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Project Affinity Offers Dynamic Immersion into Social Justice Issues

 

Understanding the interconnectedness of social, humanitarian and environmental issues is at the core of Project Affinity.  This eight-week residential summer program teaches students to value diversity, define societal issues and assume leadership roles in being catalysts of change.

The program is held at BW's Archwood House, located on Cleveland's near west side.  This summer 10 BW students, hailing from Indiana, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Worthington and northeast Ohio, are participating.

Students spend two days a week at two community service agencies and join with peers on Wednesdays for a Habitat for Humanity project. In keeping with the goal of learning through immersion, they utilize public transportation, budget their food expenditures, and spend free time interacting with neighbors and the surrounding community. 

During their stay, the students are visited by BW faculty, administrators and staff who discuss social justice issues and gain insights about the students' experiences.

Breaking Down Barriers, Encouraging Advocacy
For many Project Affinity participants, diversity and societal awareness are core components of the program.  Students explore community issues like homelessness, poverty, domestic violence, mental health, HIV/AIDS and abuse.

But Project Affinity is more than a study in sociology.  Its impact comes from the perceptual barriers that are broken down and insights gained through interactions with individuals who are challenged, neighborhoods that are shifting and agencies that are transitioning to meet the needs of their clients. 

Through their work with social agencies, Project Affinity students delve into real-world issues associated with politics, healthcare, labor, environment, citizenship and more.  The long-lasting effect of this practical learning facilitates an understanding of the interrelatedness of social agencies, government and business, a synergy that can't be explored through textbooks or classroom study alone. 

Encounters with clients are often the most impacting aspect of their service work.  For many students, it is an opportunity to break barriers of unfamiliarity as they reach out in friendship.  This experience creates powerful, long-lasting impressions that are recalled by students years later.

Valuing Individual Differences
The communal living arrangement teaches the students about teamwork, cooperative decision-making and responsibility.  Throughout the more than 10 years BW has offered the program, each group gels into its own dynamic, most commonly that of a family.

Through their day-to-day interactions, they learn about collaboration and the importance of valuing individual differences within a group. 

When the eight-week program ends, the students leave behind a multi-level house located in an urban setting.  They take with them, however, a lifelong lesson that can be used personally, professionally and socially...the value of humanity and its role in forging connections and fostering community.

posted 7/10
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