While community organizing has historically been a successful method for bringing about social change, courses in this area are not normally taught in the typical academic curriculum. An increasing emphasis on civic and social responsibility within the academy has fostered a new generation of courses, and community service learning has proven itself to be a powerful pedagogical tool for purposefully preparing young adults to actively participate in addressing social concerns. Taught eight times thus far, one sociology course offered at the University of San Diego teaches the importance of civic and social responsibility through the use of consensus organizing techniques.
Community service learning is a powerful pedagogical tool that can help fashion a vibrant learning environment in which students can increase their knowledge of the meaning of community as well as their commitment to help create a more just world. Intentional teaching about solving social issues through community capacity building is the goal of one sociology course taught at the University of San Diego (USD) entitled Community, Consensus, and Commitment (CCC). CCC joins students with leaders who are engaged in improving the quality of life in their communities. Working together, the aspirations of both groups to become substantive change agents are supported while their skills for furthering those aspirations are theoretically and practically augmented.
Civic Engagement through Consensus and Commitment
While community organizing has historically been a successful method for creating social change, courses dealing with it are not part of the typical academic curriculum. Regarded as “too political” at best or “lacking academic rigor” at worst, community organizing techniques tend to be regarded as the purview of activists and not academics. Embedding community organizing into a course, however, has practical benefits. CCC attempts to help students on a path of self-discovery, empowerment, and civic commitment. The class composition includes traditional undergraduate students as well as community members called “Community Scholars.”3Given that the Scholars have already demonstrated their dedication to their communities through their investments in time, money, and determination, USD’s administration agreed to provide this course free of charge to them.
While it might appear that USD has more resources than publicly funded institutions, the actual costs for creating such a program can be minimized. In this case, the Center for Community Service-Learning at USD purchased and loaned each Community Scholar the course textbooks and readers,4provided each Scholar with a USD email account, provided Scholars free parking, and granted three units of Continuing Education credit if all of the course requirements were met. The fifty dollar processing fee for the transcript was also waived by the university.5
As a course that explicitly showcases the challenges and opportunities that students will encounter when working for social change, social justice, and civic engagement, CCC offers both a theoretical perspective and a practical hands-on approach to the consensus organizing principles taught in the class. The title itself embodies the three elements of the course: 1) Community Scholars are recruited from local communities; 2) students learn consensus organizing techniques and apply them to specific community-designated projects; and 3) an effort is made to sustain commitment to these projects once the semester ends. To model the importance of teamwork and community building, the course is team taught by three instructors: a professor, a community partner, and a professional from the Center for Community Service-Learning (CCSL).
There are other learning objectives incorporated into the course as well.
USD undergraduates are challenged to recognize the practical wisdom that Community Scholars possess. The Scholars, in turn, are challenged by taking a college-level course, and more importantly, they provide the community connection and the focus for the organizing projects. A more solution-oriented rather than confrontational approach is used by emphasizing the power of consensus building and collaboration between residents and resource holders within the power structure so that a “win-win” solution for community concerns such as safety, housing, and employment can be found. Commitment to continuing to work on the issues beyond the class is nurtured when each participant writes an individual reflection paper and completes a group project action plan at the end of the semester.
There are three explicit purposes for the course: 1) to educate; 2) to help residents address community concerns; and 3) to strengthen campus-community connections. The first explicit purpose for the course is to provide awareness, knowledge, and skills about community capacity building. Community organizing offers a means for focusing on local concerns as well as a means for addressing those concerns. This type of analysis asks members of the class to examine the nature of power and authority, to look for community assets, to seek collaboration with those assets, and to see where they can exert social and political pressure. Because consensus organizing encourages finding a common ground for action among power holders, community leaders, and grassroots organizations, a positive attitude emerges toward engaging those with power and authority. The consensus organizing process offers an opportunity for participants to examine how their own social statuses and personal narratives intersect with issues of social justice.
Figure 1: Course Overview6
The second explicit purpose for the course is to offer university resources—the intellectual strength of faculty and the enthusiasm of students— as a way to tackle systemic issues in the community. This course links students to community leaders who have a long-term investment in improving the quality of life in their communities. A new network of ideas and resources is the students’ gift to the community, and the discovery of what social and political activities will and will not work is the community’s gift to the students. Moreover, ongoing collaborations between the university and regional partners can be strengthened through the collective efforts of faculty, students, and Community Scholars, but the nature of these collaborations is always tenuous because creating and maintaining campus-community partnerships that are both authentic and sustainable remains a challenge due to: 1) the inherent power differentials that exist between the campus and the community and 2) the limitations of the academic semester/quarter system (Liu, et al, 2006).
