Friday, April 6, 2012

Alternative Spring Break Features Visit with Alderman

The first Service-Learning Alternative Spring Break: Uptown Immersion came to a conclusion on Thursday highlighted by a visit with Ward 46 Alderman James Cappelman, who also happened to be celebrating the anniversary of his first day in office since succeeding long-time Alderman Helen Shiller.

In preparation for their meeting with the alderman, students participated in an activity called Speaking Truth to Powerful People. The activity asks students to name a issue that is of concern to them, devise a solution or strategy, then identify the person in power who can help them get what they want to build the common good.

Students identified student leadership programs in every school, and curricular relevance strategies as issues of concern to them. In mock meetings with decision-makers, students were tested (not the standardized variety, but authentically) to see how they presented their ideas to a powerful decision-maker. The students learned quickly from one another and did a great job.

Following the mock meetings, students met with Alderman Cappelman for an hour sharing their experiences with the alderman and insights about the community. In a lively and free-wheeling back and forth discussion with the alderman, our students raised questions of economic development, curricular relevance, youth and arts programming, and adequate support for the disenfranchised, particularly those experiencing homelessness.

During an afternoon reflection experience led by the Center for Civic Reflection, students contemplated the question: Does one need to know anything about the person(s) you are helping/serving? and were asked to complete the statement: A helpful person needs to....The thoughtful and engaged discussion that ensued demonstrated the power of experiential learning. Students were able to dig deep into their experiences to engage in thoughtful conversations with one another.

The Alternative Spring Break culminated with a celebratory barbecue where students share their final presentations, musical talents, and new friendships with each other. The final question on the lips of many students? When will this happen again?

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