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Conversation #100: Service Learning Omnibus

A conversation between Lisa Schulte-Gipson (CAT+FD & Psychology), Kendra Warren (Student Affairs), and eight directors of local community partners.

[tree]Lisa received her BS from Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA). She attended SUNY Albany where she earned both her MA and PhD in Social/Personality Psychology.

Lisa has worked at Xavier University since 1993 and she is the Keller Family Foundation Professor of Arts and Sciences.

Throughout her tenure at Xavier she has served both the University and Department in many capacities, currently serving as Chair of the Psychology Department and as the Faculty in Residence for Service Learning at CAT+FD

Her current research focuses on both the scholarship of teaching and learning (SOTL) and positive psychology (specifically as related to enhancing well-being among students).

Kendra C. Warren is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and is a product of the Archdiocese Catholic Schools. She attended St. Phillip the Apostle School and is an alumni of St. Mary’s Academy. After graduating from St. Mary’s Academy, she completed her undergraduate degree from Dillard University where she earned B. A. in Mass Communications.

Kendra is the Associate Director of Service-Learning and Coordinator of Student Support for the office of Inclusion and Social Justice. She works with faculty, staff, students and community to provide relevant service-learning projects. She also collaborates with agencies and groups to assess local needs and recruit students and faculty to provide volunteer assistance. She serves as a university liaison to the community.

Kendra also works with the Vincent’s Vault Food Pantry and Gumbo Garden where she does comprehensive scheduling each semester that details when they will host volunteers, direct volunteers to navigate appropriate times and sign up for shifts.

Kendra uses every opportunity she can to share her story of survival and how to over-come obstacles as she assists students. She encourages students to give back to their community by ensuring that they fulfill their service- learning requirements.

Kendra’s mantra is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” She realizes that God does not make mistakes and everything that He allows is part of His perfect plan.

She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and prides herself in promoting and educating college students on the importance of learning to serve others. In her spare time, she enjoys dining out, shopping and working out. She is a member St. Peter Claver Church.

Links for this episode

  1. Operation Restoration
  2. Lift Louisiana
  3. Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Louisiana
  4. Broadmoor Improvement Association
  5. Hagar's House
  6. Trinity Community Center
  7. Fund 17
  8. Anna's Place


Lisa Schulte-Gipson: Hello. This Dr. Lisa Schulte at Xavier University of Louisiana. For those less familiar with our institution,  Xavier University of Louisiana is located in New Orleans, Louisiana. I’m an associate professor and chair of the Department of Psychology. This podcast emerged from my work with Xavier’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development. I currently serve as the center’s faculty in residence for service learning. In this capacity, I work to ensure that service learning projects are pedagogically sound and are of benefit to both students and our community partners. Overall, my goal is to ensure high-quality, in-depth and mutually beneficial service learning experiences. As is the case for many individuals, COVID-19 affected my work. Going remote in the Spring of 2020, coupled with the need to offer flexible teaching and community service experiences presented both challenges and new opportunities. This semester I and Ms. Kendra Warren from Xavier's Office of Student Affairs, were able to remotely meet with directors of local community partners. Ms.Warren's assistance was instrumental in that she researched centers made initial contacts and scheduled interviews. Without her contributions, these interviews would not have occurred and this podcast would not exist. Through the course of our conversations, we pose the same question to each center director. The question was, what are some of the greatest needs of your clients? And how can students, through service learning help to fulfill them? Of course, this was not the only question or topic we discussed. Our conversations were rich and incredibly informative. This podcast is a compilation of responses to our questions. My hope is that it'll inspire others to research organizations within their communities, understand their needs, and develop enriching and mutually beneficial service learning projects. 

