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Reflections

CCPA 2375: Learning beyond the Hilltop – A Student’s Perspective

The Fall 2023 semester flew by instantly as I joined the Engage Dallas team as a Program Assistant and began my junior year at SMU. Through the Meadows School of the Arts Corporate Communications and Public Affairs (CCPA) 2375 – Communication Research & Analytics class, I could connect my course work with my service learning.

Alongside 30 classmates, we had a phenomenal opportunity to work with Engage Dallas community partner Dallas Furniture Bank (DFB) to conduct a case manager perception study on DFB programs. DFB provides furniture that meets the basic living needs of families and individuals transitioning from homelessness to others in need. Under the supervision of our professor, Assistant Provost Dr. Dustin Grabsch, and counsel of DFB Managers, our class conducted a mixed-methods research study, using interviews and statistical data to find common themes and areas of development for the furniture bank. Early in the research process, three classmates of mine, Gracie Holder, Addison Shaw, and Abby Walker, participated in #1Day4Dallas this year at the Dallas Furniture Bank, helping arrange furniture at their Carrollton warehouse. This gave us an opportunity to see the work of DFB first-hand.

#1Day4Dallas CCPA 2375 volunteers at DFB. Photo Credit: Gracie Holder
#1Day4Dallas CCPA 2375 volunteers at DFB. Photo Credit: Gracie Holder

Throughout the semester, we contacted case managers who partnered with the bank and received continuous feedback on our work. Our focus questions were:

  1. Describe the experience with Dallas Furniture Bank’s programs and services as perceived by partner agency case managers.
  2. What strengths and challenges do Dallas Furniture Bank partner agencies experience when rehousing their clients within the first year?

This four-month study concluded with a presentation in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center, where community stakeholders from Engage Dallas and Dallas Furniture Bank attended to hear from the class about our research findings. Recommendations included streamlining case management communication channels, areas for expansion, and ways for DFB to market its opportunities to college students.

This experience was rewarding in many ways, including having a product to give to a community organization to increase their abilities to better serve the Dallas community. Through research and comparison of programs in other metropolitan areas, we are lucky to have organizations like Dallas Furniture Bank who assist in providing necessary community resources. Alongside my fabulous grade and gratitude from DFB, I take away the reaffirmed importance of data-driven research and exploring new ways to do things.

Learning about community service in the classroom is an experience uniquely possible at SMU. Faculty and staff interested in working with Engage Dallas or our partners in their classrooms should visit smu.edu/EngageDallas or email us at engagedallas@smu.edu. You can also stay updated on Engage Dallas by subscribing to our blog.

 

Categories
Announcements Community Partners Kathy Crow Commons MHPS Commons Reflections

Winding Down 2023 with Engage Dallas

As the fall semester comes to a close, we would like to take a moment to reflect and celebrate. Students have participated in a variety of service projects this semester, serving a total of 1,519 hours, 986 of them being direct service hours in the community. Students had the opportunity to serve with a range of our community partners from After8toEducate to Empowering the Masse to Genesis Benefit Thrift Store and many more.

SMU students volunteering at Readers2Leaders

We heard from a couple of our first-year Engage Dallas Student Directors as they shared what they enjoyed. Hannah Green, our Student Director for Mary Hay Peyton Shuttles Commons, says, “Being an Engage Dallas Student Director has been such a growth experience for me. I love having the responsibility of planning and organizing events that other students can participate in.” When asked about the challenges she faced, she responded, “I think the most challenging part of having this position is the logistical responsibility along with the potential changes in plans that you might have to work around. Considering this, I think one thing that I have learned to develop is a solution-focused mindset.” 

Miles Chen is our student director for Kathy Crow Commons. He said he enjoyed, “… working with our community partners and learning more about what’s going on in the city. It was also really fun getting to serve alongside other SMU students.” A challenge for Miles was “…getting enough students to attend the service events, so I hope more students will learn about and get involved with Engage Dallas next semester! I also hope students will get to see service as less of a requirement, and more of something fun and impactful that they have the opportunity to do!”

Students serving at Austin Street Center for #1Day4Dallas

If you’re looking to get connected this spring, consider participating in an Alternative Break trip, where you can volunteer during spring break and fulfill your Community Engagement and Civics & Individual Ethics Proficiencies and Experiences to graduate. We have trips going out to Austin, Texarkana, and McAllen. We also offer Solo Service where students can serve with our community partners on an individual basis. We thank everyone who participated this semester and look forward to working with you next semester!

Finally, if you’ve ever considered planning and leading service trips like Hannah and Miles, consider applying to be an Engage Dallas Student Director for the 2024-2025 school year. Applications open January 22.

Make sure to follow us on Instagram @smu.engage.dallas to stay connected! 

Categories
Community Partners Event Reflections

Engage Dallas hosts 3rd Annual #1Day4Dallas

On October 21st, Engage Dallas hosted their third annual #1Day4Dallas fall day of service. 151 volunteers from all 11 Residential Commons spent their morning serving with 13 of our Community Partners in West and South Dallas.

The day started off with breakfast tacos from Bonton Farms, an urban farm located in South Dallas. The Engage Dallas Student Directors and SMUSH volunteers helped check in the participants, who then heard some inspiring words from SMU’s Associate Director for High-Impact Practices, Audryanna Reed.

Our volunteers were shuttled to our thirteen sites throughout the South and West Dallas communities. They served with After8toEducate, Austin Street Center, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Dallas Furniture Bank, Empowering the Masses, Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support, Greenspace Dallas, Jubilee Park Community Center, Legacy Cares, Our Saviour Community Gardens, Sunny South Community Garden, The Bridge Homeless Recovery Center, and Voice of Hope.

