Empowering a Community

dominicanGreyhounds take time to teach & serve others

Want to see the world and earn class credit at the same time? At UIndy, students have a chance to travel during a three-week session in May called Spring Term. All undergraduate students are required to take one Spring Term class during their time at UIndy, which offers students a chance to participate in a course that is creative, innovative and interdisciplinary. Courses feature interesting and unusual topics, nontraditional activities, and even travel. For juniors Hannah Fogo and Paige McIntire, their Spring Term class took them to Cabarete, Dominican Republic, with nine other students and  Associate Professor of Teacher Education Dr. Greta Pennell.

The class partnered with the Mariposa Foundation, a Dominican Republic organization formed in 2009 that empowers young girls and helps them to overcome poverty. Among other goals, the Foundation works to achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, and reduce childhood diseases.

The UIndy group worked on construction projects at the Mariposa Foundation in addition to teaching math to the local girls.

“I was proud of the UIndy group,” says Hannah. “I was amazed at the work we were able to do, the positive attitudes and the willingness to keep going on the days when it was 90 degrees and 100 percent humidity.”

‘Education for Service’ abroad

For Paige, it was seeing the tangible results of her labor — but also knowing that they were helping a community of young women — that made the trip an experience of a lifetime.

“I loved that you could look and see the results of our work,” she says.

UIndy’s motto, “Education for Service,” takes on special meaning for both Greyhounds in light of their experience in the Dominican Republic. Their trip was just one of many opportunities that all UIndy students have to be involved in their communities and to change the lives of others.

“There is a mirror at the Mariposa Foundation that says ‘You are the world’s most powerful force for change.’ We could look in it every day, even while we were working. It was empowering to think about this phrase,” says Hannah.

Service in the future

Both students credit UIndy’s focus on service as a fundamental building block of their future careers. Hannah is pursuing a career in elementary education, while Paige studies psychology in pursuit of a career in occupational therapy.

“UIndy gives us so many opportunities to serve others,” Paige explains. “Since I want to be an occupational therapist, I always knew I would be helping others. I want to see the difference that I’m helping people to make in their own lives.”

The Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement works with students to help them find volunteer opportunities in addition to service-learning placements. Many classes also include service-learning opportunities, such as the Super Saturday of Service that freshmen participate in as part of their required New Student Experience class.

As for Hannah, she intends to make the service-learning experience she’s gained at UIndy come full circle.

“Since I want to be a teacher, I want to be able to show my students that you’re more than just you. You can make a difference in someone else’s life.”