Sunday, December 23, 2012

Student Reflection

by Flora Ramirez

With the semester finally coming to a close, I can genuinely say that I am grateful for all of my experiences with both La Línea and CLACS. While both experiences were very different from one another, they were able to further inform my personal interests in very unique ways.  

My work with CLACS “Story Time” helped me value culture.  I realized the importance of exposing children to other cultures and the positive impacts in can have. By creating this sense of awareness, parents and teachers can begin to foster respect for people of various backgrounds. To some extent, my time at CLACS even taught me to further value my own culture and my parents’ success with passing down our traditions and language to me.

Even though my time with La Linea was short, I felt extremely involved with the two cases I was part of.  Here, I realized how important my language and culture was in terms of making myself personable to community members.  I was able to use my own experiences and successfully create close connections with community members.  For the first time I feel that I was able to make a connection with the immigrant communities in Champaign.  

As a whole, I think this service-learning course allowed me to better understand the concepts of interconnectedness.  I feel like there is a general movement on Campus to offer classes like this to students so that they may begin to connect the dots between their academic world and the so called “real world.”  Making these connections for me is vital as my major, Urban Planning, is broadly defined. And so taking initiative to define it for myself is extremely important.  Since my personal goals are to create environments that welcome diversity of all kinds I think it is very important to place myself in spaces where culture is celebrated. When I push myself into these spaces I can learn from actual community members in terms of what does and does not work at the ground level.  I am being educated by the actual people that I one day would like to advocate for. Having these connections at this level can help ensure that any planning efforts I become involved in will accurately reflect the needs of the people I care about. 

On the topic of interconnectedness, I would also like to say that this experience opened my eyes to so many of the connections on campus that are networking to mobilize for change.  I was truly delighted to see that I was unconsciously tapping into these resources and they were all somehow connected.  I realized that people at La Linea were working with people from CLACS, that the coordinators from these groups were both working with Planners Network (an organization of students, faculty, professionals and other activist planners involved in community development for social justice.), and that my own professors from both Urban and Regional Planning and Landscape Architecture were also working with all of these people.  I was able to see how merging specializations to create a holistic approach can truly be successful!
For me, it was not only exciting to realize that all these great people I knew were working together, but it also helped me reinforce trust in the academic path I had taken. With graduation, not too far I look back on the courses that I have chosen to supplement my major and I realize how on the target I was.  While I had taken a number of other service-learning classes in the past this class really brought it all together for me.  It may be that I am graduating soon and I am simply reminiscing, or that our professor Ann Abbott was one of the most engaging professors I have had on campus, whatever it is I feel extremely blessed to have been a part of this course.

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