Justice immersion opportunities are powerful learning tools that surround a student with an intense experience. Through local, national and international immersion experiences, students are empowered to work effectively with diverse populations in a variety of settings to build global perspective, cultural competency and cultural fluency. This week 23 Notre Dame freshmen participated in a local plunge experience at Sacred Heart Community Service, located in the heart of our downtown San Jose neighborhood.
The day began with a one mile walk from campus to the community center. Walking to Sacred Heart is an important component of this trip as students are invited to "walk a mile" in someone else's shoes and gain an understanding of what it must be like for those less fortunate. At Sacred Heart students learned about the founder and history of the organization and its current efforts to bring the community together to address the issue of poverty in Silicon Valley. The students were then assigned to a variety of stations and tasks. Each student had an opportunity to sort through donated clothes, rotate the clothes into the storefront racks, assist customers with selecting garments, sort through the food pantry and help arrange hygiene kits for men and women.
After 3 hours of warehouse work, the students broke for lunch and discussed their experiences in an open forum. They spent the remainder of the afternoon in conversation and interactive activities focused on the challenges and realities facing local women living in poverty. In one activity, students were given an income level and a possible life situation (single, married, with and without children, with and without a vehicle, with and without a job) and tasked with budgeting for rent and public transportion. It was a very eye-opening experience for the students as they realized the struggles faced by many of our neighbors. During November and December, SHCS assisted an average of 482 families each day. Through this experience our students were able to stand in solidarity with our downtown neighbors and one very important organization making a difference.