Summer Break Equals Serious Work for College Students

June 11, 2012

Most college students use summer to earn some extra cash, travel and relax. But for 20 Xavier University students, it is a time of intense learning and service in the Greater Cincinnati community.

The twenty are part of Xavier University’s Summer Service Internship Program, now in its eighteenth year. Xavier’s program is unique in that it offers interns stipends and free housing in Xavier’s Brockman Residence Hall. With a mission to develop as men and women for others, the interns serve at area non-profits and community agencies. The students make this service an integral part of their daily lives.

The interns spend nine weeks from May 29 through July 27 working at 20 different agencies for 35 hours each week. The work sites include Working in Neighborhoods, St. Vincent DePaul, Starfire, and Ohio Justice & Policy Center.

"This program challenges students to think critically about the social issues that they witness at their service sites. Eventually they develop a critical framework for thinking about systemic oppression,” says Laura Wallace, Summer Service Student Coordinator. “As a result, they often redefine justice for themselves, and intentionally engage with the Cincinnati community and their communities at home."

Students keep journals to reflect on their work and attend weekly dinner and community reflection sessions. The students spent time before work started preparing themselves for their experience. They learned about diversity, service, safety, and sense of place and purpose.

“While providing services to meet immediate needs, the student interns grapple with big questions about society, injustice, and what it means to be people for and with others. They are gaining valuable job and life skills they can carry into the future,” notes Angela Gray-Girton, associate director of Xavier’s Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice.

A survey of program participants found students value the chance to step outside their comfort zone. Others appreciate the opportunity to make a difference in the world and in the lives of others.

“The Summer Service Internship Program is making a positive impact on the lives of our students and on the people in the agencies served by the program,” says Michael J. Graham, S.J., president of Xavier University. “We greatly appreciate the support of our funders and look forward to continuing this service to our community in the future.”

Supporters include The Charles H. Dater Foundation, John & Francie Pepper, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc. and Xavier Women of Excellence Giving Circle.