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Every student begins their service journey at St. Norbert with the whole-class Into the Streets service experience that is a traditional part of our Week of Welcome. From then on, they map their journey from a slate of opportunities that may included service-learning, service projects connected to their student org or residential experience, and perhaps an out-of-state Gap Experience or TRIPS opportunity. Above, students serve on a medical TRIPS program.

Parents Say Service Work Helps Students, Too

Service work is emphasized everywhere today: at schools, in the workplace, in social organizations and more. Last month, St. Norbert parent Patty Sankey, mother of elementary education major SarahEllen Sankey ’21, discussed the benefits her daughter received from participating in two Turning Responsibility into Powerful Service (TRIPS) events: St. Anthony School: Education for the Whole Person in Milwaukee and Immigration and Refugees: Restoring Rights and Dignity in Chicago.

Q: What did SarahEllen do at St. Anthony School?
A: She worked with teachers – they have bilingual education – and a third- or fourth-grade class. She read with them, helped in class and got an in-school opportunity to work with students of different backgrounds. It was pretty cool.

Q: How did the experience help her grow?
A: Because she was working with kids that were underprivileged, she was able to see the reality about the impact of poverty and home issues – what impact that has on students and student learning, and how students react to that as well.

Q: Why did she sign on for a second TRIPS program?
A: She wanted to do another TRIPS trip because the first one was a good experience. It was kind of a safe trip; it was in her major. The Chicago program allowed her to do something outside her comfort zone.

Q: Tell us a little about her time in Chicago.
A: She had the opportunity to investigate all of the different aspects of immigration and refugees who are coming into the U.S. She was able to see the realities of immigration. People can’t work for six months when they come here. So how can they put down the first month’s rent and such when they can’t work? She got to see how and why immigrants struggle when they get here, the importance of having someone here to help, and how important churches are to immigrants. It made such an impact, she wants to spend a semester working with the immigrant families and helping them assimilate to the U.S. and navigate through the system.

Q: Why is service work so important today?
A: My daughter comes from a relatively privileged background. Service at college gives students opportunities to see the world from all sorts of perspectives. Service makes you human. It makes you empathize and realize the importance of giving back. Her experiences will definitely make her a better teacher, plain and simple. She has also educated our family and everyone around her about immigration. So it’s incredibly important.

Q: How do you think SarahEllen will use her experiences in the classroom?
A: I was in a session with her at the Wisconsin State Reading Association Convention. [Sankey is a teacher.] A teacher was presenting, and read a personal story a student had written [about a choir teacher who was being a bully]. She wanted us to role-play how to not let the teacher get away with being a bully without getting in trouble. We were talking about what the class could do or say to the teacher when my daughter said, “What about the choir teacher’s daughter, who is also in the class? Think about it. The whole class could end up becoming a bully to the teacher’s daughter.” The presenter said, “This is the first time anyone has ever brought that person up.” My daughter is surrounded by all of these adults, and she brings up an issue of equity no one ever considered. Now she’s being the voice for the voiceless. She sees the invisible. It’s fun as a mom to watch that.

March 12, 2019