Author: Ryan Burke (Page 1 of 2)

Kids’ Cafe

Over the last six weeks, we have had the opportunity to aid the community partner Hope Station Opportunity Area: Carlisle or more well-known as Hope Station. Launched in 2000, Hope Station was created with its first substantial grant support from Allfirst Bank. As a non-profit organization, Hope Station was designed to enhance the quality of life, health, safety, and economic opportunities for the people who live in the neighborhood. With programs such as H.I.R.E. Plus Program: Helping Individuals Retain Employment, Health Fair/Back to School Bash, Juneteenth Celebration, and more, Hope Station has significantly impacted the Carlisle community in its short sixteen years of existences. During our time at Hope Station we focused on finding ways to improve their after school program, Kids’ Cafe. The Kids’ Cafe provides the youth of Carlisle, typically Black and/or low-income, a daily after school snack during the week. We have been focusing on the distribution of healthy foods and gradual elimination of unhealthy foods. The importance of our project was not only to provide  healthy food but more importantly to introduce healthier eating habits.

In terms of social justice, the work we have been doing has been centered around food justice. As defined by the Just Food organization, which focuses on the empowerment of NYC neighborhoods through the integration of urban farming, “Food justice is when communities choose to exercise their right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food”. The importance of being able to access healthy food options is imperative for maintaining good health. Accessible food options are often confined to corner stores in urban communities. Corner stores offer no fresh food options and an abundance of unhealthy foods. When a community is presented with a corner store on each corner that provides low costing foods, it’s luring the community to eat unhealthy. This pressing issue is why food justice efforts are a necessity and should be brought to the attention of not only the affected community but the whole city as it is a city issue. We hope our contribution to the food justice initiatives of Hope Station can be a part of the foundation that gradually brings attention to this city issue.

Personal Narrative: Legacy Watkins 

Kids Café provides food for over 100 kids on a daily basis, ages ranging from Pre-K to high school. The past 3 months I have spent over 2 hours per week making sandwiches and snack bags to give to the kids. Our initial goal was to find healthy food to give the kids after school and develop a weekly menu. The kids were surveyed on what they would like to eat and also were allowed to taste foods that could be added to the menu. Finding healthy foods that the kids want to eat was challenging. Fresh fruits such as strawberries, apples, bananas, and oranges seem to go well with the kids. In addition to making fruit part of their after school snack, a 100% fruit juice or water was added as a healthier drink option. We are continuously trying to find ways to improve the methods of how we grow food and the ways in which we eat it. We are currently in the process of trying to start a garden at Hope Station in effort to teach kids about healthy food and how to grow it themselves. If Hope Station Kids Café were to start a garden it would not only give the kids a great learning experience of social justice through food or food justice but also help them make healthier choices and be mindful of where the food they consume comes from. The garden can provide education about the ethics of care directly relating to food because it involves caring for the well-being of the land and workers. Also by starting a garden we give the community access to organic foods, which the Hope Station could choose to turn into a business to keep money in the Black community.

Food is a basic human right in which every individual should have access to healthy, nutritious food sufficient for a healthy living. Food is not only a source of nutrition but also a way for communities to connect because it is multicultural, anti-racist, and anti-sexist. Although some food stereotypes can bring negative notions to a marginalized group of people it is used as a way to unify people. After taking a course at Dickinson called African American Foodways, I learned that food was used to create communities and also communicate trust and love. At Hope Station Kids Cafe this can be shown through the bonds we have began to form with the Carlisle community as Dickinson students through food.

The media doesn’t directly highlight healthy food access as often as they highlight other social justice issues such as racism and sexism. Each of the issues are equally important and each are connected. Racism is fighting for the economic and social advancement of a marginalized group of people based on race which directly relates to food justice because food has become a weapon to self-destruction based on race and economic standing. There are no grocery store or organic stands near Hope Station that permits access for the Black community to healthy food. This is often the case in urban communities and we are taking necessary steps  to better that. The work done at Hope Station Kids Café supports the argument of unity through oppression that can be received from articles such as Power, Justice & the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement.  The Kids Café ultimate goal is to provide children access to a healthier menu and education, while also forming relationships through food.

My experience at Hope Station Kids Café has been a great experience and beneficial to my idea of social justice. I am appreciative to have had the opportunity to work with Hope Station’s Kids’ Cafe. It has been a mind opening experience to my privilege on Dickinson’s campus and also furthered my knowledge of what I perceive as one of the most undermined injustices of today’s society. I hope to continue to work with Hope Station Kids’ Cafe to help provide support and knowledge to the students but also preserve the relationships formed in this space.

Personal Narrative: Sofina Odero  

During the late 1960s to the early 1980s, The Black Panther Party for Self Defense actively focused on social justice for Black communities throughout the United States. Their own desire to free Black people from the social injustices of the White supremacy could be seen when looking at the programs they initiated such as their Ten-Point Program. With an emphasis on communal justice for the Black community, The Black Panther Party wanted Black people to be able to determine their own destiny. The Black Panther Party’s Ten-Point Program listed their demands which was in line with the Black Power and Black nationalism movements. 

Another program they initiated was their breakfast program for schoolchildren, which fed Black children before school. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense noted an aspect of social justice which was typically overlooked, food justice, and made a change for the well-being of the future of Black communities, the Black youth. Their breakfast program fed hundreds of thousands of Black children daily throughout the school week. This effort provided financially insecure, working-class and poor Black families the means to feed their children. This program reminded me of the the Kid’s Café program as it also focuses on feeding Black schoolchildren. With the same mentality the Black Panther Party had, Hope Station recognized the importance of providing food for children as it physically fuels their bodies for success.

During the weeks of working at the Kid’s Café, I focused my efforts on documenting the quality control and distribution of the food. I logged the initial state of the food which was coming to the program and from that, noticed the extra effort needed for providing safe food. The necessity of our vigilance while preparing sandwiches and washing fruits with exposed edible skin was clear as we were the only barrier before distribution of the food. While the donated food was given out of generosity, the possibility of receiving unusable foods was an issue that was of constant concern. This was not the fault of the donators as the program was more than appreciative to receive the donated foods, but it was a reminder of the quality of food in the surrounding community and what was left for donation efforts in the city. The quality control of the served food was dependent on our attentiveness.

Another aspect that required undivided attention was distribution. More specifically, it was the portions we enforced while distributing the food. It was noticeable that portion size was not a concern for the Carlisle youth as many tried to take three to four times more than the single serving we provided. That is not to say that they did not need the abundance but it was impeding our efforts of feeding all the schoolchildren as the surrounding schools left out at different times. With that, we had to be sure we were able to maintain enough food to provide every schoolchild an after school snack. This issue of supply, demand, and need was indisputable, and while the Kids’ Cafe was answering this need, this experience showed me that the city of Carlisle could do much more for its Black community and provide more avenues of local healthy food within this population.