Lisa Sprouse: Hi, my name is Lisa Sprouse, I'm the lead instructor at Operation Restoration. I also coordinate our internship and volunteer programs. Operation Restoration is a nonprofit in New Orleans that is meant to serve women and girls impacted by incarceration. Our main goals are to eliminate all the barriers that formerly incarcerated women encounter when they're going to successfully re-enter into society in New Orleans. The main things that we cover: education needs, helping with social services, which could be SNAP and Medicaid applications, stable housing and stable employment. Basically anything that will help our women succeed in society and reach the goals that they set for themselves. I'd say the main means that are coming up for our clientele. We always have a need and social services to help women, you know,

received some assistance and benefits. So a lot of work with SNAP and Medicaid, looking for funding for different needs that women have. Education is a very big push at Operation Restoration. So right now we do have high-set classes, which is the equivalent of the GED. We are also working on opening an ESL program for women to do self advocacy in immigration court system. And we also work with job training skills, helping women with resumes, because we really see education as the pathway to better and stable employment. Education and employment together are one of the biggest things that are seen to work as anti-recidivism for people that are previously incarcerated. I would say another big need for our clientele,  is just

someone to make sure that they don't get lost in the system. So whether that's if a client comes to us as education, as social services, or someone that has just been released from bail, released from jail on a bond because we do run the New Orleans Safety and Freedom Fund. I would say that the big need there is just whatever background these women have, that we have someone that can follow through with them to see what their needs are. So for something like that, that would be great for students that are in a communications domain, or maybe a policy or a pre-law domain, where you can really incorporate your research and your classroom knowledge of the different processes of being released on bail, making sure that you meet your court hearings, what things you do and do not qualify for as a previously incarcerated person, and just helping our ladies understand these because this is, you know, as our director Syrita said, none of these systems were made to contain women or girls. So if they're not meant to contain them, they're not meant to help them either. So we're really just looking for people of different backgrounds that can use not just their academic training, but really just their interests to help our women. If you're, you know, if you're coming in through education, this could be that you like to, you know, research curriculum, you could just research curriculum and have stuff ready for our students. If you really like interacting with people, virtual tutoring with our students is available. And that can come from any background, right? My background is not in adult education, or ending mass incarceration. My background is that I'm a linguist from Tulane. So it is really just my desire to help New Orleans and use my academic background and actually, a community site is what pulled me in and I think that a lot of students could have that same pool. 

Robin Barbra: Well, my name is Robin Barbara, and I am the statewide Outreach organizer, and educator for Lift Louisiana. We are a reproductive rights, health and justice organization. We advocate, educate and litigate for reproductive rights in the state of Louisiana. And Xavier students can support us in a number of ways. We want to make sure we are putting out information so that everybody in the state of Louisiana who's interested and needs the information can get it. We want to make sure we highlight different factions of the society, young people, LGBT community people, heterosexuals, pink, polka dot, anybody that needs the information, we welcome the opportunity to work with young students from across campuses in New Orleans, as well as the state of Louisiana, to help us get folks educated to some of the issues that are facing our state right now.

Sarah Jane Lowery: I am Sarah Jane Lowery, the West Bank unit director, with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeast Louisiana. I'm also currently working as a virtual facilitator for our locations across the New Orleans metro area. In New Orleans proper on also on the North Shore in Covington and Slidell. The Boys and Girls Club is an after school enrichment program that serves children from 6 years old to 18, but typically serves up to middle schoolers. And as we're reopening now, in the fall, our greatest needs is supporting our members academically, because a lot of them haven't had the technology to really engage since the schools closed in March, and typically don't have the support outside of school that they would need to really get them where they need to be to have the amazing features that they really can have. And also, because we are an after school enrichment program, we want to bring a little bit of everything to them from creative writing, to sports, to communication, to using Twitter, to building bridges, to engage them any way they possibly can be and show them what's out there. Because they're in schools that don't have that, they're in schools that don't have any of the extras that students typically have. So we look to provide that in any opportunity we can in, any way we can. And especially now that everything's virtual, we want to open those doors even more. And specifically, Xavier teachers, professors and students can do that with us, and with all of the amazing things they're learning over there.