While USD has made significant progress in embedding a culture of community service in its curriculum, interchanges between the campus and community are still largely one-sided—students and faculty go out into the community while the community remains distanced from the school. Thus, a third explicit objective of the course was to strengthen community connections to USD. Given recent budget cuts at all levels of government, sustaining existing relationships has become more difficult. Enormous personnel turnover at sites with which USD has partnered in the past has meant that the CCSL’s professional staff is increasingly becoming the fount of collective memory for USD and its community partners. As such, the staff is able to provide the necessary historical context about existing collaborations that newcomers to local social service agencies may not know or understand.
Bringing community members onto campus on a regular basis helps to break down the traditional town-gown divide by placing the wealth of wisdom derived from real life experiences and direct community involvement within the context of an academic environment. Community Scholars learn an academic language that can be used to bolster grant proposals or reports to governmental agencies. When students present their organizing projects at the end of semester, other campus and community leaders are invited to not only join in the celebration but also to learn about how students and community residents were united in their efforts to enhance the common good and about how they, too, can become involved.
In the course’s eighth iteration, the instructors decided to change the focus of the course in order to recruit community leaders from around San Diego.7 In the past, the Community Scholars were recruited primarily from Linda Vista— the socio-economically, racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse community where USD is located. Working with regional partners, the instructors expanded the recruitment
Figure 2: Course Learning Objectives
Objective 1: Education
Addressing Community Identified Issues
effort by asking these partners to identity residents they thought would benefit from the course and who would also be willing to serve as elders, mentors, and teammates for the USD students with whom they would be paired. The instructors initially hoped for a dozen applicants to fill three to four slots but received over sixty applications with the vast majority of inquiries arriving well after the application deadline. Given the overwhelming interest that was shown, six applicants representing five sites were selected to take the course, and the remaining applicants form the pool for future cohorts.
Other crucial changes to the course were made as well. Building strong relationships between the Community Scholars and USD students and their community site/agency has always been an important course component.
However, the end goal of their particular projects frequently interferes with the optimum desired means of relationship building because neither side feels they have the time needed to actually create a sense of community by listening to each other’s “stories”; rather, they dive head first into the “fix it” stage of direct community involvement. Instead of having members of the class struggle to find a suitable community project and wanting more time spent on building community, the instructors intentionally selected Community Scholars who were able to articulate a specific community concern in their applications. Using the powerful “story circles” format, members of the class related three important moments in their lives that brought them to become involved in the community or inspired them to take the class. Based on mutual interests, teams of Scholars and USD students, which are known as core groups, were formed.8
Although the instructors worked with all members of the class, each took primary responsibility for handling questions about or helping with the organizing process. Chris addressed issues concerning community partnerships/agencies; Emalyn worked with the Scholars; Judith focused on the students; and all three dealt with the core groups. As the course progressed, class time became a model for community building as relationships based upon trust were created. Anything could be shared in the class without fear of judgment or having confidences betrayed. Members of the class expanded their definition of community. In final reflection papers, one member of the class wrote, “I see the community as much more dynamic now, with changing and evolving boundaries, physical and relational.” Another realized that:
A community organizer should not expect immediate results or promise immediate results to community partners. A community organizer’s job is not to fix things. I am not a Linda Vista “handy-woman” now; I am not Linda Vista’s savior. This class dashed any pre-existing notion its participants had about being able to “fix” Linda Vista in a hurry. That misconceived role of fixer has changed into a role of listener, activist, and partner.… Our role as community organizers is not to only help those in need, but to help ourselves (“ourselves” being all parties involved in the process).
When working within a community, the opportunity to create lasting relationships is a process that occurs in myriad ways. Reading about Barack Obama’s efforts in Chicago and Jordan Flaherty’s efforts in New Orleans provided concrete examples of the agony and ecstasy of organizing. One student wrote:
This class did help me in the process of really thinking about the many different ways to be an active member of a community; the different ways to be an activist. What I have learned about my role as an active member of a community is that consensus is a powerful tool in creating change. Its strength lies in its ability to build bridges. Many of my previous roles as an organizer were focused on how do “we” get what “we” want from “them,” in a more combative or strategic model of organizing. My role in a community is not only being active and speaking out against things that should not be happening, but also to build bridges from this community to that community. There is a need to create important links and relations with the Other and look toward what we can do together to help all of us. I see my role in the community as being active but being flexible in my approach and having the knowledge of employing different modes of organizing as the particular case demands.
