A group of Sacred Heart students walked through Bridgeport’s historic South End neighborhood in early November with their professor, Andrew Martinez, learning first-hand about life in affordable housing from a range of competing viewpoints.
They were involved in a “Community as a Campus” activity—an effort to move learning outside the classroom. The tour was an experiential learning opportunity and an endeavor that aligns with SHU’s mission of preparing students who will contribute to the human community.
The group also met with a range of stakeholders, including Denese Taylor-Moye, South End councilwoman; Richard Tenenbaum, Connecticut legal services attorney; Barbara Kelly, real estate agent; Carmen Colon, director of Alpha Community Services; Maisa Tisdale, executive director of the Freeman Homes; and a renter who lives in the area.
The group drank coffee in Taylor-Moye’s living room and discussed how oppression is manifested within inner cities and in public housing policies. They learned more about social justice, empowerment and community strengths.
Their day ended with pizza at a downtown Bridgeport eatery, where the group continued conversations about the experience. Some said the tour helped them personalize what they had learned in public policy classes. Others came away with a deeper appreciation of the importance of macro practice—a means for social workers to help their clients on a larger scale by getting involved beyond their immediate caseloads, such as lobbying government to change laws, or organizing activist groups to bring about changes in social policy. They talked about understanding individuals within their social context and the impact of a community’s history on its residents. “It illustrated how a population or area’s history is essential to understanding it in the present day,” said one student.
Students also reflected on privilege and found the experience solidified their decision to become social workers. “It made me reflect on myself and how I am grateful for what I have, and it made me excited to become a social worker to help advocate and help others who are in need; it was reassurance that I’m in the right field,” another student said.