Overall, my experience with Hope Station and the Kids’ Cafe was humbling and eye-opening as I not only found a population of people in which I had so much in common with but I was able to recognize the privilege of my positionality in the city of Carlisle as a Black undergraduate Dickinson student and used it for the well-being of others. I plan to continue to aid this community for the remainder of my time in Carlisle and hope to form lifetime bonds with the Black people of Carlisle.

Personal Narrative: Elijah Wrights 

My experience at Hope Station has been very beneficial to understanding food equality and food accessibility. Hope Station is an after school program that feeds children in the Carlisle area from elementary school  to high school. In an area that’s income is under the national average, Hope Station plays a pivotal food in providing food for the children of Carlisle.  Hope Station’s impact in the community is tremendous. The providing of food for children, whose meal may only come from Hope Station is extremely important. Hope Station has been able to serve children’s meals for 20 years, but their is room for improvement.  Our mission at Hope Station was to find healthier food options, so the children can experience and embrace a  healthier life. Bringing healthier foods to Hope Station not only feeds the children but also provides them with healthier lifestyle.

Food inequality in low income cities have unfortunately become the normal for inhabitants.  With the government cutting funds to maintain grocery stores, food accessibility has become extremely difficult to reach. Along with the government cutting funds, big corporation have monopolized in low income areas which negatively contributes to the accessibility of healthy food. Our goal to promote and bring healthier food options to Hope Station relates to themes in class that we have discussed. In Ornie Williams article Food and Justice: The Critical Link Healthy communities, he discuss the role of grocery stores especially in African American communities.  The lack of grocery stores in African American communities make African American more prone to a higher rate and risk to disease. This connected with our project because the majority of children who attend Hope Station are African American; there is not one grocery on that side of the city where Hope Station is.  Although food inequality occurs in Carlisle, Hope Station can serve as a bright light in the community with the addition of healthier food options.. As a group we hope we can bring a garden to Hope Station, to not only provide food but also teach the children how to grow food. The garden project would also serve as an afterschool program for children to attend. Teaching healthy eating habits at such a young age can really impact a child’s life in the long run for the better.

Personally this project not only opened my eyes towards food inequality but also to how fortunate I am. Food inequality goes under the radar when it comes to social justice I believe but I think it is extremely important. Listening to stories and incidents at Hope Station, how for some children this is their only meal is heartbreaking. Black, White, rich or poor etc. food & healthy food options should be accessible to everyone, especially the children. Our youth is the most important, they are the driving force for our future and they should never have to experience what it’s like to not have food. Attending Dickinson and seeing how much food is wasted in areas such as the Cafe and Snar, I realized how much we waste and how much potential we have to change people’s lives regarding hunger issues.


The Kid’s Cafe program has done a tremendous job feeding the children of the Carlisle school district for approximately sixteen years. Our service project goals were to incorporate healthier food options  that were also delicious to the kids. Alongside our immediate goal to make healthy food options more accessible to the children, our group has decided to expand our six week project to further improve the Kids’ Cafe. Hope Station has an open space that would allow us to plant a garden for the children to run which would teach them about urban farming. The garden would provide additional healthy food options for the program and also create a potential business to provide access to fresh food for the surrounding community. This after school activity for the children would ensure sustainability for our health initiative. The garden at Hope Station would provide fresh fruits and vegetables, serve as a positive after school activity, and educate the youth about healthy lifestyles. In addition to the garden we would like to start two after school programs. One being a Food Education program which would teach Pre-K through 5th grade students healthy eating habits, portion control  and why food is important. This would directly work with the garden to help them understand food justice. The other program would be a Culinary or Home Economics course which would teach 6th through 12th grade students healthy ways to prepare meals, alternative dishes, and a safe space to bond after school.We would ask for support from student volunteers attending Dickinson College to help facilitate and foster bonds with the youth of the Carlisle Community. These kids should be exposed to social justice issues such as food justice so that they can make a difference as they start to develop in life.


Our plan for the future:

  • Urban Garden: “Keep Hope” Garden
    • Kids take responsibility for plants
    • Teach children how to grow plants
    • Create good habits that can be further expanded
    • Healthy food preparation
    • Use food from the garden for new meal ideas
    • Positive after school activity
      • *Business: Sale produce to community – keeping money in black communities*
  • Culinary/Home Economics Course (6th grade through 12th grade)
    • Teach healthy ways to cook
    • Create positive space for bonding
    • Show alternative ways to prepare dishes
    • Conduct event where kids can showcase what they learned
  • Food Education Program (Pre-K through 5th grade)
    • Teach healthy eating habits
    • Portion control
    • Learn how food connects to social justice issues
    • Potential partnership with Food Justice Organizations to help further education

To get involved at Hope Station visit


Power, Justice & the Environment: A Critical Appraisal of the Environmental Justice Movement, David Naguib Pellow and Robert Brulle

Spoken Word Poetry Workshops


            For our Community Service initiative, we had the opportunity of collaborating with the YWCA of Carlisle to create and facilitate a Spoken Word workshop. The intention behind creating this workshop was in hopes of engaging residents, particularly youths, from the lower income and predominately African American Community in dialogue about their backgrounds using spoken word as a vehicle. It was all possible in great part thanks to Ms. Sonya Browne and members of the YWCA. The YWCA, known for  servicing the community, was founded in Carlisle in 1919 and sought to eradicate lingering traces of systematic, structural oppression along racial and gender lines so that women might be empowered and advocating for. The YWCA has been involved in the different sectors of Carlisle through its youth enrichment programs, services for victims of sexual assault, and rape in addition to events to hosting public events to raise awareness like their upcoming annual race against racism.

 For our partnership, we volunteered through one of the YWCA’s young women’s enrichment programs entitled “Girl Power”, which serves as both an academic and personal enhancer for girls in the Carlisle school district (middle and high school). In partnering with the YWCA and Girl Power, we sought to engage participants in honest dialogue about matters permeating throughout their community as well as personal narratives. Having just read Howard McGary, Race and Social Justice, in addition to our discussions in class, we were weary that there would be a feeling of distance between us as Dickinson College students, and the members of the local community. To be told, prior to to beginning our project that that over the course of time there has been a decline in Dickinson’s involvement in the broader Carlisle Community interaction we found it to be a bit disheartening and we wanted to ensure that feeling of distance was not presence in our work as facilitators and mentors. Acknowledging also the economic disparity that persists in the Carlisle community, not only did we wish to bring to the table issues of racial sexual and domestic violence as the YWCA has for almost a century, but we wanted to bring light to language, and the microaggressions that are so ingrained in society that it that detracts from our making Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and America, a safe space for all.  


