By Drew Brown, Scene editor
Some students discover their passion
for service during courses designed to give students real-life
experience with those they can help. Several J-Term courses
look at societal needs both locally and abroad.
On the first day of JoDee Keller
and Gary Hiam's January on the Hill class this winter, students
were given bus fare, and simple directions: see you at Associated
Ministries in the Hilltop District of Tacoma in a couple of
Some were savvy and found their
way quickly, while others struggled to figure out the cryptic
bus schedules. In the end, though, all the students made it.
A walking tour of Tacoma's Hilltop District showed them the
urban poverty that students would curb with community projects,
volunteering at social service agencies, and interacting with
people in the community.
"Classes like this are good
for students, because they learn about these things firsthand,"
Keller said. "When you work along side those who have these
challenges, it dispels a lot of myths about poverty."
But Keller believes J-Term experiences
should reach beyond poverty issues. She says Tacoma's Hilltop
and Salishan neighborhoods present many opportunities to participate
in development activities. Students worked at a cannery, repaired
a local house, took part in multicultural events like Vietnamese
New Year, met new immigrants in an event called "Talk Time,"
and played with kids at First Place for Children.
Students got many chances to reflect
on Keller's theme of service through journal entries, readings
and guest speakers. The end result was an experience that helped
students better understand their world-and their role in it.
It's not supposed to be a sad experience, like many expect in
LEARNING BY DOING: PLU student Ryan Callender '04,
working with Pavel Sandu from Moldova during "Talk
Time," held at the Family Investment Center in Tacoma's
"Students find the experience
to be both fun and exhausting," Keller said of her J-Term
class. "The goal with this class is that they have an experience
that touches them, and gives them an understanding of what it
means to make service a part of your life."
Farther away, sociology professor
Kay McDade is also helping dispel myths in her J-Term 2002 class,
Sociology in Jamaica, where students went to the country and
learn how race, ethnicity, gender and social class impact people's
lives. They visited "squatter" communities and ghettos
and lived with Jamaican families dealing with economic and family
McDade didn't focus her students
just on poverty, but on the Jamaican society as a whole. Students
came to appreciate reggae and Rastafarianism; examined social
institutions, like the government, the economy, schools and
churches; visited museums and monuments; and meet Jamaican "higglers"
who fill the streets selling fruits, vegetables, and other locally
"Students come to understand
the complications of poverty beyond the negative stereotypes,"
McDade said. "Poverty happens to hard-working, good citizens."