Hunger Games: Class Takes Firsthand Look at Local Poverty Issues

First year students in Rachel Droogsma’s Liberal Arts Seminar, “The Hunger Games,” are not taking just any introductory college course.

In addition to being introduced to college-level reading and writing, students are learning the importance of compassion and confronting stereotypes through service learning. The class recently participated in Lincoln’s fourth annual Project Homeless Connect, sponsored by the Lincoln Homeless Coalition.

One of many Homeless Connect events taking place across the country, Lincoln’s Project Homeless Connect brought various non-profit organizations together for one day to serve the homeless and near-homeless in the Lincoln community.

Droogsma’s students served for eight hours registering guests, learning what their needs were, and guiding them through the Pershing Center to help them get all of their tasks accomplished. Needs ranged from foot care, to bicycle maintenance, to health screenings, to signing up for food stamps, to finding childcare, housing, food for a pet, and more.

“This is such a unique, face-to-face experience that you can’t get in most other service experiences,” said Droogsma, an assistant professor of communication studies. “We all left feeling like we made a difference because we were so closely connected to each guest getting what he or she needed that day.”

The students’ participation in the event perfectly complemented their LAS topic. The students are studying “The Hunger Games” book series as a societal critique.

“We are examining the hunger games that go on in our communities on a daily basis, with particular attention to poverty, hunger, the gap between rich and poor, healthcare inequalities, and inequalities in education — all of which are addressed in Suzanne Collins’ trilogy,” said Droogsma.

“I also hoped students would confront their stereotypes about people who are poor and/or homeless, better understand their own privilege, and see that people are ultimately more alike than we are different,” she added. “I hoped students would see that they can make a difference in their communities by serving others.”

They certainly did. Students left the event with changed hearts and minds.

“I had this preconceived notion that people living in poverty had made a decision or did something that put them in that situation,” said first-year student Justin Schreiber. “I learned after Project Homeless Connect that a lot of the time, there's some outside force that puts these people out on the streets. I will never just assume anything about homeless people ever again.”

Student Laura Oberg agreed.

“After meeting and interacting [with the guests], I realized that there is so much more to these people and their stories than anyone would ever guess.”

“I'm not exaggerating when I say that helping people is one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. Compassion goes a long way,” said Oberg. “It doesn't matter who you are or what you're going through, a helping hand does go a long way, and can make a difference, big or small.”

Project Homeless Connect was a special learning experience that won’t be forgotten any time soon.

“Service learning makes course concepts come alive, and what we learned at Homeless Connect could not have been learned in any classroom,” said Droogsma.

“The reason why I love the class so much is because not only are we talking about issues in the world, we're going out and doing something about them,” said first-year student Jenny Hood. “Dr. Droogsma’s LAS class has a chance to not only make a difference, but be one as well.”


12,500 Hour Service Challenge
In honor of our 125th anniversary, Nebraska Wesleyan University faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends of the university are volunteering 12,500 hours of service to our communities. Join us in this service challenge by logging your service hours and sharing your service experiences.

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Students in Dr. Droogsma's liberal arts seminar prepare for service instructions at Project Homeless Connect on Oct. 11.