Editor's note: Carrie Robison '07, a government major from Greenville, S.C., wrote this article.
DANVILLE, KY—In "Advantaging the Disadvantaged," a class taught at Centre College this month, a group of Governor's Scholars has been spending two days a week with underprivileged children. By all accounts, everyone involved—Scholars and children alike—is enjoying and benefiting from the experience.
The teacher, John Wilcox, professor of social sciences and humanities at Spalding University, says the goals of the class are twofold: to show the scholars the difference between their backgrounds and worldviews and those of the children they're visiting, and to encourage social interaction between the Scholars and the children.
During the school year, only children from low-income families can receive free lunches at school. During the summer the free lunch program changes and the lunches are delivered around Boyle County and given to any child under the age of 18 who wants one. Thus GSP students, who are all under 18, have been bonding with the kids by eating the very same food.
The days the Scholars visit are special ones for the children. The kids wait outside and are always ready to play. The Scholars' lunchtime visits are a community-building activity: parents of the children say that it’s the only time during the week all the children get along and play outside together.
Wilcox has been bringing classes to the same housing developments in Danville for around a decade now. One boy, now a teenager, approached him recently to tell him just how much it had meant each summer to have these scholars come visit.
The scholars are learning a lot about the world and themselves. Wilcox says they all started out the class with elaborate plans but had to learn to adjust. Scholar Kirby O'Donoghue from Breckinridge County, Ky. says she has really enjoyed the class and adds that she has "experienced the two extremes of GSP and here with the kids. They have really taught me to relax."
Nathan Mills, a Scholar from Owensboro, Ky., says he's worked with young children before, but adds that this experience is different because of the quality of life for some of the children. "It's really heart-wrenching," he says. But despite some pangs of sadness, Trevor Strosnider, a Scholar from Henderson, Ky., says he "loves" the bonding experience.
As the last day of the class approaches, the Scholars are already lamenting having to leave for good. They've become as attached to the children as the children have to them. Those bonds have been formed quickly, through piñata making and other arts and crafts, as well as sports like soccer. And when anyone's birthday is near, the entire gang of Scholars and kids break out in rounds of "Happy Birthday." Community like this is heartwarming to see in a world where it is sometimes in short order.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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