Students wrote that by learning to “manage the process, not the people,” they came to understand that “agency, the ability to make plans, create visions, go forward with choices, and make an impact within the community” is crucial in their becoming engaged in the process. As another student wrote, “issues that community organizers work around are those that the people care most about. Consensus organizing brings the people of the community together in places and times in which they would not normally gather” rather than imposing some preconceived notion of “what ‘should be done.’”
Community Scholars benefited as well. Initially, some felt they were “in over [their] heads,” or “intimidated because [they] never went to college,” but they persisted. One wrote:
Overall I learned a lot by taking the course. When planning activities I will remember the power and need for social capital. I’ve already been applying that lesson to my work and have started a collection of weak ties. I meet a lot of people through my work and before this class I would talk only about the current project. Now I talk about what the person is interested in, other projects they’re working on, and ask for help making connections to other people. Since making some of these changes I’ve noticed more people are coming to me for help and asking me for resources and contacts. By nurturing these weak ties, some of the ties are becoming stronger as we’re making commitments to collaborate on projects. As acquaintances see the connections being made, they are asking to be involved. It’s exciting to be part of something where instead of trying to recruit people, people are trying to recruit you.
Another scholar wrote:
I remember the first night when Dr. Liu gave her first lecture on de Tocqueville and the difference between individualism and self-interest. I was absolutely enthralled. I also loved watching the Saul Alinsky video and the “We Were Warriors” video. As two extremely different aspects and methodologies of community organizing were portrayed in these films, you can see the passion and determination in both camps to bring change for the greater good in society.
These stories moved me and caused my heart to stir with excitement and anxiety. I can no longer claim ignorance in knowing how to bring about social change and therefore can no longer blissfully go about my life as a non-participant in civic engagement.
Thus, creating courses that intentionally and purposefully create strong, trusting relationships with the community can benefit both students and members of the community. No course can guarantee a lifelong commitment to being civically engaged, but in order to inspire students to continue in social justice work it must be meaningful; it is essential to give students an awareness of issues and the skills necessary to critically analyze those issues. If something is meaningful, it will have significance and this, in turn, can lead to active civic engagement. By “managing the process, not the people,” participants in the course learned a language that enabled them to connect their best intentions to meaningful social action and to obtain commitments from all respective parties in striving to achieve a common goal.
In the eight times this course has been taught, students and Community Scholars have made the commitment to continue to be socially and civically engaged by becoming community organizers, by working in and for after-school enrichment programs, by creating a program to teach Mixtec immigrants Spanish, by founding a service learning club in a local high school, by establishing an Engineering club employing the knowledge and skills they learned in the class, and by obtaining further education.9 Reflecting upon the course, one student said it best:
Lastly, I was thinking about the title of this class and how each word of it involves both sides: the organizers and the community members. For community we need to have at least some of the organizers be part of the community so they provide the insider perspective. Then we need to have the community members come together and form a supportive group with each other and with the core group, showing that there is a strong backbone of people behind the organizing efforts. For consensus we need input from all directions, organizers and community members. It cannot be one-sided or we will not have allowed for the greatest number of ideas and perspectives to the issues being dealt with. Both sides have equal value. For commitment we obviously need to have dedicated people involved with the organizing or there will be no progress. The core group especially needs to be dedicated to show the community how important the project is and set the example for the level of involvement. Then we also need a high level of commitment from the community members because without them there is nothing to organize.
Linking students with leaders who are active in their communities has the added advantage of creating a civic engagement model for students that is developmentally appropriate for their stage of life. Students live in a cultural world where the “instant” is everything, ranging from gratification to texting about the mundane to constantly updating one’s social network. Instilling an understanding that a lifelong commitment is necessary in sustaining social justice work and that collectively solving community issues is essential to maintaining the commonwealth helps students realize the importance of citizenship and their role in fostering it. Meaningful community service-learning that includes community activism can encourage students to consider what it means to be change agents and to include a lifelong civic commitment to community as part of their identity.