Through, Spoken Word, we hoped to give the members of the Carlisle community, who through some form of their identity have faced a sense of erasure by society around them, a platform to profess their narratives, tools to reach out and make meaningful connections with others, and a resource to find solace, when in times of personal trouble. This workshop in getting people to learn to speak with each other about their backgrounds, broke some initial lines of uncomfortability and it is our hope it will continue for years to come, with support from Dickinson College.



Individual Response

I began my contributions to this workshop by refreshing my understanding of the power of spoken word poetry. In doing so I referenced my final research presentation I submitted for Professor Johnson’s class Intro to Africana Studies which discussed the importance of spoken word poets during times of social movements. Following this I was introduced to the ladies of the youth group created by the YWCA, Girl Power at the Carlisle High School. I spoke to the ladies briefly introducing the art of spoken word where interestingly majority of the class had not heard of spoken word poetry. This made for a better conversation because I was able to give some background information on the art of spoken word, what it is, what it functions as in communities of color and what people today use this art for. After getting the ladies interested I showed a video of Dickinson alumni Brittany Barker performing one of her piece at a Poetry Slam. Following this presentation I engaged the ladies in a debriefing having them explain initial reactions to Brittany’s performance, her words, delivery and presence. I then gauged the audience to see how many of the ladies in the room would be interested in a poetry workshop after viewing the embodiment of spoken word, about half of the class rose their hands.  I then proceeded to perform my own piece for the girls to further illustrate the power of spoken word, following my performance more hands rose to express interest in the workshop.

        It was imperative for me as a woman of color to express to other women of color that their voices and stories have the power to change their community. In doing so I referenced the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and emphasized that this was an organization comprised of youths their age, who had a lasting impact on the social movement at that time. My aim was to help show these ladies that they possess agency as well as they should engage their citizenship as they have a stake in their community. Expressed by Howard McGary in his book Race and Social Justice civilians who do not feel that they have a say in the occurrences of their community normally do not exercise their citizenship as we saw was the case for inhabitant of Lakestown in the novel Lakestown Rebellion. Those who do not feel valued by their communities do not have an urgency to contribute to their community and I hoped to make sure this was not the case for these youths. When I mentioned the importance of using your voice in your community one girl mentioned that people don’t understand teenagers therefore it makes no sense to even bother, that was my bargaining point. I emphasized that the fact that teenagers are misunderstood is the reason for raising their voice because spoken word poets are the voices of their communities, these ladies are the voice of their community. My mission then became to help these ladies develop their voices and see that indeed they have a stake in their community.

        Following my visit to the high school Greg and I met at the YWCA to conduct our first workshop. To prepare for this we brainstormed the optimal way to introduce the topic of spoken word to this group of people considering that we are seen as strangers already. We took what Mc.Gary mentioned in his book and first sought to bridge the gap between intellectual of the community. We approached the space by first identifying ourselves and lead an icebreaker (very Dickinson like) to allow for a safe space. We then began our discussion of spoken word poetry by reading the well acclaimed Mother to Son by Langston Hughes. From there we talked about our own stairs in our lives (in relation to crystal stairs in the poem), this was the catalyst of our meeting. Providing a space for participants to reflect and feel comfortable to share, we talked about those stairs (symbolic of hardships in their lives) in their life and saw how deep people were getting and heard the passion in their voices. This was a perfect segway into discussing the passion in the delivery of spoken word and commanding your space. From there we asked a volunteer to reread the poem for us but this time channeling their personal stairs and conjure up that passion. This was the climax of our meeting for we not only realized the power of words but in addition we acknowledge the passion in writing and delivering a spoken word poem. From there we had them write their own spoken word poems, guidelines being that they had to channel their passion, their voice and be as open as possible. This culminated in the best feeling I could’ve experienced as a poet. We asked a few people to share as they felt comfortable and the responses were astonishing. People shared very personal experiences and encounters that allowed the space to morph into not just a learning space but a healing space. At this moment participants experienced the transformative power of spoken word poetry. This experience allowed them to see and tap into the transformative power of their words. Though this was the first workshop it laid the blueprint for ones to come. I anticipate future workshops to be better and even more powerful as I plan to talk about the bodily embodiment of one’s poetry and the connection between the performer and his/her’s audience to create the optimal experience as Crystal Leigh Endsley mentions in her book The Fifth Element.  All in all, this service learning opportunity has been transformative for myself and the community and is the epitome of social justice, bringing the community together in a transformative manner.

                                                                                                                                                                                   By: Samantha Miller ‘18
                                                                                                       Individual Response 



To begin with Langston Hughes’s “Mother to Son, set the tone for one of the most impactful two house I have had the pleasure of spending in my time here as a Dickinson student. To reflect on the words of the mother, in the poem who explained to her child that her life has not been the perfect “crystal staircase” as most presumed of life, enabled us in the workshop to find common ground in the inherently imperfect idea of living. However, to establish a center of beliefs enabled us create a safe space, as we know that individuals very rarely leave common ground in the same direction. And in respecting the privacy of those in the workshops, we will not include names of those in attendance, however what was shared, included stories of domestic abuse mental disorders, and broken homes to name a few. In what became a sacred space, the 25 of us, though sharing our stories, invited each other into our experiences, and I watched as the 15 year-olds, to the 15 at heart, began to discuss how life began to impacted us. rather than judge or be quick to criticize one for the life choices that have lead them to this point.

From reflecting on the crystal stairs that we were told existed, we considered all the ideas that make life perfect, or ideal. we reflected upon  the documents like The Constitution Of The United States Of America, and Declaration of Independence briefly to get a sense of what a crystal stair might look like. This portion, of the activity was important because it reminded us that not always will everyone have the same visions for the perfect society, but it was a experiment requiring us to put aside our political beliefs in order to hear and understand what it is that someone else might need to feel whole. For the group the came in different forms, ranging from seeing the difference in the language used, enabling an environment that breaks down gender norms, creating a new idea of what the household can look like, revitalizing expectations that adults might have for their children, or even just being able to have spent more time with loved one prior to them passing away.

At this point in our workshop, things begin take a heavier tone and at the same time more voices that were initially hesitant about opening up, became more willing to share. So we knew that there was a effective means of engagement currently taking place. There was one mother in attendance who came with her daughter, and in her desire for a have in had a more “crystal stair”, spoke of how she regretted having gotten pregnant young age, and some of the love choices she made. For the mother, in the end the mother she felt that she at times although trying her best,  didn’t feel completely able to provide to give her daughter the best living opportunity that she would have hoped for. And for her daughter who was there with her to see her mother wishing that she could’ve provided more to her, on the verge of tears showed to us that not only how the poetry can be used to bring together people who might not have known each other, but to bring together families who might not have the words or the know how to speak what really affects them.

