Category: Education

This category is for posts that contain educational material created by the CCE or one of its affiliates.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is a national week of awareness started by the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness. Every year, the Center for Civic Engagement hosts a week of programming and service events. This year from November 10th until November 17th Civic Engagement will collaborate with community partners and student leaders to draw attention to these issues as well as work to eradicate them in our very own community.

Many people would assume that hunger and homelessness issues only affect people dispersed around our community, but that is not the case. While analyzing these issues we also have to take a close look at our campus. So just how many students are affected at a campus crowned America’s Most Beautiful in 2017? I can imagine it might be hard to picture that so here are some statistics to help.

  1. “15% of College of Charleston Students frequently struggle to get enough to eat.”
  2. “An estimated 3,375 (30%) of students are housing insecure.”

(The Riley Center for Livable Communities, 2017)

During this week of awareness, we challenge you all to join the movement and help us fight to end hunger and homelessness and its impacts on our campus and community.

How do you join the movement?

  • Get educated and know the facts
  • Volunteer and offer your support
  • Advocate for sustainable food policy

Take a look below at some amazing articles highlighting efforts being made by people and students around Charleston!

Homeless and Hungry at America’s Most Beautiful College

Waters, D. (2017, October). Homeless and hungry at America’s most beautiful college. Charleston City Paper, Retrieved from

Student Food Pantry Opens on Campus

Kerr, A. (2018, September). Student Food Pantry Opens on Campus, The College Today, retrieved from

 Feed the Need dinner pulls in $500k for Charleston area homeless programs

Barna, S. (2018, November). Feed the Need dinner pulls in $500K for Charleston area homelss programs, The Post and Courier, Retrieved from

Photographer campaigns to educate about homelessness

Elingburg, Scott D. (2018, June). Photographer campaigns to educate about homelessness, Charleston Scene, Retrieved from

Author: Dejanilya Dupree

New Year, New Service!

As we are finally getting back in the groove of the New Year (and SUPER fun 8 AMs), the Center for Civic Engagement is getting its groove on too!  For those of you new to the office, our mission is to focus on community development both inside and outside the College of Charleston community.  We do this by emphasizing education, direct service, and critical reflection.

This year we will be casting a lot of light on our recurring service events with different community partners.  These partners include Neighborhood House, Keep Charleston Beautiful, and Lowcountry Food Bank.  The service with Neighborhood House, One80 Place and Lowcountry Food Bank will be focusing on the issues people face when experiencing homelessness and food insecurity, while Keep Charleston Beautiful will be focusing on litter, environmental and other social issues around Charleston.

The Alternative Break program has a fresh round of Spring Break trips to Washburn, TN, Charlotte, NC and Louisville, KY.  The trip to Washburn will be focusing on Environmental Justice through engaging in organic gardening, conservation projects and eco-construction projects while also having the opportunity to practice daily yoga, evening hikes and vegetarian meals prepared by a local chef. Those in Charlotte will be learning about sustainable and affordable housing, working with Habitat for Humanity on home construction and education of the current housing crisis. Participants in the Louisville trip will be educated on refugee resettlement, partnering with Kentucky Refugee Ministries to organize warehouse donation and serve a direct impact by preparing welcome kits of household items for incoming refugees. In addition, there are exciting Maymester opportunities to Greece and Puerto Rico, focusing on Sustainable Tourism and Permaculture with Environmental Justice, respectively.

The Bonner Leader program is very excited to announce the return of their Engage and Empower’s “Get Up and Go Get It” week this spring.  Engage and Empower is an opportunity for students to get more involved with organizations both on and off campus and gives Bonner leaders an opportunity to facilitate group presentations.

If you are interested in any of the above items, feel free to stop by our office in 203 Lightsey.  It’s going to be a great year, let’s spend it becoming engaged, active citizens!


The Realities of Homelessness by Alli Camp

“Homelessness isn’t sexy.” Anthony Haro bluntly made this claim at a recent Alternative Break orientation, before sending out a group of CofC students to work with food insecurity and homelessness in Asheville, NC. The students laughed; Anthony smiled. Yes, the phrase sounded a bit silly, but Anthony was making a good point. Students jump at the opportunity to volunteer in schools or hospitals or nursing homes. But the streets? Not so much.

There is a stigma associated with people experiencing homelessness. Often times we feel a dividing distinction between “us” and “them.” The lines of this distinction have been blurred as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2014 Point-in-Time Count shows 34% of people experiencing homelessness are under the age of 24. This total number of un-housed teens hit 45,000 in 2014 (National Alliance to End Homelessness). CofC students, this is us. This is our age bracket. Generation Y. So why are we standing by and just watching?

