Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reflections from this year's Cleveland Weekend

We’ve posted on the blog previously about the Urban Plunge weekend in Cleveland, hosted by the Catholic Worker and St. Patrick's Parish, that has been part of the senior-level Community Practice course since the mid-1990's. Students visit the neighborhood served by the Parish as well as spending time at St. Herman’s House of Hospitality (link), a Cleveland monastery that provides meals for families and individuals.

Seniors have the opportunity to spend the weekend with members of the local community, learning about the population first hand. ”I would say the Cleveland Weekend has been one of the best learning experiences I have had while at Ashland University … The weekend showed me that it is so important to get to know a community and the people in it before trying to work [to] make changes,” said Rachel Heckathorn.
out and about with Prof. Udolph

We asked students to explain something about the weekend for our blog, a thought or insight or experience that will stay with them as they continue in social work.

For several students the trip brought the realities of poverty into sharper focus. From Sam Kauf, “A visual image that stays in my mind would be the line of people standing outside St. Herman’s. This line was full of different individuals. Some were young, some old, families and single individuals. The line at St. Herman’s is a true representation of the people that poverty can affect. Everyone is different and not a single person in line was the same.” And from Autumn Christie, “The man I was sitting by goes to St. Hermans every day. It made me think, what would he do without it?”

The experience was also an opportunity for some to increase their own cultural competency and challenge previously held stereotypes. Kelly Daniels explained, “I used to think it was dangerous to open yourself up to homeless individuals but through exploration of my own stereotypes and broadening my horizons I have come to realize that it will enrich my life to overcome my fears and remain open to all individuals.” And Jerika Gilcreast, “learned to always work at consistently keeping an open mind and heart to others.”
The most valuable aspect of the trip for others was the reaffirmation of the positive impact social work can have in a community. Rebecca Civittolo was particularly impressed, “with the mission and values that the catholic worker represents. Not only did I appreciate everything they had to offer during Cleveland Weekend, but I am planning to stay with Catholic Worker on my own at some point before leaving for grad school so that I can immerse myself more in the experience.”

Jordan Trejo captures the spirit and intention of the Cleveland Weekend, saying:

“I had a conversation with an individual who encouraged us as social workers to never give up. He spoke with great enthusiasm about the profession of social work. He talked to us honestly about helping people. He told us that we would have difficult times in the helping process and that we would have success stories as well. He encouraged us to not let the difficult times get us down, but to keep moving forward and try to help people because the success stories will be the things that keep us motivated. That five minute conversation with him really inspired me, both as a professional and as a student. It was a truly profound weekend.”

If you’re a current student looking forward to the trip, Prof. Dorothy Stratton has more information, or check out our informational post.

If you’re a prospective student or thinking about social work, more information about the department can always be found on the AU website or by contacting Department Chair, Nancy Udolph at