SCU students exposed to community issues

February 25, 2009 7:13:59 PM PST
Santa Clara University has long promoted community service, and is now taking the unique step of requiring its students to take a more active role in the world around them.

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Alicia Gonzales is a full-time student at Santa Clara University and works part-time.

You could say her third job is community service. For the past two years, she's traveled to poverty stricken areas of Mexico and help build homes from the ground up.

"Everything is done by hand. Everything is done with simple tools. There's no electricity so it's very enlightening experience," said Gonzales.

That kind of eye opening experience is about to become a core component of the curriculum at SCU.

Starting this fall, SCU will have a new graduation requirement for all incoming freshman. They must take courses that require community engagement or what's being called experiential learning for social justice.

Some of the immersion learning will include volunteer or community service work, but not necessarily. Whether the subject is homelessness or religious freedom, the idea is real contact with real people.

"I think that the value of learning from people directly about the challenges they face and the unique strengths they bring to addressing those challenges you can't learn that in a classroom or textbook," said Laurie Laird from Santa Clara University Ignatian Center.

Annie Rovzar would be the first to tell you experiential learning changes lives. She's volunteered in communities close to home and abroad.

"With each of these populations, I feel pulled to not just live my life on the surface with all of these comforts you can't. Once you see the way these people live and the way they touch your heart and they show you what's real and you can't live the same," said Rovzar.

SCU is confident awareness leads to action and action will change the world.

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