Rollins Students Build Connections and Community

October 29, 2010

On Friday, October 15, 14 Rollins community members stepped off campus for the first service immersion weekend of the school year.

The group ventured to St. Petersburg and Dunedin, Florida to explore issues of hunger, homelessness and affordable housing. It was immersion student co-coordinator Lucas Hernandez’s (Class of 2013), first time leading an immersion experience as a trip facilitator. He knew going into the experience that each trip was unique in its own way.

“I was both excited and nervous about the weekend,” he said.

As a facilitator, Hernandez coordinated service projects, cultural experiences, community discussions and general logistics.  The 12 student and two staff immersion team worked with Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County and Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless, and participated in a few grassroots efforts focusing on combating the issues of homelessness in St. Petersburg. 

Shortly after arriving in St. Petersburg on Friday night, participants attended a viewing of a local production titled The Cardboard Stories.  The production, created by a local theater group in partnership with the Coalition for the Homeless, developed the series to heighten awareness and promote public action to fight the issues facing homelessness. Participants also took part in a dialogue with local community leaders and many individuals who identified themselves as homeless. 

The following morning, immersion participants fueled up in preparation for a full day’s work with the local Habitat for Humanity. Immersion participants were involved in various responsibilities as assigned by the on-site Habitat leader including roofing, building internal walls, window setting and constructing support beams.

The weekend culminated with a visit to Williams Park.  Local community leaders identified Williams Park as a home base for many members of the homeless community.   Participants had prepared hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the evening before as a grassroot seffort in partnership with the Coalition for the Homeless.

 “I learned that I am really capable of making some kind of progress,” said Molly Kallins (Class of 2014). “Even if it is a little thing like making a PB&J sandwich, or listening to another person’s story, I can use my skills and talents to partner with members of the community.”

Over the course of the immersion, participants engaged in discussions and conversations examining the current challenges.  This allowed participants to gain a deeper understanding and to connect with the issues.  Many participants shared that getting to know the residents personally helped them break down their initial generalizations and stereotypes about the homelessness and housing crisis in America.

“Overall, this trip was a great way to meet people, get involved and engage in a community in another part of Florida, which in itself was extremely rewarding for me,” said Samuel Pieniadz (Class of 2014). I can now appreciate my Rollins education and my role in working with others in our community.”

By Aaron Tanyhill (Class of 2014)

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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