Sarah Pritchard: So my name is Sarah Pritchard. And I am the Executive Director of the Broadmoor Improvement Association. We are a neighborhood nonprofit organization that really exists to support the overall health and wellness and improve the quality of life of people who live, work and play in the Broadmoor neighborhood. And when I think about specifically needs of people in the neighborhood, that rise the top for me right now, um, food security is really an issue that we are seeing much more prevalently. Since the pandemic began, we have a food pantry that we run twice a week, that has seen an increase of surving an average of 200 families a month before the pandemic to now we serve an average of 500 families every month, and sometimes more than that. So certainly, anything that we can do to support the overall food security of people in our neighborhood is greatly appreciated. And we have in addition to the pantry started, a community garden that we are working on, in partnership with NORA, and they're Growing Green program, and that we're really just building out and using that as a demonstration site to help people who may want to learn how to grow their own food, as well as supporting the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that we're able to offer at the pantry. Oh, and how can Xavier students? Sorry, I missed the second part. How can Xavier students help? I think, really Xavier students who are interested in supporting food security, and who are interested in helping to think about what is a community based food system really look like. Um, from growing food to supports like the food pantry to even business development and thinking about how do we support local food businesses. And all of those things are things that we are really interested in working on and would love to work with Xavier faculty and students on those things. 

Madeleine Replogle: Yeah, for sure. Um, so I'm the program director here at Hagar’s House, and we are a home for women and children, and then anyone who identifies as transgender as well. So we've been around since 2007. And we have this like big, beautiful house in Mid-City. And we have capacity for four unaccompanied folks, and three full families at any time. So the primary service that we provide is shelter and like the experience of living somewhere that is safe and beautiful, and like having a community where we focus on like really being our best selves and helping each other grow. So that's the main service, we also have something that's kind of like case management, but we call it capacity building. So everyone who's in the house meets with a capacity building partner at least once a week to kind of like plan their next steps and their goals. And then, they're able to stay at the house kind of in line with that plan. So we don't have like a time when people have to move out the average day is about six months. But since we also provide services to undocumented folks, we sometimes have people stay for years while they're getting work permits, visas and all that. Within the, so we are a project of the First Grace Community Alliance under that project is also Project Ishmael, which is a pro bono legal project for immigrant children. So we do a lot of work with undocumented folks by helping them have a safe place to stay. The most, the huge one that I'm thinking of is housing insecurity, obviously, that the folks who are living here are dealing with like past evictions with fines from past apartments, that like there's all these barriers that continue even after they've moved out that make it so difficult for them to get into a new place. The housing market is terrible right now, there's nowhere available. And when there are places available, they're snapped up really quickly. So help with building relationships with landlords who are willing to accept folks from programs like ours, or willing to accept like Rapid Rehousing Funds, which we’re sometimes able to get and then helping clients search for apartments and like, find places that are safe and affordable. It takes up a lot of our time. Food insecurity is a pretty big deal. Getting food stamps, especially for someone who's undocumented is literally impossible. They have to choose between like the path to citizenship and the ability to feed their family. So being able to know like which food pantries are open, if they have like volunteers go and pick up the food and bring it back to the house. Like what paperwork they need, where they are, what their eligibility requirements are. Figuring out like how to feed the people here is huge. And then also transportation and childcare are two like huge barriers to getting a job in first place. So any kind of like rideshare services that are available, researching those options, are there like organizations that donate classes to agencies like us or can we like build those relationships and get those donations. And then my dream is to have a partnership with the childcare facility where they will like, sign an MOU with us and provide childcare to our families. And that is a project that at least in the beginning stages, students could help with with like finding out what facilities are open, if there's any of you who have like a history of being involved in like social justice projects for these kind of partnerships, or what the process would be for us to get certified as a childcare center ourselves so that we can provide that to people. Those are just a few. There’s more.