Afterwards we watched the spoken word piece “10 Things I Want To Say To a Black Woman” by Joshua Bennett. To be honest, although the group gathered did not consist predominately of women of color, we courage the audience to internalize the words, to consider the realities that exist socioeconomically which have that contributed to the erasure and demoralization of women of color. Additionally, we encouraged the group to take note of how Joshua Bennett also incorporated words of encouragement in his analysis. How in this poem he sought to affirm the personhood and the value to those who society says doesn’t matter. Of course it being such a romantic poem afterwards there were quite a few jokes and laughs about “where can we find more “men like him” to which we’ve responded, that first Joshua Bennett like no individual on this earth, is perfect however to create enter bring forth more people cognizant of the interconnectedness of oppression in its multiple forms especially in the Carlisle community, would require that more individuals are able to share their story.

So we concluded with one of my favorite prompts for writing which is “10 Things That I Would Love To Say To The Younger Me”.  To not make it simply list, devoid of emotion and attachment, we encouraged those in attendance to include their lived stories in these lessons they would’ve said to themselves because that provides a human face for the realities plague people. “One of the young ladies asked can I focus on the good things and not the bad?” To which we responded, to be an effective communicator and for spoken word, the two are inherently interlinked. Negative moments tell the audience of life as it is, has been and often how we have gotten through some of the most the defining events of our growth. And to incorporate those joyous moments gives hope to the audience of future, potential, and strategies to overcome or to cope with their circumstance. After 10 minutes, which is too short to write a full length poem, but just long enough the desire to continue writing hit its peak at the moment the time limit is up everybody in attendance was inspired, hoping and wishing to continue their peace. The “10 drill” as my mentor likes to call this activity is effective because for the writer there was always work that is unfinished. But after opening the floor for the Group to share, hearts begin to unfold, emotions came up to breaking points, and through sharing, we all realized there’re so much more that, which often times we just don’t have the time for.

In conclusion, our workshop was a success, because we were able to get individuals speaking about things that are personal. And we understand and respect that for people to do so in a space, around a bunch of others that they have just met can be one of the most frightening experiences for someone just learning to find their voice. It was our hope, that this workshop would be continued for years to come. In seeing the value of this initiative, and the potential impact on the community both Samantha and I have asked Ms. Brown for the opportunity to come back and lead another workshop, even if after the end of classes, because, to host an event once, that pulled this much emotionally, from the participants, without a opportunity to continue and give drive to writing, we feel is morally irresponsible, and we do not wish to leave the community with that impression. To be here, as a facilitator made us mindful not only of our blessing as Dickinson College students, but also mindful of our incentive, and our requirement to be our sister and brothers keeper in service.

-Gregory Boles ‘16


10 Things I Want To Say To A Black Woman

BY Joshua Bennett

[youtube_sc url=””]


Endsley, Crystal Leigh. 2015. The Fifth Element: Social Justice Pedagogy through Spoken Word   

Poetry. New York: SUNY Press.

Lattany, Kristin Hunter. 2003. The Lakestown Rebellion. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press.

McGary, Howard. 1999. “The African American Underclass and the Question of Values.” In Race

and Social Justice . Massachussets: Blackwell Publishers .

Miller, Samantha. 2015. “Spoken Word Poetry: Differences and Similarity to Hip-Hop.”

Presentation. Carlisle: Prezi , April 26. 


 Multimedia links

Mother to Son

By Langston Hughes


Crime Statistics on Carlisle



                                                                     Possible Improvements for the future

We have only had one full workshop with the community but it was enough for us to know how we want to expand and remodel this program. For starters we realize that sometimes the best way to help a community is to go into the community and engage. As any good ethnographer knows, it is imperative to establish trust with the community before you can go in and help, and for that we need more time. We want to start the program off by going into the Carlisle community be it setting up a meet and greet in a popular park or the Carlisle High School. We need to establish a bond with the participants before we can ask them to share their stories and from there empowering their voices. This means that we would need to start the program approximately three weeks before the actual workshop to build interest and a relationship with the community.

One way to do so is a major spoken word event, prior to the workshop, preferably not at Dickinson because for our target audience, we have learned might be hesitant on attending. from our introduction to Ms Sonya and To begin there would need to be a marketing team whose sole focus in getting the information about ikewise we would need to establish an outreach committee to guarantee the advertisement of the program and making sure that it is being advertised to the right community. Lastly we believe that we can help bring the community together by having a culminating show after the workshops at the Start Community Center and invite the community and engage in a dialogue after the show. Ultimately we would need more time to better plan the vision, execution and (if applicable) monetary contributions that would be needed to make this workshop a success.  


Social Justice Mural Project



Our Service Learning Project began as a mural project. The administrative team at Hope Station voiced the desire to create a more open and sustainable space where community members could spend more time and use the space as more of a resource. We were given the task of decorating the walls of Hope Station with imagery that reflected the community and livened the space. Hope Station offers many services to the community such as Kid’s Café and Homework Club as well as outdoor recreational spaces utilized by the community.  We were to aid in the revitalization of Hope Station in conjunction with the upcoming renovations. We decided to create three murals each in spaces frequently used by different programs: Homework Club, Kids’ Cafe, and the teen lounge.

“A commitment to collaboration and reciprocity allows participants to both direct the development of their intended artistic and social justice impacts towards their audience while also experiencing some of those impacts (increased awareness, critical consciousness) themselves”

Marit Dewhurst

During the span of this project it was important for us to recognize the inaccessibility to art especially in communities of color. Art, as a mode of activism, is a way to force visibility in spaces where dominant narratives prevail. Art, especially fine arts, is coded as elite and we found it important to involve the community members in the creation of  the work that would be used to decorate their space.


Our initial method of brainstorming ideas for our paintings was to get to know the people that utilized the space. We began to spend time at Hope Station particularly during the time between Kids Café and Homework Club. Early on we observed the transient nature of the space in that people moved in and out quickly. It became difficult to find ways to interact and cultivate enough time with people individually to get ideas for the space. For example, the younger and older kids will get their snack and either leave or go to Homework Club. Most of the kids that hang out at Hope Station spend their time outside using the basketball courts or other outside facilities. Then we decided to go to a couple sessions at the Homework Club because in this space the kids are engaged and comfortable in the environment.

We began by talking with kids at Homework Club to see what kinds of interests they had. We talked to them about painting a mural and then had them work in groups to decide what they would put on a mural. Some common themes among the kids’ drawings were plants and animals, so we decided to go with a nature theme for the Homework Club mural. Thinking about the teen room, we wanted to include things that would be relevant and relatable to teens, and we found that music was a common interest that had the potential to intersect well with messages of empowerment. This space is envisioned as more of a lounge area where kids of different ages can utilize the area for leisurely activities. For this room, we designed an abstract illustration of circular objects such as planets, music records, sports equipment, images of the earth, and other objects that reflect the interests of younger community members. For the Kids Cafe room, we were told originally that it might be converted to a spaced used more by adults, so we decided to do an artistic interpretation of a map of Carlisle.

