Doane’s sophomore education majors learned lessons a textbook couldn’t teach them while volunteering for Project Homeless Connect in Lincoln last Thursday.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” sophomore Lauren Taylor said. “There are more people living in poverty around this area than you think. It was a great way to understand what some people are going through.”
Project Homeless Connect offers a variety of free services to homeless people such as shots, eye and dental checkups, food, haircuts and housing application assistance.
The project, held at the Pershing Center, allowed Doane students to accompany people by helping them navigate through service stations.
The students got to know individuals on a personal level by listening to their life stories.
Sophomore Sam Rickert said he enjoyed getting to know the person he helped.
“Everybody has their own story,” he said. “They don’t all fit the stereotypical homeless person; it helped to be able to put a face on the problem in order to relate to them.”
Education professors chose Project Homeless Connect this year to give students a more hands-on approach by working directly with people.
Education Professor Linda Kalbach said the requirement was meant to encourage students to give back to their community, develop skills needed to teach and familiarize students with agencies that work to meet the needs of poverty-stricken families and children.
“It is important that someone in education develop empathy for their students, regardless of
family circumstances,” she said. “Virtually all teachers will, at some point, have students whose families are living on the edge of a dollar.”
Students and professors agreed that the project was a success. There is also discussion to require all students in education foundation classes volunteer as an annual project.
Taylor said she valued the project as a learning experience and would do it again.
“I liked making a difference,” she said. “I think every time I’d be able to learn something more.”