Category: Students

This category is for posts that are created by student participants in the CCE’s programs.

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!


Active Citizenship: A Compilation of Student Ideals

“There is power in identity.”- Bryan Stevenson

Here at the Center for Civic Engagement we like to identify as Active Citizens.  Having language attached to what we are doing gives us an identity, and having an identity makes us a movement- people who are striving to to be intentional and work in solidarity with the communities we serve.  Using the term “Active Citizen” both enforces being part of a movement, and defines what we strive to achieve through serving the community.  As “citizens” we are accepting that we are members of society, and with that we accept the rights, privileges, and duties given to us by the community.  By adding “active” to this definition, we are embracing a state of progress and action towards the betterment of the community, rather than just giving ones support.  This terminology is used across the country in regards to college campuses pursuing civic engagement and community development.

The CCE as a whole defines it as “actively putting the needs of the community in the forefront of your mind”, but we also believe that it can carry different meanings for everyone.  Several students take this definition further by seeing active citizenship as a lens through which you see the world.  This means that you see how each of your actions could potentially affect the community you are in, and this effects your everyday decisions.  Viewing active citizenship as a lens also shows that this lens can evolve with time.  It is a process towards becoming more engaged and aware of the issues that surround your community.  Katie Joiner (sophomore) defines active citizenship as, “constantly and organically considering the impact that everything you do and everything that you see done has on the communities you’re a part of.”  This use of the word organic implies that truly active citizens no longer need to think about being an active citizen.  Meeting the needs of the community is now one of their highest priorities.

Students also shared examples of active citizens they try to model their life after.  Sam Brophy (senior) mentions CofC’s own Maggie Szeman as an active citizen role model. She says, “[Maggie] embodies passion about service, and is always inspiring me.”  Passion is often seen as a driving force behind embodying this view of the world.  Without passion, the work you do is just work and there is no sense of true fulfillment.  Active citizenship is more than serving the community because you want to; it is serving the community to fight for justice while furthering your understanding of the communities needs.

The Active Citizenship Continuum is used to place yourself along the process toward active citizenship.  It is used as a guide to further your path toward becoming a truly active citizen.


Nicole Fernandez (senior) talks about how active citizenship is a constantly evolving life-long process, and how you can always become a more active citizen.  Her personal definition of active citizenship involves, “both a desire to know everything you can, as well as an awareness of the fact that you will never know all there is to know. It also involves a desire to cultivate compassion and connection on both the local and familiar levels, as well as the broader and unfamiliar levels.”  Through the cultivation of compassion, individuals gain empathy.  Empathy gives people the means of truly understanding the needs of a community.  With understanding stems the intentional life choices that define active citizens.

Incarceration of American Youth – Natalie Martin

The school to prison pipeline refers to the national trend of criminalizing misbehaviors that happen in schools across the nation. There are enormous implications for students, in particular male students of color, given the changes in how school culture and discipline is handled across the nation.

School to Prison Pipeline

  • African American students are 3.5 times more likely than their white peers to be suspended or expelled.
  • Black children account for 18% of students, but account for 46% of those suspended more than once.
  • Students who enter the juvenile justice system face many barriers blocking their re-entry into traditional schools, and can be haunted by their criminal records later in life. The vast majority never graduate from high school, and may be denied student loans, public housing, or occupational licenses.
  • While approximately 8.6% of public school children have been identified as having disabilities that impact their ability to learn, a recent survey of correctional facilities found that students with disabilities are represented in jail at a rate of nearly four times that.

Department of Juvenile Justice Statistics

  • On a given day, 70,000 juvenile offenders are held in residential placements.
  • On a given day in SC, between 788-919 juveniles are held in residential placements.
  • There are 1.7 million juvenile cases each year. That is 4,600 per day.
  • Charleston County accounts for approximately 10% of all juveniles detained in South Carolina.
  • 1 out of every 5 youth brought before the court are detained.
  • An estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year
  • African American youth make up 62% of juveniles tried as adults.
  • The racial breakdown for youth in SC detention centers is 66% black, 30% white, and 4% identify as a different race or ethnicity.
  • The gender breakdown for youth detained in SC is 78% male and 22% female.
  • 14 states have no minimum age for trying youth as adults.
  • 365 children have been legally executed in the United States.
  • There are 73 children sentenced to life without parole in prisons today – 49% are black, 10% are Latin@.
  • Of the 73 children sentenced to life without parole for non-homicide offenses, all are people of color.

As one can see from the statistics above, the rates of children involved in the juvenile justice system are staggering. The problem is much larger than just the juvenile justice system. We miss the point if we look at single incidents to try and define the problem. The issue at hand is the intersection of multiple systems that are steeped in historic racism that perpetuate inequity in the world today. After the murder of Michael Brown in St. Louis, Brittany Packnett said, “Education did not save Mike Brown. Racism killed him.” That truth can be applied to many historical and current events. The events during Red Summer, the lack of accountability for the white instigators in those events and numerous others, the abuses against people of color and the lack of any types of reparations, Jim Crow and the history of lynchings, the foundation of our public school system and the current school to prison pipeline, housing disparities, income disparities, the fact that white high school graduates still out earn black college graduates today are all connected and are one much larger systemic injustice caused by white supremacy. In some ways there is this beat the odds mentality about students of color, but that is the wrong mindset. We must change the odds, but that will require those with power and privilege to educate themselves, give up power, be uncomfortable, and stop perpetuating the same forms of oppression that our country was founded on.