Dazell Green: Hi, my name is Dazell Green. I am the Coordinator of Student Life here at Trinity Community Center. We are located behind Costco in Hollygrove. We primarily serve children at this moment, giving them after school support, enrichment, which can look like dancing, cooking, life skills. We also run a summer camp that runs for eight weeks in the summertime. We also do serve the actual community families that are based in Hollygrove, those families come to us to get access for government assistance, parent enrichment classes, and other needs that arise upon when they meet. Some of our goals on top three, I'm one of them looks like help from Xavier students with our parent enrichment classes. So we have a big need, especially during these times. None of our parents or the community members know how to go online and do basic computer literacy things. So Microsoft Word classes that a college student could teach or as simple as filling out a food stamp application online versus having to print it out and fax it over. That is one of our needs. I can let T’yanna do the other one. T’yanna JacksonThe consistent volunteer base with our after school programming. 

Oh, she caught me. I'm sorry, I'm T’yanna with Trinity Community Center. I am Community Impact manager and we are trying to basically build a consistent base of volunteers and support so that we can build this seemingly community of support for Hollygrove and the Greater New Orleans area. So that looks like tutors for our tutoring program, that looks like volunteers for our service learning projects, or community service projects in the neighborhood or in our community center specifically.

Kalena Meyer:  My name is Kalena Meyer, I'm the operations manager at Fund 17. In my role, I am in charge of recruiting, training, managing most of our interns. I also am in charge of individual fundraising, fundraising campaigns from individual donors. And I plan and run and coordinate and evaluate our programs. So that's most of my role, and yeah, I'm definitely the primary person when it comes to intern recruitment, outreach and engagement and that kind of thing. The work that we do that our possibilities for getting assistance with this could look like a lot of different things. Policy research, grants, fundraising, HR in terms of like developing more onboarding, hiring practices, employee manuals, all that kind of stuff, kind of like general internal operations policies procedure. We only have two full time people. Our organization is eight years old, and we just don't have a whole lot of internal like structures and things going on policies, practices and procedures, that kind of thing. Let's see. Outreach, outreach with entrepreneurs, better advertising our programs, recruiting more people into our programs, developing better relationships with other entrepreneurial support organizations, more robust referral networks, partner agreements,. strategy, like doing a kind of better like needs assessment and possibly seen how we could modify our programs or even create a new program to better meet those needs, evaluation and impact assessment. And there any other, oh, marketing, like social media, we're redesigning our website, imagery, graphics, and capital access. So we don't directly provide money. But we do assist people with finding capital and other ways, especially through Kiva loans. That's a program that we have. So expanding our capacity to provide QLM, expanding our capacity to provide with obtaining other loans, developing our own internal loan fund. And off the top, I think that those are — I know, that was like an enormous list [inaudible] of our clients right now, our access to capital, and one on one, extra advising and guidance, a real person who can talk with them about what their needs are, and tailor education and advice and resources to them. And to that end, we would need help with building our organization's capacity to provide that, plain and simple. And that can look like a lot of different things. 

Brianna Carr: I'm Brianna Carr, I'm the director of Anna's Place NOLA, a youth program that services at risk youth 5 to 18 years old throughout the Greater New Orleans area. We provide youth with academic enhancement in arts activities, typically, four days a week. Due to COVID-19, it is now virtual, and we provide these activities five days a week. The biggest issue we have found with our students that we believe Xavier could help us with is lack of social support in the home, and positive mentorship in their community.

LSG: I would like to thank all center directors, who took time out of their busy schedules to be meet with me and talk about their mission and goals. My general hope is that this podcast motivates others to learn more about what is going on in their community and inspires them to serve. A more specific goal is to inspire educators to incorporate service learning into their courses. As service learning enriches the courses, and students as well as professor’s experience. I thank all who listened to this podcast. If you like what you've heard and want to keep up with our program, please subscribe to our podcast.

Transcript by Darriell Robertson

About Bart Everson

Creative Generalist in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana

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