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Students who spent a semester engaging with city leaders and working at internships with community organizations shared their experiences at a showcase August 6 at the L. William Seidman Center.
The Semester in Grand Rapids (SIGR) program completed its inaugural year. A cohort of seven students lived in the Grand Rapids area, studied the city's history, learned from city and business leaders and completed internships at organizations such as The Other Way Ministries, YMCA, Home Repair Services and the Cook Arts Center.
The program is coordinated by the Office for Community Partnerships and Student Professional Development, housed in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, and based on the Semester in Detroit model at the University of Michigan.
Kristin Moretto, director of the Office for Community Partnerships, said students actively applied classroom theories to their internships.
"SIGR allowed students to understand how community history is shaped and how it impacts the lives of residents," Moretto said. "They could see how classroom learning applies in the community and through their experiences at internship sites."
Anthony Hanline completed an internship at the Dwelling Place, an affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization organization. Through class readings and city tours, Hanline said he better understands why affordable housing is such a complex issue.
"I've never had to deal with a housing issue and didn't understand why they couldn't 'just pull themselves up by their bootstraps,'" he said. "I appreciated the opportunity to engage with neighbors and raise awareness of the city's west side and the issue of housing insecurity."
Bethany Joseph supervised a student intern at The Other Way Ministries and said the experience was very worthwhile.
"I'm passionate about college students engaging in the life of the community where they live and study," Joseph said. "I wanted The Other Way to be a part of a college student's life, to adopt them into our vision and show them the ropes of community development work. It is my hope that interns who spend time at The Other Way will be impacted the way I have been by working closely with neighbors."
More information about the program is online at gvsu.edu/sigr.
This story originally appeared in a GVNow Article by Michele Coffill.