Appendix I: Sample Course Syllabus
Sociology 464 C/D Judith Liu, Chris Nayve, Emalyn Leppard Community, Consensus, and Commitment Spring 2011
COMMUNITY, CONSENSUS, AND COMMITMENT COURSE DESCRIPTION
“Nothing about us without us is for us”
-Poverty Truth Commission-
This interdisciplinary course will be useful for students who seek to understand and address contemporary social issues in a purposeful and strategic manner.
To help develop organizing leadership skills, the course will require students to apply these skills in community service-learning sites where they will utilize theory and practice. Students will learn the various dimensions of what constitutes community and how to apply the tools of community organizing, consensus-building, and sustaining commitment in addressing social issues.
Through this process, students will learn how to create positive change in their communities by utilizing effective analytical, planning, facilitation, and relationship-building skills that can help reverse social isolation through civic engagement.
Upon completion of the course and participating in an organizing effort, students will be able to:
- articulate sociological concepts such as community, individualism, and social capital
- distinguish the differences among various types of organizing
- apply consensus organizing skills
- read and write critically
- facilitate meetings
- prepare action plans
- give presentations
The learning objectives will be achieved by:
- forming teams (“core groups”)
- conducting meetings within the community (“house meetings”)
- identification of issues as determined by community scholars
- class activities and exercise that draw on knowledge gained
- class learning circles
- team facilitations of required readings
- team presentations
- on-line reflections
- individual analysis papers
- team action plan
Michael Eichler, Consensus Organizing: Building Communities of Mutual Self-Interest
(Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2007).
Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004) Additional readings and handouts will be distributed in class.
Lectures and Reading Assignments
Wednesdays, 6:00 – 8:50 P.M., Loma Hall 321
Week 1 January 26, 2011 – Introduction/Orientation Course Requirements
Course Introduction Site Preferences
Lecture: Participatory Democracy
Assignment: Read and send responses to the questions on Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father, Chapters 1-3 (Unit 1).
Week 2 February 2, 2011 – Framing the Issue Community – Strong and weak ties
PUM Interpretation – Career Services
Assignment I: Team directed discussion of the readings.
Class responses to the reading must be sent by the CE (WebCT/Blackboard).
Assignment II: Read and sent responses to the questions on Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father, Chapters 4-6.
Week 3 February 9, 2011 – Social Capital
Creating Core Groups
Readings: Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father, chapters 1-3.
Assignment: Team directed discussion of the readings.
Class responses to the readings must be sent through CE (WebCT/Blackboard).
Week 4 February 16, 2011 – Social Capital
Lecture: The value and dimensions of social capital Various types of capital
Team facilitation of readings CONFIDENTIAL PEER EVALUATIONS DUE
Readings: Course Reader Under Course Readings icon on the home page: Ivan Light, Social Capital Unique Accessibility,@ Journal of the American Planning Association70 (2): 145-151.
Robert D. Putnam, ABowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,@ Journal of Democracy 6(1): 65-78, January 1995.
Assignment I: Site visits.
Read and send responses to the questions on Michael Eichler,
Consensus Organizing, Introduction and chapters 1-3 (Unit 5).
Team directed discussion of the readings.
Class responses to the readings must be sent through the CE(WebCT/Blackboard).
Assignment II: Create a Social Capital Map of your community. Each student/community member should create his/her own social capital map, combine all of the information into one map for the team, and submit both maps. Hold at least one meeting of the core group by no later than Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Write a 3-5 page reflection paper on the process and outcomes of the meeting (due Wednesday, March 2, 2011). Complete the Social Capital Map during the first core group meeting.
Week 5 February 23, 2011 – Civil Society Team facilitation of reading
CONFIDENTIAL PEER EVALUATIONS DUE
Readings: Course Reader Under Course Readings icon on the home page: Michael Edwards, Civil Society.
Barack Obama, Dreams, chapters 4-6.
Assignment I: Reminder: Create a Social Capital Map of your community. Each student/community member should create his/her own social capital map, combine all of the information into one map for the team, and submit both maps. Hold at least one meeting of the core group by no later than Tuesday, March 1, 2011. Write a 3-5 page reflection paper on the process and outcomes of the meeting (due Wednesday, March 2, 2011). Complete the Social Capital Map during the first core group meeting.
Assignment II: Read and send responses to the questions on Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father, Chapters 7-10 (Unit 7).
