By Rachel Rooney, Toppel Peer Advisor
You’ve probably heard of social justice before, but do you know what it means specifically? Social justice is defined as justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society, according to Oxford English Dictionary and justice can be both a legal term and a synonym for equality. There are a lot of social justice issues going on in the world today—human trafficking, poverty, hunger, Title I schools, education, health, HIV/AIDS, slavery, etc. You can do so much to help make the world a better place by combating these social justice issues! Here’s how you can get more involved on campus.
A good starting place is the Educational and Psychological Studies department. Part of the School of Education is the Human and Social Development program/major. It focuses on community psychology and social justice issues. The program is doing research and using it to improve communities and individuals. I would recommend EPS 361 (community psychology and development) for students who are interested in this and for more information on the major or other courses see here.
Another way to get involved is the Civic Scholars Program which is a dual program through the Butler Center and the Center for Civic Engagement. Through this program you will take courses specifically with a service learning component, complete an internship, attend learning seminars such as Canes Lead, Women’s Leadership Symposium, and participate in service days. More information is listed here.
A unique opportunity that I would encourage students to do is Alternative Breaks. I went on an alternative breaks program last year for fall break to Hollywood, FL and worked with an organization called Homeless Voice, which is the state’s only long-term homeless shelter. I learned a lot about how the organization worked—that it made money from selling the newspaper, that everyone who stayed there had to work and that the people who worked paid rent for themselves and for one person who couldn’t work. Seeing homelessness first hand empowered me to want to make a change and to help out. We did two community projects as a group; we built a community garden for the residents there and we did art therapy with them and gave them the painting to decorate the building. One of the experiences that particularly affected me was when I went with the manager and another girl from the trip to a nursing home to pick up one of the residents. The conditions and the treatment of the patient were shocking and I became more aware of what was going on in the health care world. Going on the trip shaped a lot of the economic and political beliefs I hold now—everyone should be able to have basic needs, such as food, water, and shelter, but I also believe everyone should have affordable housing, education, and healthcare. The experience also taught me to believe that I could make a difference, that what I did would matter to someone.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.