By Dr. Ellen Kennedy, director of service-learning

Last fall the University of St. Thomas began a new program called “The Changing Faces of Minnesota.” Six faculty members and their classes went to Abraham Lincoln High School, a school for immigrant and refugee students in Minneapolis, for six class periods. Lincoln and St. Thomas students worked together on math problems, writing poetry, producing a play and getting to know one another. At the semester’s end, 75 Lincoln students and their teachers joined 60 UST students for a special lunch on the St. Thomas campus.

What did the UST students think? Here are some of their responses:

  • “I enjoyed the time I spent with the students – and I wish it could’ve been longer!”
  • “The best thing was that I interacted with the most diverse crowd I have ever been around.”
  • “It made me happy to see how positive and smart the kids were. It gave me hope that they’ll be all right later on.”
  • “Knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life [is] a feeling that will encourage me to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
  • I liked seeing the diversity in Minnesota and working with people from other ethnicities.”
  • “I met new people and had fun with them.”
  • “I learned more about other cultures than I ever could have by just reading a book. I wish I would have had more time with the students.”
  • “I realized a lot about myself that I had not observed before. It was an experience of self-discovery.”
  • “The most positive thing for me: friendship.”

The Lincoln students were equally positive, as were all the faculty at both schools. Faculty participants at St. Thomas were: Dr. Susan Callaway and Dr. Amy Muse, English Department; Dr. Bernard Brady and Dr. Cara Anthony, Theology Department; Dr. Sue Smith-Cunnien, Sociology Department; and Dr. Jeffery McLean, Mathematics Department.

St. Thomas plans to continue “The Changing Faces of Minnesota” next fall, and we’ve received a $6,000 grant to help us. The grant will support some work-study positions for students who participated in fall 2003, give stipends to coordinators at Lincoln, and – perhaps most important for the success of the experience – it will pay for bus transportation from St. Thomas to Lincoln. The grant was awarded by the Upper Midwest Campus Consortium and Learn and Serve America.

For more information about “The Changing Faces of Minnesota,” contact me, Dr. Ellen Kennedy, director of service-learning, (651) 962-5082.