Dater Foundation Success Stories
Xavier University Summer Internship Program
Xavier University fosters young people’s commitment to community service by placing college students in full-time service internships each summer. Twenty college interns provided a total of approximately 6,000 hours of service to 18 agencies in 2007. A Dater Foundation grant provided stipends and covered expenses for six interns who worked in agencies that serve children. These interns, who were placed at Cincinnati Recreation Commission (Division of Therapeutic Recreation), Kennedy Heights Art Center, Peaslee Neighborhood Center, Project Connect, and VISIONS Community Services, served more than 140 youth over the nine weeks of the internship. Contact hours totaled almost 27,000.
Jess Pasionek, who interned at VISIONS Community Services in 2006, wrote this summary about her experiences:
As I informed my classroom of thirteen young African American children, all between the ages of six and ten, that my mother would be coming into work with me tomorrow to spend the day with us, a few looks of confusion arose on the faces of my kids as I scanned across the room. After answering several different questions, one of my outspoken girls shot her hand up, and without waiting for me to acknowledge that she had a question, blurted out, “What color is she, Miss Jessie?” Without really thinking, I responded by saying that she was white. If I thought I had seen looks of confusion from my children when I informed them about our special visit for the next day, the faces that now appeared could only be described as bewildered.
After a few moments of muttering amongst themselves, another child informed me that this was impossible because since I was not white, my mother, naturally, could not be white either. Trying to think quickly and respond in an appropriate and effective manner, I then proceeded to ask my kids what color I was. The response was unanimous. I was mixed; however, not mixed in the ordinary meaning of having parents of different races. My children informed me that I was mixed because my skin was light, but my “insides” were black. Of course, this is scientifically impossible; however, that conclusion is more or less irrelevant to understanding the insight that I gained from this simple exchange of dialogue: perspective is everything.
As my children and I spoke about my mother’s visit, I learned that what is on the inside does matter. My children showed me that for them to be able to relate to me, they had to not only look past, but alter, their initial perspective of me because of the fact that I am a different race than them. The children began to associate me with something with which they were familiar: their race and ethnicity. I feel that my children are a wonderful example to the rest of the world as to how to look past initial differences and uncover commonalities.
Thus, I am becoming more of a complete individual as a result of this summer’s experience. I feel like I have gained priceless knowledge about the non-profit world and I am now beginning to see where my role in the large picture of social justice lies. Xavier is extremely fortunate to have a program of this nature for its students because it truly helps young adults take charge of their lives, for the better, and learn about themselves, other people and the world in which they live.