Under Course Readings icon on the home page, read and send responses to the questions on Jordan Flaherty, Floodlines:
Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, (Unit 7) through the CE (WebCT/Blackboard).
Week 6 March 2, 2011 – Organizing Models Team facilitation on readings Social Capital Map Due
FIRST CORE GROUP REFLECTION PAPER DUE CONFIDENTIAL PEER EVALUATIONS DUE
Team presentations on Core Group Meetings
Readings: Course Reader Under Course Readings icon on the home page: Larry McNeil, The Soft Art of Organizing
Marshall Ganz, On Organizing Fran Peavy, Strategic Questioning
Michael Eichler, Consensus Organizing, Introduction, Chapters 1-3.
Assignment: Team directed discussion of the readings.
Class responses to the readings must be sent through the CE (WebCT/Blackboard) Mail.
Week 7 March 9, 2011
Guest Speaker – Jordan Flaherty
Readings: Course Reader. Under the Course Readings icon on the home page: Jordan Flaherty, Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six.
Barack Obama, Dreams, chapters 7-10.
Assignment I: Conduct at least the second meeting of your core group before Tuesday, March 29, 2011 to discuss outreach efforts and results; recruit new members. The main emphasis of this meeting will be on outreach. Write a 3-5 page reflection paper on
the process and outcomes of your second core group meeting (paper due Wednesday, March 30, 2011).
Assignment II: Read and send responses to the questions on Michael Eichler, Consensus Organizing, chapters 4-9 and Barack Obama, Dreams, chapters 11-14 (Unit 9).
Week 8 Monday, March 14 – Friday, March 18, 2011 Spring Break
Week 9 March 23, 2011 – Knowing Your Community and Outreach Team Facilitation on Readings
CONFIDENTIAL PEER EVALUATIONS DUE
Readings: Course Reader. Under the Course Readings icon on the home page: Christine Killory, Temporary Suburbs, Journal of San Diego History 39 (Winter-Spring 1993).
Suzanne M. Singh, Neighborhood Strengthening Through Community Building.
Michael Eichler, Consensus Organizing, chapters 4-9.
Assignment I: Reminder: Conduct at least the second meeting of your core group before Tuesday, March 29, 2011 to discuss outreach efforts and results; recruit new members. The main emphasis of this meeting will be on outreach. Write a 3-5 page reflection paper on the process and outcomes of your second core group meeting (paper due Wednesday, March 30, 2011).
Assignment II: Read and send responses to the questions on Michael Eichler, chapters 10-13 and Epilogue (Unit 10) through the CE(WebCT/Blackboard) Mail.
Week 10 March 30, 2011
REFLECTION PAPER ON SECOND CORE GROUP MEETING(S) DUE
CONFIDENTIAL PEER EVALUATION DUE
Team presentations on the core group meeting(s)
Assignment: Team directed discussion of the readings.
Class responses to the readings must be sent through the CE (WebCT/Blackboard) Mail.
Week 11 April 6, 2011
Conducting a Successful House Meeting Lecture: Facilitation and Leadership
Readings: Michael Eichler, Consensus Organizing, Chapter 10-13; Epilogue.
Assignment I: Organize and conduct at least one house meeting by no later than Tuesday, April 19, 2011 and write a 3-5 page reflection paper on the process and outcomes of the house meeting (due Wednesday, April 20, 2011).
Assignment II: Read and send responses to the questions on Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father, chapters 15-17 (Unit 12) through the CE(WebCT/Blackboard)AMail@.
Week 12 April 13, 2011 – House Meetings Conducting a Successful House meeting Team facilitation of reading
CONFIDENTIAL PEER EVALUATION DUE
Readings: Course Reader Under Course Readings icon on the home page: Sherry Arnstein, A Ladder of Citizen Participation.
Assignment I: Reminder: Organize and conduct a house meeting by no later than Tuesday, April 19, 2011 and write a 3-5 page reflection paper on the process and outcomes of the house meeting (due Wednesday, April 20, 2011).
Assignment II: Read and send responses to the questions on Barack Obama, Dreams From My Father, chapters 18-19 (Unit 13) and the Epilogue through the CE(WebCT/Blackboard) Mail.
Week 13 April 20, 2011 – On Creating and Sustaining Commitment REFLECTION PAPER ON THE HOUSE MEETING DUE CONFIDENTIAL PEER EVALUATION DUE
Team presentations on the house meeting
Readings: Barack Obama, Dreams, chapters 15-17.
