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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

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Feven Getachew
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Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Where TF—did these volunteers come from?

By Solomon Miller

Grinnell students are known for their drive for social equality. But now, more students are turning beliefs into action.
More students are applying for programs during semester breaks like Alt Break and ReNew and programs for graduates, like Grinnell Corps and Teach for America (TFA), than any time in recent memory.

“We’ve been talking about building a culture of service at Grinnell for a long time, and this is something where we’re really seeing that,” said Doug Cutchins ’93, Director of Social Commitment.

Over 100 students applied for at least one social justice trip over Spring Break. 75 students applied for only 32 spots between the four Alt Break trips—trips the school offers for students interested in doing volunteer work over their break. 53 applied for 40 places on the ReNew trips—where students can help rebuild in areas affected by natural disasters. The Chaplain’s trip will only take 12 of its 18 applicants.

Karl Kremling ’10 is an Alt Break Coordinator and is leading the Alt Break program this spring in Texas. He attributes the high involvement rate to the nature of the program.

“Not only does Alt Break allow you to do some pretty unique volunteering,” Kremling said. “It allows you to live communally with a group of people you might not otherwise have known.”

Cutchins thinks dedicated student leaders—like Kremling—are responsible for the increased student involvement.
“They’re the ones who really move the program forward,” Cutchins said.

According to Kremling, Alt Break supports Grinnellians who want to take initiative during their Spring Break. Because trips are chosen based on student proposals, they represent the issues that students most care about.

“We can quickly adapt to the volunteering interests of the campus community,” Kremling said. “I like to think of [South Texas] as possibly a pretty sexy topic.”

In addition to the volunteering options over breaks, many Grinnell students get involved while at school. The new Community Service Coordinator, Rabbi Howard Stein, supports student efforts on campus. Stein is working on setting up new programs to provide more options to students, including a possible tutoring program with local schools.

“Seeking out those opportunities is part of what I do, so that I can engage more students in this kind of work,” Stein said.
Anna Friel ’10, who will work next year as a high school math teacher in New Orleans with Teach For America, believes Grinnellians take the values they learn at Grinnell with them when they graduate.

“At Grinnell, [students] become committed to these issues, and they stay committed after they graduate,” Friel said.
At Grinnell, she was a co-leader of the Feminist Action Coalition and a peer mentor with the Sexual Health and Information Center. She also went on a ReNew trip over Winter Break.

According to Cutchins, a record 55 students applied for Teach For America, 15 percent of the senior class. 46 students applied for Grinnell Corps, for only 10 positions. Cutchins sees this as a spike in an already increasing trend of student volunteer work.

“That doesn’t happen overnight, that doesn’t happen all of a sudden. That doesn’t happen without reason.” Cutchins said. “Some people would like to say it’s the economy… I don’t think that’s true. This is something that Grinnellians have always taken seriously.”

Cutchins himself did full-time volunteer work after attending Grinnell. He joined the Peace Corps two years after graduating.
Stein hopes social justice work will continue spreading. He said that he hopes to “make this something that reaches all parts of the campus.”

From numbers to basic observation, it is evident that social justice is spreading throughout the Grinnell campus. “A lot of my friends have applied for TFA,” Friel said. “And I know a lot of people doing Grinnell Corps.”

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