Tag: Drake University

Meet the ECC members–Brittany Freeman

When I opened the email about the Engaged Citizen Corps last year, I thought I was just clearing more “college propaganda” (as I like to call it) out of my inbox. Little did I know, my decision to actually engage in the content would lead to a defining program of my first-year experience. The Engaged Citizen Corps is a holistic program where you work, live, and learn in the same environment of your cohort. Through a mutual pairing process, each member is assigned a local non-profit agency in Des Moines. For me, this meant that I would be working with Anawim Housing, an affordable housing and homelessness outreach non-profit, to complete my 300 hours of service as an AmeriCorps member. Though the face value of 300 hours seems a bit daunting, it truly is necessary to connect with the organization on a deeper level. But what does this actually mean? It is easy to get caught up in the opportunity to build your resume especially as a first-year, but this experience is far more than another line on your resume.

Let me preface my experience by saying that I had virtually no expectations for this program. I had done internship programs before, so I already knew the importance of keeping an open mind. So, I kept it simple. I looked at this as an opportunity for growth and education. Having never been to Des Moines, I thought there was no better way to become acquainted with the problems and struggles facing the community. This was exactly the outlook I needed. Going to Drake, it is rather easy to get caught up in the micro-community of the campus, but it is important to remember that people’s entire livelihoods exist beyond the confines of the campus.

These “livelihoods” that I describe are often wrongly stereotyped especially within Anawim’s tenant basis. Though these people may be experiencing drug addictions, alcoholism, single parenthood, etc., they are not lazy, helpless scum. They are just people who have been bogged down by society’s unequal distribution of resources. With a deepening gap between the haves and the have nots, they feel the inescapable burden the most. Non-profits like Anawim are designed to provide opportunities to those who might not otherwise get the chance. But, it is important to note, that even Anawim’s programs do not extend to everyone. These man-made boundaries put people at risk for an on-going cycle of self-hatred and frustration. I regret to say that it is this that results in giving up. In doing so, people experiencing homelessness accept the wrongly attributed labels and become what they are described. This is not their fault. It is ours – for not speaking up or changing our language (one of the most powerful tools we have).

Seeing the narratives of Anawim’s clients – those who have experienced homelessness and those just in the need of reduced housing costs – I have begun to understand the diversity of Drake’s surrounding community. Without this experience, I would imagine that I too would be swept up in the luxuries of a small, private, liberal arts university. But instead, I have had the privilege of truly assimilating into the community and recognizing the importance of changing my dialogue. Though I may just be the “intern” at Anawim, I am doing so much more. I am documenting histories and completing tasks that aid in the overall functionality and vitality of the organization. I am educating myself and preparing to educate others. I am connecting.

Nonetheless, I know it is easy to get caught up in my story or the stories of the people, but it is important to also reflect on your own personal impact. It may seem like as a single entity you have no ability to affect change, but you do. It is this flawed thinking that is perpetuating our systems of inequality. Active reflection and implementation act as counter measures to the superficiality that is plaguing our nation.

To bring this full circle, let me return to Drake – what it means for the campus, for the students, and for the surround community. The Engaged Citizen Corps is not a program of single-student reflection in the community. It is a program designed to bridge the gap between Des Moines and Drake. For me personally, this has resulted in the pursuit of leadership roles in various organizations on campus where I can affect change within the realm of service and beyond. It means planning service events not only for the women in my sorority but also the greater student body. It means encouraging active education about issues and inspiring the pursuit of individual passions. It means making service a desire not a requirement. Together, we can inspire activism, advocacy, and service on campus with the purpose of translating it elsewhere as well. We have the privilege to serve other people, and we shouldn’t take that lightly. To that, I am going to leave this blog post with one final remark – “community service has to be less about random acts of kindness and more about strategic acts of justice,” (Wayne Meicel).

By: Brittany Freeman


Sabrina Uddin–Engaged Citizen Corps Member

Hello, my name is Sabrina Uddin and I am a first year student at Drake University from the Chicago area. As a member of the Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC), I am an intern at IMPACT Community Action Partnership. The nonprofit organization has several offices throughout central Iowa, but the Drake Neighborhood office in particular is home to both the leadership team and an outreach office that services the community. Though I work primarily with the Director of Community Engagement, I am often able to collaborate with other members of the leadership team and staff in the outreach office. IMPACT runs two major programs from its outreach office: a food pantry and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The food pantry is utilized by an array of households throughout the community for varying amounts of time. LIHEAP financially aids households by assisting in payments for utilities bills.

Typically, I make the five-minute walk to the office from Drake twice a week and spend between eight and ten hours completing a variety of tasks. Through interning at IMPACT I have gained unprecedented skills and experiences because I am able to interact with many different aspects of the association. When I first began interning, I focused on two entirely different projects: organizing staff t-shirt orders and an audit of the food pantry. This was a good introduction to working at IMPACT because I familiarized myself with the staff, volunteers, schedule, and locations of food recovery and other IMPACT offices. Since those first few weeks in September, my projects have expanded to include answering phone calls and scheduling appointments for LIHEAP clients and organizing open-ended responses from a community survey. On a daily basis I make copies of flyers, expertly use the paper cutter, and enter information into spreadsheets.

Occasionally I engage in direct service by assisting in the food pantry. I work with volunteers to lead clients through the food pantry. My internship is focused largely around behind-the-scenes tasks that help the nonprofit run smoothly, however I always appreciate being able to interact with the people IMPACT helps. Regardless of whatever task is at hand, I know that as a member of the Drake Neighborhood and Engaged Citizen Corps, I am ultimately contributing to IMPACT’s overall mission of working to eliminate poverty by addressing the needs of the community.

Drake University’s campus is rather like a bubble. It is easy for a busy college student to become wrapped up solely in academics and extracurricular activities, forgetting about the community around the campus. However, it is important for students to remain cognizant of the fact that they are certainly part of this community. Since we live in the area during the school year, I believe it is important that students engage with the community in some way, whether that entails venturing off campus to support local businesses or simply saying hello to another person at the bus stop. As students at Drake University, we are undeniably connected to this community. I know that if I had not ventured out of my comfort zone and applied for the ECC, I would not feel nearly as connected with the Drake Neighborhood as I do currently.

Through this internship, I am afforded the opportunity to converse with and learn about community members and this has allowed me to develop a substantial understanding of the Drake Neighborhood. Since I am aware of the challenges and successes of the community, along with other students who are engaged in the community, I feel as though I better understand where improvements can be made and what we, as Drake University students, can do in order to help make a positive difference. Furthermore, by working in what some might call “the real world” I have been able to observe and experience situations that have sharpened my critical thinking skills and my ability to work with people. I know that after I am no longer a member of ECC, I will carry these lessons with me. When I am home, in the suburbs of Chicago, I now have knowledge that will allow me to optimally help my community. Regardless of where I end up in the future, I want to be sure that I can contribute positively to the overall wellness of my community.