In order to change these stereotypes, we must take the initiative to educate ourselves.  Many stereotypes come from not properly understanding your own privilege.  Many of us are under the impression that if you experience homelessness then you are not working hard enough to change your situation, and this assumption comes from not knowing the systems that can keep people homeless.  With proper education, we can then do quality community service that actually helps those who experience homelessness.

As an aspiring socially active millennial, I saw the error of my ways after returning from an Alternative Break trip where we combatted hunger and homelessness in the Atlanta community. I reached out to Anthony Haro, Executive Director at the Lowcountry Homeless Coalition here in Charleston. I wanted to make a real, sustainable difference in lives that are so often passed over, discarded for “lack of importance.”

I volunteered to help with the 2015 Point-In-Time Count. The basic requirements of a PIT are to identify everyone who is experiencing homelessness on a singular night in January. Because it would be impossible to survey thousands of people in one night with the resources given, the surveys are done over a two-week period in January, all with the goal of gauging how many are with out a home on the night of January 24th. The data helps the federal government as well as local communities better understand the nature and prevalence of homelessness. The scope of my volunteerism remained within the Lowcountry counties. The 2013 PIT Count identified 6,035 people unsheltered, living in South Carolina. This marked a 28.3% increase compared to the previous count in 2011.

Astonishing. This is truly frustrating because ending homelessness is not impossible. As our economy stands right now, we are actually very capable of ending this crisis, this epidemic of American homelessness. It is a tactic referred to as “Housing First.” Beginning in 2010, President Obama’s “Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness” explains why the “Housing First” approach is imperative in wiping out chronic homelessness: “Stable housing is the foundation upon which people build their lives — absent a safe, decent, affordable place to live, it is next to impossible to achieve good health, positive educational outcomes or reach one’s economic potential.”

Nevertheless, between classes, internships, and maintaining a healthy social life, college students are not the ideal candidates for changing the face of homelessness at the moment. But this is not to say we are helpless. National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week was designed specifically to offer universities and communities alike the chance to contribute to a national social movement. The National Coalition for the Homeless hopes to emphasize that “You can help to change the conversation about stereotypes, improve policy, help service providers, and so much more.”

Why not start this week? Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is nationally recognized as the time to do your part to fight homelessness and food insecurity.   We will be working with several community partners and holding events such as clothing drives, community cleanups, and trips to the food bank.  From there, the week will be filled with relevant documentaries and informed open-dialogue about the social issue.

Want more information about HHAW service projects or events? Contact

Interested in volunteering for 2016’s Point-In-Time Count? Contact Anthony Haro at

Getting Alternative Over Fall Break

Contributions made by Kat Carmichael, Elizabeth Mandell, and Aly Skiko

Over this past fall break, two groups of students decided to get alternative.   They wanted to do something different from going home for the weekend.  One group strived to learn about the root causes of homelessness and food insecurity in Asheville, North Carolina and one group focused on food insecurity amongst migrant workers on Saint Helena Island located in the Beaufort, SC community.

The group in Asheville worked with several organizations that fought homelessness and food insecurity in the area.  These organizations include the Asheville Poverty Initiative, the Steadfast House, the Veterans Restoration Quarters, and the MANNA Food Bank.

The Asheville Poverty Initiative took the group on a tour of Asheville through the eyes of someone experiencing homelessness.  They were accompanied by “poverty scholars” (people in poverty that get paid by the organization to give these tours) who shared their stories of living on the streets, and how some local shelters are not all good.  This experience provided the participants with a new perspective on homelessness and how the system does not work.

The Steadfast House is a transitional housing facility for women and children experiencing homelessness.  Many of the women are victims of domestic violence.  Steadfast House also works very closely with the Veterans Restoration Quarters in Asheville.  The group learned that in the state of North Carolina boys over the age of 12 are considered too old to reside in Steadfast House, which leads to families needing to be split up.

The Veterans Restoration Quarters provides housing for veterans who experience homelessness when they return from war.  One quote that really stuck with the group was how “they trained us for 6 years for war, but only gave us 2 days to readjust.”  Veterans are often not given the help they need once they return back to the states, and this often leads to homelessness.  The Veterans Restoration Quarters is an all-male facility that accepts only those over 18 years old.  In partnership with the Steadfast House, they are working towards building Transformation Village, an organization that would provide housing to any family (including in-tact families and single dads).

The MANNA Food Bank is the largest food bank in Western North Carolina, where 1 in 4 children are food insecure.  They provide school kids with “weekend packs” which contain easy to prepare meals for the weekends.  Schools often provide students who are food insecure with breakfasts and lunches, but on the weekends the kids go hungry.  These weekend packs have meals that the children can prepare themselves.

