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Mason Giem Service Learning: Urban Social Issues in Hollywood Colleen

Mason Giem Service Learning: Urban Social Issues in Hollywood Colleen

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Published by Mason Giem
I wrote this paper after spending one week in L.A. leading a group of peers on service projects.
I wrote this paper after spending one week in L.A. leading a group of peers on service projects.

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Published by: Mason Giem on Oct 13, 2009
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12/07/2009

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Mason GiemService Learning: Urban Social Issues in HollywoodColleen KaneFinal Paper 1/22/09“Experience as trying involves change, but change is meaningless transitionunless it is consciously connected with the return wave of consequences which flow fromit”. – John Dewey, Democracy and Education, p.p. 140.The experience of the last week of my life (January, 09) has been an enlightening,life changing, and emotional time. With the many laughs and inside jokes, and experienceand reflections I know that it was the best vacation I have ever had. Part of what made thetrip more than another volunteer opportunity was the amazing perspective, experienceand reflection that came with the Service Learning Course. I will now show how theLecture by Cynthia Winkler opened my eyes to one of the causes of poverty, how PaulWeb allowed me to accept all types of service as meaningful, and how John Dewey gaveme the tools I needed to make this a life changing experience.Cynthia Winkler is a well read and researched Sociologist in the fields of Povertyand Women’s Rights. Through her course on “A Brief History of Poverty and Relief inthe United States”, I came to a conclusion that a majority of the reasons that people arehomeless is because they are unable to find a job that will give them a livable wage. Shetalked about the history of poverty in America and how the same people continue to bemarginalized today. She talked about different U.S. Laws that have been established thathelped to reduce the amount of poverty in the United States and how the most recent
 
changes to the Welfare program have only served to increase the amount of Poverty inthe U.S. over the last ten years.I went to Los Angeles this Winter Break with that assumption, but what I foundout was that there are many other causes of homelessness than the lack of social welfare.We were introduced to a panel entitled “The many faces of homelessness”, featuringthree individuals that have all become homeless for different reasons. For the sake of  protecting the individuals involved, I will use fake names.The first person on the panel was a man I’ll call David. David was raised in anupper class family that became divorced when he was still in high school. Soon after heran away not wanting to deal with choosing between his mother and father. He has beenhomeless off and on for much of his Life and only now because of his daughter has hedecided to accept the responsibility of life in America and get a steady job, a house and agirlfriend. He loved the freedom that was offered to people without homes and he claimsthat a person is never so free as when they have no responsibilities to anyone butthemselves. This perspective brought to my mind questions of what freedom really is,and what does it mean to be a citizen.The second individual on the panel was 63 year old Betty. Betty had spent her entire life as a waitress working hard and paying her taxes. When she was 61 she slippedin the freezer at work and broke her back. After she had collected her workman’scompensation and tried to find another job, she found that nobody would hire her becauseA, she was over sixty, B, had no other skills besides wait staff, and C, because she nowknew how to work the system. To me Betty clearly represented a person whosehomelessness was a result of a failure in the social welfare of society. She was “TheEleventh” in my mind, and my heart and the hearts of the team poured out to her. The
 
most emotional experience for me during the entire trip came from watching the rest of the team give all the cash they had, all the shampoo they had, all the love they couldmuster, to this poor women who was living in her car and taking skin burning cold bathsin the back parking lots of a Chevron.The last individual on the panel was a former television producer named Johnwho had made a million dollars, spent it on drugs, made another million dollars, spent iton drugs, and was now working for the state to help reduce homelessness in LA county.His example showed to me that homelessness is also the result of addictions that can beout of our control. These addictions are thought of as mental illnesses by many in thehomeless service sector, and are given the same kind of treatments. These peoplechanged my viewpoints opinions on homelessness by helping me to realize that there isno single perfect solution, but rather a combination of different solutions is needed toeffectively tackle the different causes of homelessness, and I will suggest some solutionslater in this paper.In current ideas of service before I started my job at Americorps I held an opinionthat only the largest changes to the social injustices in this world were worthy of my time.By understanding the reading “We Don’t Have to be Saints” by Paul Web in his book “Soul of a Citizen”, I feel I was guided in understanding that it is sometimes the smallacts of good that allow for the larger acts to take effect. His story of how Rosa Parks roseas a community organizer and was eventually the one to really press the issue of equalityfor all, really gave me the idea that it didn’t matter how little someone was involved, aslong as they were involved. This idea was particularly relevant during some of the actualservice hours that we did while in LA.

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