What would you do if you were in a low-income situation and were forced to live in the poverty stricken area of west Cleveland making ends meets?
Seven students found out this weekend through the university’s Cleveland Urban Immersion trip.
“We wanted to show them more than just volunteering,” said Ann Gosky, the senior special assistant for the office of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs and trip organizer. “In the process, we hope to break down some stereotypes and broadened their world outside of the university.”
During the three-day trip, the students lived the lives of individuals stuck in poverty and living in inner-city Cleveland.
“I decided to sign up for this because I wanted to learn all about how people live in that kind of situation,” said Stephanie Black, a senior English major. “I want to be enlightened.”
They shopped at low-income grocery stores that cater to the community and slept in church parishes, with large collections of people that had nowhere else to go. They learned to eat cheap, allowed to spend a maximum of only $2 on a single meal.
They also walked up and down the streets to see how neighborhood gentrification is impacting the community, learning the hard truths of people being forced from their homes to make way for high-rise apartments for the wealthy.
The students also worked alongside the Catholic Worker Community to help aid the individuals who came for help and relief from the conditions on the street.
“It’s amazing how much everyone depends on the volunteering to make it through the day,” said Matt Hockman, a freshman exploratory major.
The group concluded their trip by helping to volunteer in the area, helping fix up some of the areas around the city that needed it the most.
All the students are able to receive a scholarship from the Dennis Eckart Student Leadership Fund through the Center for Student Involvement for their volunteer work.
But the trip wasn’t all work; the seven of them used it as a bonding experience between them. Although they started the trip as strangers, by the time the van pulled up to the PARTA bus stop in front of the Student Center at the end of their trip, they were all laughing and joking with each other.
“My favorite part of the trip was getting to experience it all with these people,” said Taiwo Adensina, a senior psychology major.
As they collected their bags from the back of the van and headed off in their separate directions, the seven students prided themselves in spending their weekend learning from a situation completely different than their own and making a difference in a community that needed it.
“I hope by the end, they can all see the value in every person,” Gosky concluded. “No matter what situation they’re in, everyone is important.”
Contact Max Hayden at [email protected]