By Marc Abizeid
This fall Franklin Williams introduced his class, Kresge 12A: Service Learning, to UC Santa Cruz students, and now volunteers have generated outpouring support from the Santa Cruz community.
The three-credit course offered through Kresge College aims to help alleviate homelessness in Santa Cruz, as well as tackle other community issues. The course drew together a diverse group of students, all eager to help.
“We don’t have trouble getting the students,” Williams said. “We’ve got the students, we just need the right strategy to mobilize and move them into the community.”
The 23 students enrolled in the class spent about 2,000 hours volunteering on an array of social projects throughout the quarter. Four weeks ago, Williams’ class joined students from Crown College to visit Bay View Elementary School where they scrubbed, painted, and disinfected classrooms and playgrounds.
“We had 50 kids and one adult besides me who went down there on Saturday and they all worked two and a half hours,” Williams said. “Altogether, the project generated 136 hours of service to Bay View.”
Dan Cavanaugh, principal of the elementary school, sent an e-mail to Williams thanking him and his students for their efforts. “Your ‘Cleaning Frenzy’ weekend was just what we needed!” he wrote. “This kind of activity clearly brings our community closer together.”
During the same weekend, over a dozen of Williams’ students visited the Louden Nelson Community Center, where they spent their Saturday morning painting a deteriorated wall outside of the building.
Laura Scribner has worked at the community center for 21 years. The center’s current supervisor commended the students who helped resurface the wall. “The fruits of their labor were immediately apparent,” she said. “We [at the community center] are very grateful to Franklin [Williams] and the students who did the project for us on Saturday; the wall looks great!”
Recently Williams invited Howard*, a homeless three-star chef who until recently lived with his wife and seven-year-old daughter in the Rebele Homeless Family Shelter, to speak to his class.
Howard works six days a week at a burger joint and had to leave Rebele after the six-month residency limit expired.
“When people know that you’re trying to rent from them and you’re from [the homeless family shelter], they’ll come up with all different types of excuses to keep from renting to you,” he said. “The Rebele Shelter is like a big old plague, if you go over there then you got the plague.”
After some struggle, Howard found an apartment to rent for himself and his family. And recently, Williams’ students all pitched in to buy Howard’s daughter a new bike for Christmas.
For the class, Williams required students to volunteer eight hours a week. Third-year Natalie Arellano fulfilled her volunteer hours at Del Mar Elementary School. She tutored first-graders and acted as a translator for Spanish-speaking students and their parents.
Del Mar had a pressing need for interpreters like Arellano. According to the CA Department of Education website, 36.4 percent of the elementary school students are Spanish-speaking English learners.
“A lot of the time, parents don’t have any way of communicating with teachers so I believe that translators are a key factor in the success of their kids at school,” Arellano said. “I love this job; it brings comfort to the students and feels really satisfying.”
Fourth-year student David Carlisle expressed similar emotions after helping out in a fourth-grade class at Bay View Elementary School. He corrected papers, read stories, and guided students through their assignments.
Carlisle said, “Even if I don’t take this class next quarter, I plan on working at Bay View because these kids are a part of my life and they need positive role models who are there for them and understand them.”
_*Name changed for privacy_