Classes break to build community

by Jolie Baldwin

Tuesday, Sept. 19 classes at Whitworth were closed for the morning. Instead of attending classes, students gathered and boarded buses bound for various corners of Spokane for a morning of service learning., This event is officially known as Community Building Day, and is overseen by Steven Lapointe, the assistant director for Service Learning and Community Building.

“It provides a first step towards a lifetime of service, it provides valuable services to non-profit agencies and ministries and it’s a manifestation of our [Whitworth’s] mission statement: …honor God, follow Christ, serve humanity,” Lapointe said.

Lapointe has been in charge of this event since 2010, and oversees everything from coordinating service sites to managing bus routes.

Whitworth’s Community Building Day had students serving at seven different sites through Catholic Charities alone, including St. Margaret’s Shelter, St. Anne’s Family and Children’s Center and several low-income apartment complexes, Lapointe said. Another site, Holmes Elementary in the West Central Neighborhood, has one of the highest poverty rates with 89.1 percent of students taking advantage of the free/reduced lunch option.

Whitworth has a long history of community service, Lapointe said. On Community Building Day, President Beck Taylor and his wife Julie Taylor went to Anna Ogden Hall, which Dr. Albert Arend, President of Whitworth’s Board of Trustees in the 1950s, helped found.

“Hopefully being a part of Community Building Day instills a lifetime ethic of service in Whitworth students,” Lapointe said.

Many of the groups who went to serve were part of freshmen seminars,including professor Dr. Frank Caccavo’s class, which visited the Arc Community Center for adults with developmental disabilities. Freshman Alexandra Brown was part of this group. She was initially intrigued because a relative of hers has a developmental disability.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it, but I definitely enjoyed it,” Brown said. “Everyone was so sweet; everyone who went had smiles on their faces.”

It’s a great experience for both the community as a whole and Whitworth in particular, she said.

“It ties the students closer together and gets us out into the community,” Brown said. “I think it encourages us to step out of our comfort zone; it’s something really great that every university should be doing.”

Several clubs on campus also volunteered to serve of their own volition, including the Jubilation Dance Ministry. Jubilation is led by artistic director and senior Caleb Klein. Ten members of the club, as well as seven other interested students, worked in the Back 40. They spent most of their morning planting trees, because a replaced gas line had killed much of the plant life, Klein said.

“Community Building Day is positive for Whitworth because it’s a response to Christ’s call to ministry that also gives students an opportunity to ‘break beyond the pine cone curtain,’” Klein said, referring to the tendency for students of Whitworth to be somewhat secluded from the rest of the city.

“I’d love to see other organizations and clubs [on campus] get involved,” Klein said. “We are given so much from the university and the community, so [service learning] is a way to give back.”

Service learning is not restricted to just one day, however. Whitworth is a member of the Campus Compact, a nation-wide commitment to community service by over a thousand universities, Lapointe said. In the 2009-2010 school year, students from 1,198 of those schools completed 382 million hours of community service across the country.

Lapointe added that service is a part of the basis of Whitworth as a school, quoting from the Bible verse Matthew 20:28 in the mission statement: “‘Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,’ so are we called to serve others,” Lapointe said.

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