Love Thy Neighbor: How HPU Teaches Community Transformation

This story is featured in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU instills care and love into the hearts of students through service learning. 


 

By the Rev. Dr. Joe Blosser, R.G. Culp Director of Service Learning

How do you show love to your neighbor?

Rev. Dr. Joe Blosser

The question is harder to answer than it first appears.

There is a time for immediate charity and giving things away, but when we treat every instance of need as a crisis, we create dependence, which demeans both our humanity and that of our neighbors.

Truly loving our neighbors requires that we learn to listen, recognize our own biases, and work together for the kind of community that helps us all live full lives.

My job — or rather my calling — is to walk students through this process of self-discovery, to help them recognize how they can use their gifts, their creativity, their skills and their knowledge to change the world — to show true love of neighbor.

It usually starts with a simple volunteer project. But soon we help students follow their passions. And before they graduate, we watch them begin to apply their HPU education to the real world.

They become change agents. They learn how to lead.

They learn that loving their neighbor requires more than charity.

It requires vision. It requires hard work. It requires transformation.

 

A Way of Life

“What started as volunteering has become a way of life,” Jasmyn Alexander, a senior Bonner Leader, told me recently. “I see how I can use research to find innovative ways to improve peoples’ lives. Working for justice is more than giving things away; it’s about committing every day to listen to others and work with them to change the world.”

Jasmyn started out as a freshman playing with the kids of immigrant and refugee families who were practicing their English. Soon, however, she was helping to run programs at Macedonia Family Resource Center.

Now as a senior, Jasmyn is using what she’s learned as an exercise science major to change people’s lives. She meets weekly with a group of immigrant women, helping them with cooking, grocery shopping and physical fitness. Jasmyn secured fitness trackers for the whole group to allow each participant to follow their exercise and engage in some friendly competition. And she’s studying the effects of such a community-based approach to health.

In recognition of her innovative community impact, Jasmyn was named a Newman Civic Fellow for 2017.

Jasmyn will graduate from HPU in 2018 with more than a degree. She’ll have real world experience. She’ll know what it takes to transform lives.

Jasmyn and the 40 other Bonner Leaders are low-income students who commit to serve 300 hours a year for four years in a local non-profit. Bonners start off as volunteers, but by their senior year, they become change agents.

 

A Study in Impact

As a whole, HPU students give over 100,000 hours of service each year. But behind this number lies a story of deeper impact. Jasmyn and the other Bonner Leaders serve 12,000 hours a year.

And 10,000 hours is performed by service learning students. These are students who give skilled service as part of a class. Each year, HPU offers more than 20 different types of service learning courses.

There are strategic communication seniors producing turn-key marketing campaigns for local nonprofits.

There are business ethics students conducting research on attracting and retaining young professionals for the High Point Chamber of Commerce.

There are English and history students co-authoring books with the local community.

In fact, in the last few years, over 1,800 students have taken service learning courses.

Thanks to the $100,000 given by the Silvershein/Gutenstein Family Foundation, there are now over 55 faculty in 22 departments teaching service learning. 

Because of the interest in service learning, HPU has added a minor in civic responsibility and social innovation. Students in this minor address community issues with entrepreneurial and sustainable solutions, including ones that generate revenue.

 

Service to America

The value of servant leadership stays with our students long after graduation.

And each year, nine HPU graduates are selected to stay on campus and model these values. They are HPU AmeriCorps VISTAs, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America.

The VISTAs help HPU students learn to love their High Point neighbors. Together they build community gardens, create fresh food co-ops, fund raise for local schools, grow after-school programs and more.

Brittaney McClure, a 2016 graduate, spent her VISTA year building community gardens.

“This experience has allowed me to work with a diverse range of people, which has helped me see things from others’ perspectives,” she says. “If you can’t see things from their perspective, you’ll never learn how to truly show them love.”

 

Modeling Servant Leadership

Our students are lucky.

No one models transformative change better than HPU President Nido Qubein.

Brittaney McClure

He did it at HPU. And, now, he is leading the transformation of the City of High Point. Dr. Qubein has raised $100 million dollars to propel our city forward with a ballpark, children’s museum, convention center and more. He helps our students every day see what it means to truly love our neighbors.

Brittaney gets it. “There’s no way I could better express the value of ‘Love thy neighbor’ that my parents instilled in me than to help other people find ways to serve and ways to fight for equality.”

Our students watch Dr. Qubein. Jasmyn and Brittaney see how much he loves his neighbors in High Point.
They see — and then they go and do likewise.

 


View this story and more in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine:

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