Students turn summer break into service-learning experiences through internship program

Program offers stipends as well as free housing, which gives students chance to work at many different places | July 17, 2006

Summer break is anything but typical for 20 students. Like many other college students, they get up each day and go to work, but instead of working in a grocery store or at the local pool, these students are doing service work at non-profits and community agencies across Greater Cincinnati.

The students are part of Xavier University’s summer service internship program, which is celebrating its 13th year. The program is unique in that it offers stipends to the interns as well as free housing in one of Xavier’s residence halls. This gives the students the opportunity to offer service in places where they may not have been able to do so because of having to work during the summer.

This year, students are working at 17 different agencies for 35 hours a week for 10 weeks. The work sites include agencies such as Healthy Moms and Babes, Tender Mercies, Catholic Social Services, Peaslee Neighborhood Center and Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

The mission of the program is to develop “people for others” who continue to make service an integral part of their lives. This year there is also an emphasis on promoting social justice.

Also new to the program this year is a student project coordinator. Senior Flo Sahker manages the program overseeing the interns and working with the agencies.

“One of the biggest parts of my role is community development,” says Sahker, an occupational therapy major. Sahker also makes visits to the agencies and organizes social activities for the students.

“Once a week a group cooks dinner for everyone else,” she says. “Another group will work on reflection or a fun activity, like going to Ault Park.”

This year the students are spending more time on reflection. Each student made a personal journal from recycled materials and they are given 15 minutes a day at their internship site to write in the journals.

“We urge them to reflect not only on their own experience,” says Kimberlie Goldesberry, executive director for the office of student involvement and leadership, “but how their experience applies to social justice issues around the world.”

The students are also promoting social justice by wearing "sweat free" shirts (shirts made in a factory that supports the basic human rights of its workers) and supporting local farmers.

The agencies are also intimately involved in the summer service internship program, interviewing students who may work for them.

In addition to the mission of service, the students are also gaining job skills they can carry with them in the future.