts for future analysis. Students interested in health will have the opportunity to work will health centers and learn about the reservation's problems with diabetes, alcoholism and suicide.

Students in the Community Development project will travel to León, Nicaragua where they will live with Spanish-speaking host families in the communities of León and Matagalpa. They will have the opportunity to work on Project Gettysburg-León sponsored efforts, such as Children's Art School and Teacher Trainings, that are meant to share cultures and support sustainable development. For students in Matagalpa, there is also the chance to learn about fair trade versus free trade in the context of coffee production, distribution, the plight of landless workers, and cooperatives. Through working alongside the people of these communities, participants will experience third-world realities first-hand and participate in community development.

A Poverty and Public Policy Immersion Project will take students to Washington, D.C. to learn about and participate in direct service and advocacy work as they assist people who are homeless, hungry, and/or ill. Students will visit and offer aid in places such as the National Coalition for the Homeless, DC Central Kitchen, N Street Village, and Martha's Table. The trip allows participants to witness the realities of poverty and homelessness while also providing a knowledge the support available.

"We know these are eye opening experiences for students. They see poverty and other social injustices that are not often a part of their everyday lives," said Rioux. "But beyond seeing these issues, they also get the chance to engage in dialogue with partners and organizations that are working effectively to eradicate these injustices. That is experience that gives them hope that they can make a difference in the world."

The Center for Public Service engages students, community members, faculty and staff to facilitate partnerships, education, critical thinking and informed action. Through these alliances, we aim to foster social justice by promoting personal, institutional and community change.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Article by Lindsay Preucil, communications and marketing intern
Contact: Nikki Rhoads, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803

Posted: Mon, 19 Dec 2011

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