The Beaufort group focused mainly on educating themselves about the issues that migrant communities face by meeting with different groups connected with the farmworker community during their trip. They first partnered up with Water’s Edge Youth group and went bowling with a group of 12 children who live at the farmworker camps along with other children from Water’s Edge youth congregation.

The next day the group met with Joe Taylor, a local high school teacher who generously teaches youth, evening English classes during his summers off. He works with funds from the migrant education program. Beyond his duties as an ESOL teacher, he and his family are instrumental in connecting the workers to the other resources in the community. He and his daughter Rachel Taylor took the group on a tour of the camps and gave the students an insight into some of the challenges the farmworker families face living in isolated camps. Rachel has worked for the Migrant Education Program alongside her dad, and has also been an intern for SAF, or Student Action with Farmworkers.

The Beaufort group was also fortunate enough to hear from the Migrant Education Program State Recruiter, Zach Taylor. He explained what his position was and what his duties were. He told the group how he aims to find the camps that house farmworkers and their families in the lower part of South Carolina in order to start migrant education programs in the school districts.

Another community member the group met with was a former translator from the Saint Helena Health Clinic. This clinic aims to provide services to the farmworker communities such as OB visits for women who are pregnant, dental services, and even eye exams.

The Beaufort group was able to partner with Water’s Edge church in order to plan fun activities to take the kids to go bowling and to the movies. One day the group went to the camps and brought games and coloring books to play with the children. The Beaufort group also met with the parents of 2 of the children they played with and heard each of their stories. On a separate occasion, the Beaufort group hosted two younger farmworkers at dinner and also heard their experiences as farmworkers.

During their cultural day the group enjoyed Gullah cuisine, the historic Penn Center, downtown Beaufort and Hunting Island State Park. The Penn Center is located on Saint Helena and was the first school for freed slaves in history. During the cultural day, the Beaufort group was able to see Beaufort’s diverse community and fully understand how isolated the migrant community is within Beaufort.

Both groups had incredibly enriching experiences and were able to immerse themselves into the pressing issues that the Asheville and Beaufort communities are facing. These groups will continue to educate themselves and be allies to these communities so the issues they face can eventually be eradicated.

If you are interested in participating in an Alternative Break experience, the applications for Spring Maymester, and MLK weekend breaks are available now!  They are due Monday, Nov. 16th to the Center for Civic Engagement by 5pm.  Feel free to stop by the office to pick one up, or print out a copy from the Alternative Break page!

12108719_10207758374179628_765517823353704659_nParticipants on the Asheville Alternative Fall Break

Sustainability and Charleston by William Hester

“The past few years have been very transformative for Charleston in terms of adopting sustainability oriented initiatives and practices. The past five years alone have seen the unofficial adoption by the city council of the city’s Green Plan, the opening of Growfood Carolina to encourage the cultivation and distribution of locally grown produce, growth of the city’s recycling program, etc. All of these initiatives are influential in divesting our emission levels from long distance imports, and in curbing the waste we generate from our consumption in general. With the end of Bee’s Ferry landfill lifecycle in sight, and the decline of small scale local agriculture, it is a breath of fresh air to see diverse conservation efforts popping up around the peninsula with the rapidity that we have experienced. To see the community making a push towards a more sustainable lifestyle is very reassuring, but are these efforts a sign that Charleston is on the right path towards becoming truly sustainable? What does it mean to be sustainable anyway, and how does one go about achieving what they decide it to be?

When looking to define sustainability a good place to start is with the word itself. The heart of the term is formed by the word “sustain.” One could say then that when trying to live sustainably the key is to do so in a fashion that sustains oneself and the environment in which one is living. To do both of these things would mean finding a balance in life so that you minimize your impact on your surroundings and the other lives that inhabit it while ensuring your own comfortable existence within the confines of your environment.  Can we say that the efforts mentioned above will allow us to achieve these goals?

With our recycling efforts we are trying to take the materials that we produce and develop systems so that we can reuse them, effectively extending their lifespan and usefulness. Promoting local agriculture allows us to become more in tune with our food production systems and raises awareness about how our food consumption habits affect local communities.  Having a green plan, even if it hasn’t been officially adopted by the city, tells us that the people of Charleston are aware that their lifestyle will not sustain themselves or their community and that a call to action is necessary to collect it. Of these three examples that I have listed I would say that only the later two are on the right track to achieving a sustainable lifestyle. Our recycling programs, although useful, only divert the waste we generate and don’t actually address the core issue that our consumption produces so much of it in the first place. Investing in local produces reinvigorates communal interaction and makes people more attune with their community, and the green plan shows that people are at least interested in preserving it.

