Sam Brown is a junior at Muhlenberg College who volunteers more than 10 hours per week collaborating with children in an elementary school and working with a therapeutic riding center in Allentown. They took on the additional responsibility of overseeing and coordinating other student volunteers for two labor-intensive weekly programs and a fraternity on campus. The time spent coordinating other student volunteers for these programs is extensive, and likely doubles their volunteer time commitment. Sam not only commits time and energy to working with local Allentown communities, they are also actively engaged in movements for equity and justice on campus. They think about all of the issues on which they work in structural ways. They question the inequities of the educational system, recognize and address the racism that creates the characterization of local communities as "dangerous," and challenge their peers and college employees to consider multiple perspectives.
There are many students on Muhlenberg College's campus that think the city of Allentown is dangerous, especially beyond a certain point of reference. One way to address prejudices Muhlenberg students may have was to encourage friends and peers to get involved in the community through activities they enjoyed. For the last year, I've coordinated volunteers at an elementary school, and many students enter the elementary school with assumptions about the children based on their race, how they speak, or how they dress. When connecting over a common interest, like sports, music, or art, I've seen many Muhlenberg students change in the way they think about the city and the people in it. Students who volunteers at community partner sites are usually the ones more likely to speak out against the campus-wide myth that Allentown isn't safe. They are also the ones more likely to attend community-wide meetings, events, and protests.
Disinterest in social inequities is one of the most dangerous ways prejudice continues. It is through encouraging community partnership that I hope more Muhlenberg students will begin to care about local politics and social inequities.