You won’t often find college students getting up at 5:00 AM on Saturday mornings, but at Santa Clara University, an early Saturday morning wake up call is a weekly tradition for students who volunteer at the Julian Street Inn Shelter in downtown San Jose.
Every Saturday morning, a group of students who are volunteers with the Santa Clara Community Action Program (SCCAP) help make breakfast for men and women diagnosed with mental illnesses at the Julian Street Inn. After helping to cook the meals and then eating together with the Julian Street Inn residents, the students spend time talking with them and sharing stories.
This program is one of many within SCCAP that allows Broncos to give back to the community. SCCAP, which is one of eight Chartered Student Organizations at SCU, is the main service organization on campus and operates 20 programs in four different departments (Education and Mentoring, Empowerment, Health and Disabilities, and Homelessness).
Through all of these programs, SCCAP coordinates nearly 400 volunteers every quarter to work on programs ranging from preparatory school tutoring to working with ESL individuals on campus or assisting with Special Olympics in the community.
Associate Director Nate Funkhouser believes SCCAP plays an important role on campus and in the community. “We focus on building mutually beneficial relationships between our community partners and our volunteers,” he says. “There are needs in the community and our students are often logistically prevented from being able to leave campus and experience the community in the Bay Area. We try and satisfy both of those needs.”
SCCAP promotes sustainability on campus and in the community through its emphasis on social equity, one of the three pillars of sustainability, but it also has a program specifically dedicated to pursuing sustainable initiatives at SCU. Bronco Leaders for Environmental Justice Investigating Truth (B-LEJIT) is one of SCCAP’s programs, and just last year B-LEJIT played a huge role in bringing more sustainable coffee options to Sunstream Cafe in the Library.
In the future, SCCAP would like to advocate for more permanent support-structures in communities in the Bay Area so that they no longer have to rely on volunteers to receive this much needed support. The mutually beneficial relationship between volunteer and organization is still important, however, because students can learn a lot from such opportunities.
“Santa Clara has done an excellent job of encouraging students to engage with their community, especially with the addition of the Experiential Learning for Social Justice (ELSJ) component,” says Funkhouser. “Certainly, every student will not be motivated about spending time in the community, but sometimes all people need is to be pushed a bit out of their comfort zone to realize it's not as bad as they might have imagined. They may, in fact, find they enjoy it.”
As a program that coordinates hundreds of student volunteers every quarter to serve the Bay Area community, it is clear that SCCAP has found success in engaging students with these important service opportunities, and these students often have a more enriched college experience. In line with the Jesuit values of our University, SCCAP works hard to make sure Broncos give back.
By Aven Satre-Meloy, '13 Sustainability Intern--Communications