Gaining popular interest in sustainability is no small feat in and of itself. I would say that the hardest part about adopting a sustainable lifestyle is first recognizing that your habits don’t achieve the balance that we mentioned earlier, and then adopting new ones that do. Most people in modern American society have developed habits of mass consumption and a disregard for the consequences of it. These habits are already having an influential effect on the world, so much so that it is now officially considered a threat to national security by the United States government. So pressing are the issues we have developed through our consumption that many major coastal cities are undertaking efforts to modify their infrastructure so that climate change does not result in the mass displacement of their denizens. Unfortunately the city of Charleston has yet to climb aboard this effort. It’s kind of ironic that a city so steeped in tradition and dedicated to the preservation of its history as Charleston is would display such a persistent hesitance to commit to a plan of action to preserve itself.

It is clear that Charleston is beginning to become aware that its habits do not allow it to live symbiotically with its environment. It is beginning to take steps to ameliorate that, but it takes more than the installation of recycling programs to achieve that goal. There is a tipping point to achieving true sustainability between becoming aware of one’s impact on their surroundings and taking the necessary action to act on that awareness. Right now Charleston is starting to look at itself and is beginning to work towards achieving that awareness, but it will be a while yet before it is ready to act on it. I think that ultimately it will involve a change in the mindset of the people, one that is oriented more towards empathy for others and their environment as opposed to personal gain if we ever hope to achieve true sustainability. Having empathy towards the environment and community will imbue people with the desire to want to preserve them. When we no longer have the desire to exploit others or the environment for our own gain then we will have learned how to truly live and work together, and can call ourselves sustainable.”


In Partnership

A sunny beach in Greece

Almost four years ago the College of Charleston Center for Civic Engagement partnered with Earth, Sea, & Sky (ESS) located in Zakynthos, Greece through our Alternative Break Program. (Find out more about that here) In the past four years I have seen students so impacted by the experience that they return to Charleston and change their majors, minors, jobs, goals, minds, and for some, quite literally their whole life trajectory.

The natural beauty of Zakynthos attracts many tourists during the summer. (An estimated 40,000 visitors from all over the world come to the island each summer.) Of course many challenges arise from such an increased population; traffic, pollution, noise, and exponential increased waste, just to name a few. Although tourism is more profitable than traditional industries, its exploitation is detrimental to the countryside and wildlife. There are large amounts of litter being dumped on beaches and in the forests, and the increased hunting is endangering migrating birds. The Loggerhead Sea Turtle and Mediterranean Monk Seal’s habitats are now completely overwhelmed, and people and development continue to impede on their habitats. Earth, Sea & Sky was established in 1993 by Yannis Vardakastanis who became a full-time conservationist in 1991 and has been steadily working to protect the Caretta Caretta Turtles and marine life in and around the island.

The original aim of our service project was to show how conservation and sustainable tourism can work together to benefit tourists, the locals, and wildlife and play an important role in helping to safeguard the future of the Caretta Caretta turtles by helping to provide educational information to tourists and locals. However, it has become much more than that as our students have had the opportunity to begin to understand the complexity of issues involved in balancing environmental concerns in times of economic crisis. Students have the opportunity to participate in meaningful direct service as well as contemplative discussion with the organization’s staff that allows them to experience and understand the social issues at a much deeper level than they ever could in the classroom.

As we continue to work to deepen our partnership with ESS, the Center for Civic Engagement was fortunate to host both Yannis Vardakastanis and project manager, Jonna Hrab Pedersen in Charleston this past March. Yannis and Jonna had the opportunity to meet with staff from the SC Aquarium, SC Department of Natural Resources, CofC professors and students and even had a chance to visit two east coast rescue centers. Over the last few years Earth, Sea & Sky has been raising funds to build a Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Station in Zakynthos so being able to see firsthand the staff and equipment that will be necessary to do this is a crucial step towards completing that goal.

Our trip to South Carolina has been a very good and educational experience. Meeting the students from the College of Charleston and the people working with sea turtles in the area has been amazing. We can now see light at the end of the tunnel and we go back to Greece with hope. Hope is a powerful thing that we have been surviving without for a while. We are amazed with the efforts the Stephanie Visser and her students are putting into conservation and we are pleased to be a part of that. Keep up the good work and we hope to see more of CofC in Greece soon.

We will continue to expand this partnership in mutually beneficial ways and in the future continue to have volunteers, researchers, and interns coming from the College of Charleston to work alongside Earth, Sea, & Sky’s efforts. Are you ready to let yourself be changed? Let us know if you are interested in volunteering as an individual or applying to participate in our Maymester 2016 trip to Zakynthos.