Our process of designing and planning the logistics of the murals changed slightly along the way. We decided to aim to tie the Homework Club and teen room murals in with two other service learning projects being done for our class: the Girl Scouts’ flower badge project and bringing healthy food to Kids Cafe. We added fruits to the nature theme for the Homework Club design, and we decided to go with a circular theme for the teen room mural, allowing us to incorporate music, produce, and nature. Our plans also changed due to renovations going on at Hope Station. While we originally planned to paint directly on the walls, we ultimately found that the best option was to paint on large canvases that would then be displayed.


Personal Reflection: Manny Ocampo ’18

“I believe BLACK music, with its rudimentary foundation in BLACK sound, gives a framework for organizing without institutionalization, structuring without strictures.” (Crawley, Ashon T.)

This quote by Ashon T. Crawley resonates with the methods I employed. It was really important for me to incorporate the creativity of people who lived in the Carlisle community. I provided the frame and the structure of the mural but did not impose any restrictions. I believe that art should not have any strictures because then you are limiting expression. I wanted to capture the current moods of the people helping us.

I was influenced by Ella Baker, an activist who was involved in social justice movements for over fifty years. Baker’s “experience within these movements is a testament to her own commitment and points the way forward.” (Capeheart, Loretta) It was important to Baker to listen to the voices of the people. Baker “insisted that authentic leadership could only come from those most affected by injustice.” (Capeheart, Loretta) Baker’s methodology inspired me to incorporate and learn from the people in the community.

Our project correlates to Distributive Justice because of the accessibility of visual art. Distributive Justice concerns the nature of a socially just allocation of goods in a society. That good is visual art. It’s important to think about the unequal distribution of visual art throughout different spaces. Visual art has taken an elite role in the art spectrum. I pull from Andria Blackwood’s, Curating Inequality: The Link between Cultural Reproduction and Race in the Visual Arts. Here, Blackwood says “art museums project a predominantly white image creating a place of whiteness, which in turn fosters a social barrier of racial exclusion.” Lets think about the places people can access visual art. Visual art is most likely displayed in art museums. Now, lets think about the location of art museums. Art museums are near popular business areas, popular tourist areas and popular schools of higher education. Art museums shifted from a communal space to a more exclusive elitist space. Part of this shift has to also do with economic decisions. Art museums used “to educate the public on the value of art and the process of art appreciation.” We felt like it was up to us to take this into our own hands and create a space where art can be appreciated for what it was meant to be. It was made to be an accessible way to express oneself. Like mentioned above, our grassroots approach allowed us to collaborate with the community. We used our privilege to access the resources to provide kids the materials to freely express themselves on paper.


Personal Reflection: Samantha Mendoza-Ferguson

When members of the Hope Station administration came to our class and outlined their goals to make Hope Station sustainable as well as change the space in a way where people would want to spend time, art immediately came to my mind. With the rearranging and redefining of the space, I saw the paintings as a way to revitalize Hope Station, which in turn will show the community that their spaces are important and valued. To me, the  rooms utilized by  Homework Club were especially important because kids from the community spend 4 days a week in the space. Because of this, I decided to focus on the painting for this space. For this painting we were able to get the majority of our ideas from interacting with the kids in addition to the adult workers at Homework Club. Instead of intruding upon their space, we worked cooperatively in the crafting of ideas and the actual production of the work. In this way we centered their experience and gave them agency in the work that would be shown in their space. They voiced interest in natural landscapes and bright colors so I designed a stylized tree bearing different fruits. Still wanting to involve the kids at Homework Club we asked the kids help us paint different parts of the image. In this design, I integrated different aspects that reflect the activities of the kids at Homework Club such as Kid’s Café and Girl Scouts.  In Marit Dewhurst’s “An Inevitable Question: Exploring the Defining Features of Social Justice Art Education,” she examines the ways in which collaboration is integral part of dismantling hierarchies of power in social justice art education thereby “empower[ing] all participants to act as agents, not subjects of their own practice” (Dewhurst, 11).  Because we are working with real people, in a real community instead of creating a theoretical project, it is important to understand that circumstances change. Even though we could not complete our initial designs, I recognized the importance of improvisation. Although the paintings will not be a permanent part of the space, they will still serve the important purpose of revitalizing the rooms in tandem with the renovations. In addition they can be moved around to accommodate and decorate different spaces. I believe we were successful in creating work that enhanced and personalized the space. Despite certain difficulties, we were able to get to know members of the community and have a mutually beneficial experience!


Personal Reflection:  Emily Katz

Originally, one wall in the Kids’ Cafe room had a large display of pictures of people in the Carlisle community, and the wall across from it featured a smaller map of Carlisle. Once I found out that we would be changing our project from murals on the wall to painting them on canvas to be hung up, I decided that we could then incorporate the already-printed pictures. By shrinking the size of the mural, there will be room to keep many of the pictures of Carlisle residents around the borders of the mural. The artistic map of  Carlisle places Hope Station at the center, rather than having Dickinson as the center. Placing the community-centered map directly in the midst of the pictures of Carlisle residents literally ties them to the geography of the community.

The need for murals at an organization like Hope Station reflects both past and present social justice issues, and a lack of distributive justice. Carlisle can be seen as divided by the train tracks, and the resources available to the communities on either side are not equitable, creating the need for the programs that Hope Station runs. One goal of our mural project is to foster a deeper sense of community ownership over the space, so that people who use the services at Hope Station will feel more connected to and proud of their community.

In a time when Black people still face institutional and interpersonal racism and are undervalued in American society, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza talked about writing a “love letter to Black people.” Hope Station serves predominantly Black families in Carlisle by providing them with critical resources and a sense of community. Yet the space the organization physically inhabits used to be a train station and there have not been significant changes or renovations to the space since then. By introducing murals that reflect the strengths, values, and interests of the community members, I see our project as a way for people in the community at Hope Station to fully claim that space make it even more meaningful, especially in a political climate that challenges Black people’s right to take up space or be present in specific spaces.


Project Expansion

While we are excited about the vibrancy that our three murals will bring to Hope Station, we also know there is room for more social justice-oriented artistic work in the space. If this project were to be continued, another mural could be made to fill the other former window that is now a covered space in the teen room. We already have one mural for the other window, but it would be even better to have both of them filled. Teens who come to Hope Station could be directly involved in the brainstorming, planning, and painting of the mural so that they feel a sense of ownership and connection with the art and the space itself. This could also be an opportunity to have discussions about social justice issues, especially those that the teens face in their daily lives. Another way to continue the project would be to find other ways to incorporate art into the Homework Club room. This could be through other small murals on the wall or collaborative large-scale temporary art, such as banners or paintings. Any further art could incorporate more social justice themes in the brainstorming process, as well as in interactions with the kids.

