ECG class tackles local social issues

By Megan Kutulis
September 3, 2009

Shannon Keough

Cabrini’s slogan, “Do Something Extraordinary,” has long been manifested through social justice projects and programs, including trips to Ecuador and Guatemala. But students enrolled in the Engagement for the Common Good course series are aiming to make a difference closer to home.

Taught by professors from various departments, including Dr. Jerry Zurek, Dr. Amy Persichetti and Dr. Melissa Terlecki, the semester long courses are offered to students during their freshman, sophomore and junior years.

For sophomores, the second year of the course presented a new opportunity: to meet with local community partners and become more involved in civic engagements and the practice of social justice.

“This year was so much more hands-on, whereas last year was kind of a preview for what we would be introduced to this year,” said Joe DeMarzio, sophomore communication major.

DeMarzio, along with other students from his ECG 200 class, recently took a trip to Center City Philadelphia to visit the Nationalities Service Center, where students worked with refugees from Nepal.

“We worked with younger refugees who are just learning the basic things, like ABCs, numbers and states. We helped them

learn to talk about things around their houses, and brought along notebooks and crayons for them,

too. They were so eager to learn,” Liz Scopelleti, sophomore communication major said.

Although Scopelleti worked with younger children, the refugees’ ages ranged from infants to senior citizens. Cabrini students were impressed with their skills and motivation.

“My favorite part was seeing just how they were raised. They were genuinely polite, nice people who had an amazing work ethic, and some of them had even put themselves through college,” said Christopher Sarvadi, sophomore communication major said.

While their classmates were helping to teach refugees the basics of American culture, other ECG 200 students took a trip to Kennett Square to visit mushroom farmers at La Comite de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agricolas (CATA). They had a chance to meet with the head of CATA, Luis Tlaseca, to discuss the group’s efforts and how Cabrini could help.

“We spoke with the mushroom workers and helped establish what kind of accomplishments we wanted to achieve. We wanted to understand, from their point of view, what they were going through,” Alyssa Mentzer, sophomore communication major said.

With the help of a translator, Mentzer and her peers spoke to workers to try and further their causes in the community. Students took the time to sit down and explain their majors and their roles in the ECG course.

“Our goal is to help them and their cause be more noticed and welcome in their own towns, and help their families however we can,” Mentzer said.

Whether students were in Center City or Kennett Square, they were finding ways to get involved, and the impact of civic engagement was not a one-sided matter. The sophomore group was just as affected by their work as those they had helped.

“I think it’s a valuable course; it’s good to see life from a different aspect than we’re used to. If we can just walk, like, a day in their shoes, I think it’s great for our lives and theirs,” Sarvadi said.

“We’re helping refugees and we’re learning about people around the world who need our help; it aligns with what we’re learning in the classroom,” Scopelleti said.

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Megan Kutulis

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