So that begets the question, what can you do when the problem is large and deeply rooted in our history. While it can sometimes seem that small things won’t make a difference, the AAST 300 class, in collaboration with the Charleston County Department of Juvenile Justice, is tackling an issue that will hopefully have a large impact on the youth detained in the juvenile justice facility in North Charleston. After a recent trip to the facility, our class noticed the limited number of books in the detention center’s library and decided that was something we could help change. In addition to increasing the number of reading materials, we also raise awareness about the current context of the juvenile justice system and the school to prison pipeline.

We are collecting paperback books for kids ages 10-18 between now and April 17th. If you have any books you would like to donate, please drop them off in the box located in the Center for Civic Engagement, Room 203, Lightsey Center.

The Experiences of Madeline Ryan – Nashville Tennessee

Every spring break students find new and exciting ways to spend their week sabbatical from academic studies. The students that participated in the Center for Civic Engagement’s Alternative Break program are no exception. Alternative Break is a program that hosts student-led trips during academic breaks. It provides participants with hands-on experience in social justice issues while immersing them in new cultures. This year the College of Charleston had five trips to various parts of the country and the world.

Here one of the participants, Madeline Ryan, articulates her experiences in Nashville, TN on a trip titled Artistic Abilities: Abilities, disabilities, and the arts in Music City. Click on the headings for each day to visit her blog and read more.

Day 1

This week, I’m participating in what’s called an alternative spring break. Through CofC, I along with 10 other ladies are heading to Nashville to work with and learn from art organizations that work with people with disabilities. Our trip is called Artistic Abilities.

Day 2

Inside the basement, we got a tour from the director of the Parthenon! She was so excited and knowledgable about every aspect of the history of this site. For those of you who don’t know, Nashville had an International Exposition in 1897, celebrating its 100th year of statehood. Huge temporary buildings representing and celebrating cultures from around the world were built. Everything from pyramids to the Parthenon, fair games to exotic cafes, and a women’s building to a Chinese village were constructed. Though this fair was supposed to be a way to educate people who might never get the chance to travel, accuracy was not emphasized but rather our American stereotypes of different cultures. However, the main focus of the exposition was on the idea that Nashville is an “Athens of the South.”

Day 3

At a long country farm table in the back, we meet Leisa Hammett. Leisa is the mother of an artist with autism, the one who runs her daughter’s art business, and a volunteer advocate for issues dealing with artists with disabilities . . . She started to talk about the start of her realization that her daughter had a passion for creating art and about starting her daughter’s business and the obstacles that she has overcome. She talked about how difficult it is to be running a business and raising her daughter by herself. She also talked about how difficult it is on the national level to find support for artists with disabilities: she is thinking about how she will combat the laws against getting disability support if her daughter’s business starts making too much money. What was really neat was that she did talk about disabilities, but she was talking like any other art business manager would be about his/her origins and issues.

Day 4

My group . . . timidly peeked into the room at the end of the hall. This room had day patients from a center called Clover Bottom Developmental. These individuals are on the most severe end of the spectrum of intellectual disabilities. Most all were in chairs and a couple were hooked up to feeding tubes. The staff and nurses introduced us to all of them and their little quirks: someone didn’t like to be touched, someone laughed when you pretended to trip, someone loved to tap their feet to music, someone would want to just to be left alone.

During our dancing activities, one of the leaders filmed us. Our activity is part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of this organization called VSA which is a state organization for arts and disabilities. This video will be exchanged with a partner in Austria, who is videoing a similar jazz activity. These videos will be put up online as a lead-up for the main celebration in July in DC. We are one of sixty countries represented in this celebration.

Day 5

This morning we went back to the Rochelle center to mainly observe a music therapy session. As we crowded into the back of the small room, the young woman picked up her guitar singing “Hello, I’m glad to see you” to each of the individuals in the session. These individuals were on the moderate to severe spectrum. One individual would just smile up at the ceiling when she would sing his/her name, another would cover his/her face saying “Don’t scare me!” and another would acknowledge that she was singing his/her name but not want to interact with her. There were about 5 participants. During the session, she would do simple activities like “shake your tambourine when I sing the letter that your name starts with…and the letter is __” Or “let’s shake our tambourines really softly…now really loudly” While some had to continually have help to reposition the tambourine in their hands, one individual was so excited during a song that he stood up and shook his tambourine up high in the air.

Outside of the Kennedy Center, they have a small playground with cameras where they note the movement and interactions of children with and without autism, all who have fanny packs that record audio. They also have a volunteer called a confederate who has a bug in his/her ear to hear instructions given by Dr. Corbett and her research assistants. Even before this project, Dr. Corbett was interested in the interactions of individuals with autism and their typically developing peers. Before coming to Vanderbilt, she started a non-profit organization called SENSE theater. They produce plays with psychology students at the school, children with autism, and typically developing peers from schools in the area. Throughout her talk on her theater, Dr. Corbett continually stressed the importance of pairing individuals with autism with a fellow peer in a safe environment where no one will bully them.

Day 6

So, today was wonderful and sad. Wonderful because we all woke up to snow!! But sad because all of our site visits were cancelled for the day because of the ice on the roads. Today, we were supposed to go back to the Rochelle Center (and I was really excited to serve in another room and have new experiences with new individuals) and go to a dress rehearsal for SENSE Theater.

When we got to Nashville, all of us for some reason, decided to adopt the most country accent you’ve ever heard. But no one else took up this challenge as much as Stephanie. Throughout the whole trip, she hardly abandoned her accent and she feared that it had become a part of her, or maybe that this was her true accent all along…