The volunteers for these projects could be other Dickinson students who are interested in social justice work or who are taking social justice related classes, or even art classes such as drawing or painting. Volunteer outreach could be done through organizations such as the Center for Service, Spirituality, and Social Justice, the Arts Collective, Social Justice House, and the Center for Sustainability Education, which is looking for more ways to incorporate social sustainability. Overall, it would be ideal to facilitate more direct interaction with community members and build a stronger connection between Hope Station and Dickinson students. This could include expanding access to more art or music resources by partnering with more Dickinson groups such as WDCV, Arts Collective, eXiled, and dance groups such as Synergy and Hypnotic. By being in such close proximity to Dickinson, there are many resources that can be shared between the college and Hope Station. As college students, we must remain humble, and recognize our privilege. We have to admit we don’t know everything. This will be a  collaborative effort to learn from each. These spaces will serve as platforms to create this bridge.

References & Recommended Readings

“Black Panther Party Ten-Point Program (1966).” Black Camera 21, no. 2 (Winter 2006): 16.

Blackwood, A, and D Purcell. “Curating Inequality: The Link between Cultural Reproduction and Race in the Visual Arts*.” Sociological Inquiry 84, no. 2 (n.d.): 238-263.

Capeheart, Loretta, and Dragan Milovanovic. “CHAPTER 11: Justice and Grassroots   Struggles.” In Social Justice:  Theories, Issues & Movements, 159. n.p.: Rutgers University Press, 2007.

Crawley, Ashon T. 2009. “Can you be black and work here? Social justice activist organizing and black aurality.” Souls 11, no. 2: 186-201.

David, E, & McCaughan, E 2007, ‘Art, Identity, and Social Justice /’, Social Justice, 34, 1, pp. 1-154, Social Sciences Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost, viewed 3 May 2016

Dewhurst, M 2010, ‘An Inevitable Question: Exploring the Defining Features of Social Justice Art Education’, Art Education, 63, 5, pp. 6-13, Art Source, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 May 2016.

The Junior Girl Scouts Flower Badge and Digital Photography Project

Our service learning initiative was to volunteer with the Girl Scouts Junior Troop #10562 at Hope Station. Hope Station is a non-profit organization founded to “enhance the quality of life, health, safety, and economic opportunities for the people who live in the neighborhood it comprises” (HopeStation). They work to “lift up the entire neighborhood by tackling our most difficult problems through education, technology, job development, and most importantly, teaching our children to become leaders by learning to respect themselves and others” (HopeStation). One program that Hope Station hosts to teach and encourage children to become leaders through respect is the Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts is a national organization whose mission is to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place” (GirlScouts). The Girl Scout promise is to serve God, their country and to focus on helping others as defined by the Girl Scout law. The Girl Scout law is as follows: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout” (GirlScouts). The mission of the Girl Scouts reflected that of Hope Station, so it is important that their meetings are held there. Our task was to help the scouts earn badges by following the steps in their books, and come up with lessons to connect their activities to social justice issues in the community and ways to collectively solve them.

The three social justice issues that were most connected to the Girl Scouts of America at Hope Station here in Carlisle, PA were education, environment and civic engagement. All three of these issues intersect with each other and greatly impact the lived experiences of this group of girls. Education is important simply because the possession of knowledge entails a certain level of privilege and power. The environment is also important because your surroundings impact the things that you are willing and able to do for yourself and your community. For instance, learning about gardening and sustainability could be seen as a source of empowerment for some neighborhoods because it would allow the residents to be proud of their home and their community. Without the knowledge of things such as gardening and sustainability, a person won’t be able to take the necessary steps to try and enhance their community. The use of education and environment is seen as the civic engagement of people within a community. Civic engagement is defined as “the ways in which citizens participate in the life of a community in order to improve conditions for others or to help shape the community’s future.” After working with this group of girls we understand the importance of civic engagement for personal growth and the growth of a community, and believe that all these girls have the ability to be those citizens to make the difference.

Having Dickinson students work with the Girl Scouts to help earn their badges helps create conscious leaders that can use their skills to enact change and disrupt negative patterns that can be found in their community. Patterns such as high drug use, low high school graduation and college attendance rates, and high teen pregnancy rates were some of the issues mentioned as affecting the African-American community of Carlisle during our Hope Station Orientation. Additionally, providing social justice framed lessons to the Girl Scouts is especially important because of the age group that it targets. Middle school is a critical time when young women are in the process of shaping their opinions and views of life. Lastly, this project is unique and valuable because it uses an educational social justice approach, versus an intervention approach. In Monica McDaniel’s publication “Social Justice Youth Work” she explains the value of such programs: “Within these social systems, they are learning through observation and interaction with peers and adults how to engage and navigate these unjust systems. The youth development models of prevention/intervention and positive youth development are part of the problem, ‘because they assume that youth themselves should be changed, rather than the oppressive environments in which they live’” (McDaniel 44). The Carlisle community could greatly benefit from empowered, educated, and conscious young women that can influence the status quo of their community.   

Environmental Justice and Sustainability:

To start, a major theme we focused on was environmental justice and sustainability. Hope Station embodies sustainability in itself as an organization, as they have created a partnership with M&T Bank who has committed a donation of $100,000 for six more years. Their strategic plan is to provide resources to continuously uphold their mission and overall impact the residents of Carlisle with an “improved quality of life” (HopeStation). The following statement taken from their website reflects the long term vision of Hope Station Opportunity Area. “Hope Station is not just a building. Hope Station is a place in our dreams; a HOPE for our future; a vision that addresses the issues of Memorial Park and surrounding community. The Hope Station Community has a commitment to unity and pride, and embraces the success and diversity of its families.”

Through working with the Girl Scouts to achieve their flower badge, we helped put both Hope Station and the Girl Scout’s visions into action. The main goal was to help the girls understand more facts about their environment and flowers in general, but this process reflected larger issues of environmental social justice such as how to keep a community sustainable. On a few occasions, we visited Dickinson’s campus to learn more about sustainability. By observing certain flowers, we explained that sustainability means providing for oneself for the long run. I used a dandelion as an illustration of this point, as the flowers blow their seeds around to regrow more to keep their species alive. We explained that dandelions have edible components, but the girls said they would never eat one and they were okay just buying their food.


 (Laticia trying a dandelion.)


 (Journals we made to write reflections of the flowers.)