Sandy turtle tracks
Sheep and flowers in Greece
A captured sea turtles

Charleston, SC- A glimpse of poverty in our community

At first glance of the Charleston community, most see rich history, elegant architecture, a booming restaurant industry and stunning coastlines. What many fail to see is poverty. When asked to consider poverty, many North Americans call to mind images of developing countries without recognizing the poverty in their own backyard.

Poverty is generally defined as the state of lacking the resources necessary to meet minimum standards of living relative to one’s societal context. How does our society identify what is a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or possessions? Each year the federal government uses data from the Census Bureau to calculate what is determined to be the minimum amount of money required to meet basic needs. This poverty threshold is determined by comparing pre-tax cash income against a threshold set at three times the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963. This amount is updated each year for inflation and adjusted for family size, composition and age.  The threshold is then simplified into poverty guidelines that are used to determine financial eligibility for government assistance.  The currently poverty line for a single person is $11,770, for a family of two that amount is $15,930 , and the line for a family of four is $24, 250. The parameters for extreme poverty  in the U.S. is considered to be 50 percent less than the guideline amounts listed previously. Policymakers and researchers often criticize this measure because it does not reflect modern expenses, or account for cost of living variance based on geographic region, nor does this formula adjust for changes in the standard of living. So, why has this calculation not changed?  Simple answer…it’s complicated.

The experiences of poverty amount to more than the financial amount associated with food, clothing and shelter. For some, poverty means not being able to afford the finer things in life. For others, poverty is the absence of healthcare when ill or the lack of access to transportation necessary for gainful employment. When faced with the dilemmas of pay for food or shelter versus medication or childcare, people experiencing poverty have limited options. Poverty is complex – and no one definition fully captures its scope, effects, causes, or solutions. Thus, we must educate ourselves and those around us about these issues facing our communities. In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, “In a real sense all life is inter-related…Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

So, what does poverty this look like in our community? Check out the Infographic below!

Welcome to the Center for Civic Engagement’s New Blog!

It’s not really new, it’s actually been around for a while, but several changes are in order. To date the Center for Civic Engagement has primarily utilized the blog to market and promote events. Although marketing is still an important part of our success as an office, we recently repurposed our website to address that need and allow our blog to focus on bigger and better, if not equally important, things.

Before we address our blog’s new prospects, let’s revisit the Center for Civic Engagement’s Mission:

The Center for Civic Engagement’s mission is to contribute to the holistic development of College of Charleston students and to cultivate in them a passion for positive social change through the use of education, service, and critical reflection.

The Center for Civic Engagement places equal emphasis on education, direct service, and reflection – a philosophy represented by the triangle of quality service. Each of our student interactions revolve around this philosophy; therefore, we feel our online presence should represent the same commitment. Our dream is that the blog will become a resource for students to educate themselves about social change, and provide a context for students to reflect on their direct service experiences through our office.

New Features of the Blog

  1. Education Posts
  2. The Center for Civic Engagement believes that one of the critical components to resolving a social justice issue is being educated about it. We hope to contribute to the education of our blog readers by publishing biweekly articles about specific social justice topics. We hope to inform and inspire our readers to become active and effective citizens in the community. These posts will be written by a member of our office staff or by a guest who has substantial knowledge about a particular subject. Guest writers can be faculty/staff members at the College of Charleston or members of the community. If you are passionate about a topic that relates to our office’s mission and you would like to publish to our blog, contact us at

  3. Student Posts
  4. Critical reflection of direct service events gives our student participants new perspectives, inspires passion, and challenges them to learn and do more. It also requires volunteers to evaluate the impact they have on the community through their service. This is an important part of moving individuals to become active citizens in the community. In order to capture students’ reflections, the Center for Civic Engagement will encourage one or two of the student participants in each of our events to post about their experiences.

  5. Newsletter Posts
  6. The Center for Civic Engagement would like to keep the readers of the blog up to date with what is happening in our office. Therefore we will have monthly posts that reflect on the previous month’s events and programs.

  7. Thematic Changes
  8. In the upcoming months, the Center for Civic Engagement may be testing new visual themes for our blog. This will not affect the content whatsoever but it may affect the user experience. If you have any feedback regarding these changes, contact us at

We look forward to this exciting new change for our office through the modification of our blog. We hope that these changes will encourage students to engage in the community, and community members to engage with students. We encourage you, whether you are a student at the College of Charleston, or just a kindred spirit, to read our blog and to engage in whatever community you claim.