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Sarah Unruh ’12

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Social work class encounters global justice issues locally

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – When I enrolled in Ada Schmidt-Tieszen’s Social Development and Social Justice class for Bethel interterm 2012, I was not sure what I would be learning.

This course prepares students in the social work program to help marginalized people achieve social and economic justice. However, it also meets the Cross-Cultural Learning and Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies requirements for Bethel’s General Education program.

I am not a social work major, but I was interested in taking the class to learn about the different issues of social injustice our country is dealing with.

Little did I know that the five field trips we would take over the three weeks of the course would expose me to issues of social justice I was oblivious to. I would meet new and interesting people and learn about the many organizations working to improve the lives of others.

While some Bethel students traveled out of the country to experience similar issues, in this class I was able to learn about issues we tend to overlook in our neighboring communities. The field trips to Wichita allowed us to do just that. We saw how different communities developed and we were exposed to several groups of people being treated unjustly.

We began by looking at how the different communities in Wichita developed and what is currently being done to improve them. Then we met with a variety of groups including: working poor; disabled; homeless; gay and lesbian; undocumented immigrants; and refugees.

We were fortunate to hear live testimonies from people who had been helped by programs Wichita has to offer. I was amazed to learn about the different organizations that work together to provide aid to the community. These field trips offered experience in the community and allowed us to relate them to what we learned in class.

While the class allowed us to see what is being done to empower those being marginalized, we were also fortunate enough to experience a wide range of cultures. After each field trip, the class ate together at a different type of restaurant.

By visiting these ethnic restaurants, we were able to learn more about each culture and enjoy what it has to offer to the communities. This was also a time for classmates to share about their experiences from the day and for us to learn about one another.

Although we traveled only to Wichita, we learned about and experienced issues you find in all parts of the world. It gave us ideas on how to improve the situations of marginalized peoples, and hope that we can make a difference.

This course was very educational for me. Not only that, it was a fun experience. I would highly recommend anyone, regardless of major – take this class. It will open your eyes to issues and people you once overlooked.

Samantha Wilkerson is a sophomore from Neosho Rapids. Other members of the Bethel interterm class Social Development and Social Justice, taught by Ada Schmidt-Tieszen, professor of social work, were Amber Blount, Topeka, Jaylene Burge, Newton, Cynthia Huebert, Halstead, Linsey Laird, Newton, Breanna McConnell, South Haven, Kalene Nisly, Hutchinson, Laura Sadowski, Wichita, Allison Schrag, Newton, Kimberly Siemens, Wichita, Natalie Stucky, Moundridge, Elizabeth Terry, Hutchinson, Miranda Weaver, Hesston, and Jerrell Williams, Garland, Texas.

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