To show the girls the differences between growing food and purchasing, we visited the cafeteria. There we showed the girls how Dickinson is sustainable because it provides its own locally sourced food from its own farm, therefore, the students’ vegetables and meat comes from right down the road. Orrin Williams article, Food and Justice: The Critical Link to Healthy Communities” speaks of the negative effects of industrial agriculture, which our farm strays away from with sustainable practices such as free range chickens, and slaughtering meat as needed, not on mass scales. “Food and farming offer a unifying point for a movement that is multicultural, anti- racist, and anti- sexist and that embraces all aspects of the environmental justice movement” (Williams 127). The girls also said their school has a garden and they plant watermelons and pumpkins but right now “it is just a pile of dirt.” We mentioned that locally produced, organic foods are beneficial for the local community, and overall healthier than other producers and options. This reflects the issue of a food desert, and keeping our community sustainable on its own. To further show this point we planted wildflower seeds to teach the girls about caring for the environment as they have the opportunity to nurture their own plants. We hoped that by planting flowers and perhaps in the future through planting food, we could lead to the community having the independence to choose their local produce over others. We asked the girls what planting flowers represents to them, and a few responded with “Life”, and “taking care of mother nature”. The girls also contributed that we plant flowers “to make people happier and to help the community”. They also noticed that there is a difference between places that do have flowers and ones that don’t, as “places that don’t have flowers look dull and that people don’t care about it”


(Sarah picking flowers to press in her journal)

Some activities we included in their meetings were to make necklaces and flower arrangements. The girls’ creativity came out with the projects and I think they enjoyed it overall. Through the crafts and activities, we hoped that when they look around the classroom they are reminded that they worked together to brighten up the room, and take pride in their accomplishments. I believe that they did take pride, as whenever they were done with a project they would announce that they were excited to give their flower arrangement or necklace away as a gift. I think that without even realizing, they have engaged in sustainability by passing the flowers on to others to keep the trend of brightness and growth in their community.  


The second major theme that we engaged with was education. One of our very first outings with the girls was a tour of Dickinson’s campus. It was really interesting to see their different reactions to all the things that they saw around campus. Some of them were really inquisitive about the college experience, and others were set on the fact that they would never come to Dickinson for college. Another important aspect of that trip was the fact that most of them had never been inside of Dickinson’s facilities. Some of them had been to rector once or twice, but they had never gotten a tour or explored a college campus that is located right in their backyard. After finding out about how little they were exposed to Dickinson’s campus and college life in general, I felt like it was my duty to be that link between them and a college campus.

Understanding the connection between service learning and academic instruction has been one that is really meaningful because it has shown the ways in which education is a social justice issue and is one of the main factors in uplifting black people as a whole. During the days of slavery, it was illegal for black people to learn how to read and write. This one time in history impacted the way that black people would be able to learn and participate within society for the rest of their lives. For instance, once it was legal for black people to vote the had to pass literacy tests, which were reading comprehension tests administered by voting polls in the south (RAASJ). Most of the black people in the south had never learned to read or write because they had never had the opportunity and they had been working job to provide economic support for their families. This disenfranchisement that they experienced impacted the way that they were able to participate within society, such as voting for the people who would be in their government. I think this is important history that children like the Girl Scouts need to hear more about and understand so that they can realize the importance of receiving an education. By learning about their histories and their current experiences they will be more equipped to uplift their generations and the future generations to come within their families and neighborhoods.

One specific moment where I was able to use the education that I was receiving here at Dickinson to reach the girls happened when one of them used the word ratchet to describe a character she was developing. I asked her why she thought that ratchet was the word she needed to use in order to describe the character that she had developed, to get her to think about the reasons that she used that particular word instead of other adjectives. I then went on to describe the ways that ratchet is used primarily to describe the societal undesired actions of black women, and pointed to the fact that she was a black girl herself (Gomez). I had prior knowledge about the term, so I was privileged enough to get her to think about the ways in which her using that word was ultimately detrimental. That is knowledge that she would now be able to take back to her friends and her family to get them to think about the words they use and the ultimate impact that they might have (Gomez). The more knowledge that these girls are exposed to, the more that they can continue to grow and be informed and difference making citizens within their communities.


(Jena reading to the Girl Scouts about the connections between Social Justice and photography)

Civic Engagement:

The last major theme we focused on was civic engagement. Developing civic engagement was important to focus on in this service project because being a good leader is a key component of being a Girl Scout. One of the activities we did combined civic engagement and photography through looking at activism and the role of photography in social justice movements. This was beneficial so that the troop could learn about one way of being engaged in their community, along with working to earn their photography badge.

We began with looking at a book titled, Road To Freedom Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968. When asked if any of them knew about the Civil Rights Movement, one young woman talked about the bus boycotts and Rosa Parks. While looking through the book, we talked about different civil rights leaders. The girls quickly identified Martin Luther King Jr., but asked, “Who is that?” when we reached the page with Fannie Lou Hamer on it. This was an important moment in which we were able to teach them about women that were influential in the Civil Rights movement, and not just men. By teaching them about influential African-American women of the past their narrative of the Civil Rights Movement was widened and they were able to see a leader that resembled their racial and gender identities.

This is important because of the past marginalization of women in social justice movements, such as what the creators of the #BlackLivesMatter movement experienced. In an article written by one of the creators, Alicia Garza, she says, “Perhaps if we were the charismatic Black men many are rallying around these days, it would have been a different story, but being Black queer women in this society (and apparently within these movements) tends to equal invisibility and non-relevancy” (Garza). As a Black queer woman, Garza was marginalized in her own movement when men appropriated her work and did not give her credit (Garza). Because of the perpetual discretization of women in movements, it is important that the girl scouts see a leader that looks like them, so they can envision being a leader themselves.  


(“road to freedom”, Fannie Lou Hamer, ca. 1964)

Before connecting activism to photography, it was important to first define what an activist was, because none of the girls were familiar with this word. By teaching them about activism, hopefully they can feel empowered and realize there are methods of changing the injustices around them, such as protesting. Then, we talked about the role of photography in documenting past social justice movements, so we can learn more about the movements and see evidence. Leigh Raiford connects this to the Civil Rights Movement and says about images from Birmingham, “These images have shaped and informed the ways scholars, politicians, artists, and everyday people recount, remember, and memorialize the 1960s freedom struggle specifically and movement histories generally” (Raiford 1130). Not only do photographs document what happened for future education and analysis, photographs have the power to shape the discourses in one way or another.

An example of this connects to the marginalization of women in social justice movements. We may understand certain men as the leaders of a movement because of their overrepresentation in photography, when there are various other identities such as women, that were equally influential. Raiford goes on to explain that photographs provided an opportunity for activists to interrupt dominant narratives provided by news networks about the civil rights movements, by allowing them to take photos themselves (1139). The impact of this is that the marginalized groups fighting for justice in various movements have the opportunity to tell their own story have their truth be heard, through photography.     

Additionally, we explored the connection between photography, social media, and activism. When pictures or videos are recorded, knowledge about incidents are available to more people.  Kimberly Crenshaw says about this, “Currently, society has embraced social media as a primary tool for communication, especially within communities of color” (23). The use of photography and videography has been influential in modern activism by allowing ordinary citizens to hold perpetrators accountable for crimes against African-Americans, and share that evidence with others. When I asked how many of the girl scouts had iPhones or phones, many of them raised their hands. To provide an example of how efficient photography and activism can be through social media, I asked how many of them had recently heard about Beyonce’s new album “Lemonade”. They had all seen her video which had just been released a couple of days prior to this lesson. Their affirmations that they had seen her video were useful in illustrating the effectiveness of photography and video in reaching people, by connecting it to something from their own lives.