Staff and faculty volunteered alongside our students, participating in donation sorting, window cleaning, gardening, furniture building, and many other tasks. Volunteers were able to learn about the Community Partner they were working with, gaining a better understanding of the challenges the community is facing and the ways these organizations are supporting and enriching their neighborhoods.

Student feedback included excitement about working together with their peers, learning about the Community Partners, and helping the organizations in tangible ways. They enjoyed interacting with the employees at each site as well as the individuals who were receiving assistance. It was also an opportunity for students to learn more about the history of South and West Dallas and how that has impacted those who live there.

One student shared that “seeing people from different aspects of life (SMU or community volunteers) come together to achieve a common goal was very impactful. It’s nice to see that we can set aside our differences to work together to achieve more.”

Thank you to all who served with Engage Dallas and made the third annual #1Day4Dallas a success! We invite participants to check back with their Commons to see the upcoming monthly events and continue to serve.

Follow us on Instagram @smu.engage.dallas to stay up to date with Engage Dallas!

Categories
News Reflections

The Inaugural Engage Dallas Bus Tour

The inaugural Engage Dallas Bus tour took place on September 8. A total of 27 students participated and explored several historical sites around Dallas. We are so grateful to have partnered with Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation who led the tour. In many ways, the tour highlighted the way that race and race relations in Dallas have impacted the lives of many Dallas natives. The tour also adds clarity to Engage Dallas’ place-based approach to service.

The tour went as follows:

Stop 1: John Neely Bryan Cabin, Old Red Courthouse, and Martyrs Park.

Students reading about John Neely Bryan’s Cabin.

Stop 2: Allen Brooks Marker

Stop 3: Pike Park and Santos Rodriguez Memorial

Students at the Santos Rodriguez Memorial.

Stop 4: Freedman’s Cemetery and Memorial

Stop 5: Booker T. Washington High School, St. Paul United Methodist Church, and Old Moreland YMCA.

Stop 6: Dallas Heritage Village, Millermore Mansion, and Gano House

Stop 7: Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House

Group picture in front of the Juanita J. Craft Civil Rights House.

In a post-event assessment, some of the students shared what they learned from the tour. One student shared:

“I learned about how gentrification of towns can affect racial demographics.” Another said: “I learned about important people like Juanita Craft and Santos Rodriguez.”

Other students shared what they liked about the event.

“I liked how we were able to see some landmarks, and information about important people that I didn’t know existed.”

Another student expressed, “I liked to see the women’s representation during that period [of time].”

We’d like to acknowledge that all students who participated earned 4.5 hours of general engagement that go towards their Community Engagement and/or Civics & Individual Ethics Proficiency.

We hope to make this tour an annual event.

Stay connected with us by following @smu.engage.dallas on Instagram!

 

 

Categories
Announcements Boaz Commons Cockrell-McIntosh Commons Community Partners Event McElvaney Commons MHPS Commons News Reflections

Big iDeas from SMU Students

The 2023 Big iDeas Case Study Competition, hosted by the Housing Unification Board in collaboration with the Office of Engaged Learning and Engage Dallas, was a resounding success with four student projects receiving funding to support a community engagement event with one of their Commons’ Engage Dallas Community Partners. This year a total of $6,500 was allocated to the four winning Commons to implement their pitched events. 

Cockrell-McIntosh Commons received $500 to create college preparation baskets for the students of LNESC who are planning to start college in the fall. SMU students dropped off baskets filled with dorm and basic school supplies as gifts to the students who were attending LNESC’s College Signing Day event. 

Boaz Commons received $1,000 to support the planting of a fig orchard on site with their Community Partner, Our Saviour Community Garden. Boaz was able to purchase a tiller to help with preparing the plots to plant the trees. Nine students attended the planting event where they helped to plant the trees and set irrigation to ensure that the plants would flourish.

Boaz Commons Residents with tiller bought for Our Saviour Community Garden
Boaz Commons Residents with tiller bought for Our Saviour Community Garden.

McElvaney Commons was awarded $2,000 to support Brother Bill’s Helping Hand (BBHH) with implementing their Neighbors Day event. McElvaney was able to sponsor the health and fitness stage where local neighbors were able to attend free Zumba and fitness classes during the event. SMU students served with BBHH staff to help manage the event and ensure that all neighbors had a fun and healthy experience. 

Mary Hay, Peyton, Shuttles (MHPS) Commons took home the grand prize of $3,000 to implement their “Storytime!” event with their community partner, Heart House. MHPS residents led Heart House students in a lesson on one of four stories: Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Coco, and The Little Mermaid. All students got to take home a copy of their book along with a craft that corresponded with their particular story. Manju Warrier, Director of Teaching Programs at Heart House, shared that their “students had so much fun touring the campus, participating in the activities, and interacting with SMU students. We are so grateful for our partnership with Engage Dallas and are excited for future partnership opportunities.”This was the second year that MHPS was able to partner with Heart House to bring students to campus and Student Director, Ruhani Ahluwalia, hopes that the partnership will continue next year. 

Heart House students posing on campus with MHPS Commons residents on campus tour of SMU.
Heart House students posing on campus with MHPS Commons residents on campus tour of SMU.

Engage Dallas would like to, once again, extend their deepest thanks to the Housing Unification Board and the Office of Engaged Learning for a wonderful event. We cannot wait to see what amazing events are dreamed up for next year’s event!