As part of the Mayterm course Teaching in Urban America, 34 students in Houghton College’s education program engaged in service-learning at four different sites in Buffalo, N.Y. The course gave the students the chance to engage in meaningful work within the community and provided a window into the diverse cultures represented in Buffalo.
“I was delighted to see how the Houghton students engaged with the Buffalo community,” commented Dr. Cathy Freytag, associate dean for education at Houghton. “They went with hearts and minds that were open and willing to learn and receive.”
The first of the four groups served at Vive La Casa, a shelter for international refugees and asylum seekers, who do not meet refugee status. The mission of the organization is to provide not only housing but also legal and medical assistance. Houghton students prepared food for the residents, played games with some of the children, and did basic landscaping for the facility.
Grace Community Church was the site of another service project where students played games with children from the neighborhood in an effort to build relationships and share the love of Christ. Students led the kids in classic playground games from throwing a Frisbee to bouncing balls on a parachute.
Another service project was hosted by People Against Trafficking Humans (PATH). PATH is a Christian ministry that seeks to help traumatized women through a wide variety of means. Houghton students distributed bags of toiletries and makeup to women on the streets along with the contact information for PATH’s support center.
The final service project took place at 5 Loaves Farm, a non-profit organization that grows produce and offers jobs to community members. Some students helped plant vegetables while others worked with a team to aid in the renovation of an old ruined building on the Five Loaves property, converting it into a usable space.
One of the goals of the Houghton College Teacher Education Program is for students to learn to respect cultural diversity in the school context and develop culturally relevant learning communities that strengthen students’ sense of self and promote community development. Working towards this goal by serving in Buffalo is a seminal part of the Teaching in Urban America course. Students taking the course develop perspectives on what it can be like to live in and give back to the communities in which they could someday be teaching.
Freytag further commented, “The projects this year were exciting, challenging and thought provoking and will surely leave students with a great deal to think about as they continue to develop as future educators.”
To learn more about Houghton’s education program, visit www.houghton.edu/education.