By Bailey VenJohn
Sunday afternoon Southwestern College kept up the usual tradition of a Service Learning Project to kick off homecoming week. Approximately 300 students gathered in Richardson Auditorium to listen to speaker Doctor Roswurm.
The topic for her presentation was human trafficking. Rosworn told many first hand stories and helped students realize that human trafficking is a problem, even here in the United States.
The service learning team on campus came up with the idea for the service project and were joined by athletics, campus life, performing arts and the communication department to make this even come together.
Lindsay Wilke, assistant director of leadership, played a big role in making this event come together. She explained that there were specific reasons for bringing in this speaker.
“We were looking for a subject that would resonate with a lot of people and we knew that human trafficking, just from talking to college students, was something that a lot of them care about on some level. It’s something that impacts everyone. Not many people are victims of it, but it is happening right here in our own backyard and some people are part of the mess and don’t even know it.”
Also, a thought when picking the topic for the Service Learning Project was trying to tie it in with this year’s campus wide theme of courage. The idea was to give students the courage to talk about something that is a tough subject, but first they had to be educated on the matter.
Mary Reilly, biology and education senior, thought the topic fit well with the theme of courage.
“It takes a great deal of courage to be able to speak up about something that may not personally affect you but it is necessary that we speak up for those who don’t have a voice,” said Reilly.
Doctor Roswurm is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Center for Combating Human Trafficking. Her speech brought the issue of human trafficking to the minds of many students.
Nic Gunyon, marine biology senior, played a role as team captain for the men’s soccer team. “We learned that human trafficking was a problem in the US, I didn’t know that was real, I had no clue,” said Gunyon. He felt the project was good for his team because they also were in the same boat and didn’t know much about the topic.
Many students were affected in the same way as Gunyon and the men’s soccer team.
Reilly said “A lot of us are from small town America. It isn’t something most of us have had to deal with or know someone who has personally dealt with it. I think the speaker did a good job of telling us stories and helping us realize that it is a real thing and a problem. It is just a difficult concept for us to conceive.”
Some groups on campus are even thinking of taking the project and step further and raising money for the cause.
Devon Leone, biology senior, said “I learned a lot of information and I feel like I have a reason to support this organization and cause and we got a lot of ideas about what we could do to raise money.”
Leone participated as part of the tennis team. He and his team felt the cause was a worthy one and are thinking about taking it a step further.
“We’re thinking about setting up a tennis tournament to promote awareness for human trafficking and also raise money.”
After the students listened to the speaker each organization and team split off into their own teams where they split again into groups of 8-10.
In each group they talked about the main points that they each gathered from the speaker. They were also provided with a list of activities they could do to raise awareness or help the cause.
The activities ranged from painting a rock to add to the mound, to writing words of encouragement and human trafficking facts and stats on napkins or sticky notes. The napkins will then be put into the cafeteria so when students reach for a napkin they will be reminded of the project. The sticky notes were stuck all over campus as reminders as well.
Other activity options included making bracelets, painting canvases or poster boards, and chalking the sidewalks and 77 steps outside of Christy. Most groups also participated by writing the word hope on their arms in marker.
Teams spend thirty minutes working on their chosen activity and then met back up in Richardson for the conclusion. Cheryl Rude, professor of Leadership studies, spoke to students and made the point of having a voice and using it to talk about important subjects.
Overall there are hopes for the campus to grow as a whole after this service project.
“A general awareness. Even if one person doesn’t go above or beyond, even just each of us knowing a little bit about the issue is going to help in a small fraction,” said Reilly about her hopes for the campus.
The Service Learning Project can be considered a success. Even if the service is not physically helping a person out, having the courage to speak up and talk about a subject that you are educated in is a service.
“I’m hoping that the students will be more informed on this issue. I think that Doctor Roswurm did a nice job of helping people think about what is hurtful about the language we use and how we judge people but also on a bigger level I hope people learn that being educated about an issue and then learning about how to say something intelligent about it is a service to your community,” said Wilke.
Bailey VenJohn is a junior majoring in communication. You may email her at email@example.com.