Assignment: Write a community action plan and your role in realizing that action plan that will be presented to the class (due Wednesday, May 4, 2011).
Week 14 April 27, 2011 – Creating a Successful Leadership Group Strengthening the Core Group
Readings: Barack Obama, Dreams, chapters 18-19; Epilogue.
Assignment: Reminder: Write a community action plan and your role in realizing that action plan that will be presented to the class (due Wednesday, May 4, 2011).
Week 15 May 4, 2011 – Action Plans
Presentation of Action Plans
Rehearsal for Graduation Presentations
Assignment: Write a 5-7 page reflection paper on the course (due May 11, 2011).
Week 16 May 11, 2011 – Graduation Dinner Ceremony, 6:00 – 8:45 P.M. Celebration and Graduation – Salomon Lecture Hall, Maher Hall COURSE REFLECTION PAPER DUE
COMMUNITY SCHOLARS RETURN BOOKS
Bourdieu, P. (1986). “The forms of capital,” Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education, ed. by J. G. Richardson. New York: Greenwood Press, 1986.
de Tocqueville, A. Democracy in America. Available at
Eichler, M. (2007). Consensus organizing: building communities of mutual self-interest.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Flaherty, J. (2010). Floodlines: community and resistance from Katrina to the Jena six.
Chicago: Haymarket Books.
Granovetter, M. (1983). “The strength of weak ties.” Sociological Theory 1: 201-233. Light, I. “Social capital’s unique accessibility.” Accessed from:
Liu, J., Elliott, E., Loggins, J., & Nayve, C. (April 2006). “Toward common unity: from silent to more equitable partnerships.” Metropolitan University Journal: An International Forum17(1): 104-115.
Obama, B. (2004). Dreams from my father; a story of race and inheritance. New York: Three Rivers Press.
Putnam, R. (January 1995). “Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital.”
Journal of Democracy 6(1): 65-78.
About the author:
Judith Liu is a professor of Sociology at the University of San Diego and the Faculty Liaison at the Center for Community Service-Learning. She was one of the 2010 Campus Compact Finalists for the Thomas Ehrlich Civically Engaged Faculty Award.
Professor and Faculty Liaison, Department of Sociology and Center for Community Service-Learning, University of San Diego, 5998 Alcalà Park, San Diego, CA, 92110. firstname.lastname@example.org
1 This Poverty Truth Commission statement served as the slogan of the course.
2 This article is dedicated to the memory of Debra Stephens, a 2011 Community Scholar, who was an inspiration to all of us.
3 Originally, the community members were referred to as “Community Fellows,” but in response to feedback from them that “fellows” had sexist connotations, the name, “Community Scholars,” was adopted.
4 Community Scholars are required to give a $100 refundable deposit for the course materials. At the end of the course, Scholars can return the textbooks and receive their deposits back; if they choose to keep the texts, the $100 is used to offset the costs.
5 Since the inception of the program, only fifteen Scholars have selected the option for Continuing Education credit. These Scholars tended to be teachers who used the course to augment their professional development, increase their knowledge base as well as to fulfill their advanced education requirements.
6 See Appendix I for key elements contained in the syllabus.
7 The instructors for the course were also carefully considered. The community member who was asked to co-teach the class, Emalyn Leppard, could not have been better. Although a USD graduate, Em was anything but the typical USD undergraduate. As an older, “non-traditional” student, Em was a single parent and a work-study student employed at the CCSL who, after graduation, became an award-winning middle school teacher in Linda Vista. Moreover, she was a Community Scholar in an earlier CCC cohort who had already experienced many of the ups and downs that come with community organizing work. The professional, Chris Nayve, became the director of the CCSL in Fall 2010, and he has long-standing ties with the community partners since joining the CCSL in 1996.
8 Jordan Flaherty writes in Floodlines: community and resistance from Katrina to the Jena six about the power of the “story circle”—individuals telling their own stories and how these stories serve as the basis to develop a deep and lasting bond/relationship. Flaherty commends those who possess the ability and patience to establish bonds noting that the results are well worth the energy and time investment.
9 Since 2004, 114 students and Community Scholars have taken the course. Of the 67 students for which there are data, 11 students kept on working in the community; 20 went on to attend graduate school, with some deciding upon community development as their focus; and 15 Community Scholars continued their projects.
© 2012 Journal for Civic Commitment