After the discussion I gave each scout a digital camera to use for the hour. They were assigned to take a portrait, candid, landscape, something they would change if they could, and a picture of something they found beauty in. For the picture “something beautiful”, many of them took pictures of trees or flowers, which goes back to the sustainability lesson and the impact flowers can have on someone’s perception of their environment. For the picture of something they would change if they could, one Girl Scout whose life has been deeply impacted by her parents’ use of drugs commented on her wish to stop people from smoking marijuana.

By having the girl scouts take these photos, they were encouraged to think about their environments and what they see, through a technique called Photovoice. The benefit of Photovoice is, “It empowers community members to engage actively and critically with such concerns, using photography to identify and advocate for changes they feel necessary for their communities to survive” (Peabody 252).  In future meetings with the girls, I would like to delve into Photovoice theory even more. The benefit of incorporating Photovoice into the Girl Scout lessons is that it follows the social justice work approach McDaniel talks about, and teaches them to look at their surrounding environment and think critically about it. Through this lesson they were able to learn about a couple of different types of pictures, use a real camera to take some, and learn about the role of photography in social justice movements.


(Averiel’s portrait of baby cousin.)


(Laticia’s photo of something she finds beauty in.)  

In “Justice and Grassroots Struggles” the author states, “Therefore, as activists engage in the process of demanding justice, they are also developing their own understandings of justice and building their own processes for expression of justice” (Capeheart 160). One understanding of justice I gained from my time at Hope Station was that a social justice issue can be something as small as the lack of resources for one organization in one city. During my involvement at Hope Station and hearing about other students’ projects, I was able to understand how this could be an injustice because of the various ways the limited amount of resources constrained the choices of Hope Station activities and programs. The Kid’s Cafe for example received donations that were not edible. At Hope Station there is one layer of injustice that there are children that do not have equal access as others to food, and a second layer that an organization that seeks to alleviate their hunger is also constrained by unequal resources. I realized from working at Hope Station that a social justice issue does not have to be as large as the mass incarceration of millions of African-Americans, but that it also exists on a smaller scale.

Additionally, I learned about how intervention programs for youth, a common social justice approach, can be problematic as McDaniel explains. I had never thought about the implications of these programs in perpetuating the blame placed on African-Americans for their plight, when in reality it is their environments and structural oppression that are the problem. Now, after working at Hope Station I realize the importance of approaching marginalized-youth programs with a goal to teach social justice.


We believe it would be beneficial to continue having Dickinson students volunteer with the Girl Scouts at Hope Station. One benefit of this is that Dickinson students can extend their resources to the Girl Scouts. Through working with them, we realized the impact of the availability of resources on programs and education, and hopefully by offering some of Dickinson’s resources there are more options for activities. For example, we were able to check out for free,  four digital cameras for each girl to use while working to earn their Photography Badge. Another example for the future is that volunteers could make it a goal to incorporate a field trip to the Dickinson farm and utilize Dickinson vans free of charge. 

This project could be expanded by continuing to work through the Girl Scout Guide Book and help the Scouts to earn all of the necessary badges. The first step will be to find a way to ensure that we will have the necessary resources to complete the activities, as a lot of activities required purchasing outside materials. We attempted to find ways to keep the activities free and  encourage the following volunteers to do so as well.  In addition, a merging of programs such as the The Kids Café and Girl Scouts would be beneficial to Hope Station overall. We could work with other groups like The Kids Café to plant their own plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and perhaps fruit. There are overlapping interests between the two groups and Hope Station could benefit from their joint collaboration on bigger projects such as a community garden. 

Another way for Dickinson students to further develop this project would be to document how to interweave social justice into the steps to get a badge, and make a lesson book of those steps. A critical part of this process is connecting the steps they must take to earn their badges to topics from their everyday life. We found that they were much more interested in the tasks they had to complete when they found similarities within their personal lives. For instance, when we went around Dickinson’s campus looking at and drawing flowers, they were invested because they talked about the garden that was developing at their own school. Seeing the connection made them more excited about doing the work.

Making a social justice lesson book would allow for other Dickinson students to do this project without having to come up with social justice lessons themselves. This would make the project more successful, because finding ways to connect social justice issues to the badges was what took the most time and energy. If it was done carefully and created as a whole book beforehand, we believe it would improve the quality of the lessons.  

 Lastly, we think it is important to have the volunteers represent diverse backgrounds so the Scouts can be exposed to different perspectives and experiences at Dickinson.  Overall, I think it is important to maintain the relationship that has been created between Dickinson students and this group of Girl Scouts, as well as the future girl scouts to come. By having Dickinson students volunteer with them each week week the Girl Scouts can have steady role models in their lives who are committed to helping them achieve their goals.


Capeheart, Loretta. “Chapter 11 Justice and Grassroots Struggle.” Social Justice: Theories, Issues

& Movements. N.p.: Rutgers UP, n.d. N. pag. Moodle. Web. 2 May 2016.

Cox, Julian. Road to Freedom. Atlanta: High Museum of Art, 2008. Print.

Edwards-Underwood, Kimberly. “#Evolution or Revolution: Exploring Social Media Through

Revelations of Familiarity.” Black History Bulletin 78.1 (n.d.): 23-28. Moodle. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Garza, Alicia. “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement by Alicia Garza.” The Feminist

Wire. N.p., 7 Oct. 2014. Web. 2 May 2016.

McDaniel, Monica. “SOCIAL JUSTICE YOUTH WORK.” Moving Youth Work Practice

Forward: Examining Rights-Based: 41-48.

Peabody, Carolyn G. “Using Photovoice as a Tool to Engage Social Work Students in Social

Justice.” Journal of Teaching Social Work 33.3 (2013): 251-65. JumpStart. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

Raiford, Leigh. “Come Let Us Build A New World Together: SNCC and Photography of the

Civil Rights Movement.” American Quarterly 59.4 (2007): 1129-157. JumpStart. Web. 2 May 2016.


The Poietic Power of Artistic Expressions in Social Justice Work

Aesthetic expressions, such as photography, art, culinary creations, and poetry have been deployed by social justice organizations as mobilizing andblacklivesmatter2 sustaining forces, particularly in African American communities. Indeed, the creative arts not only have the capacity to articulate political and communal sentiments, but, as Mary Stone Hanley explains in You Better Recognize!: The Arts as Social Justice for African American Students, “The arts also can challenge the invisibility and silencing that come with subjugation. Artists can speak to power and reshape culture through their creativity” (420).  The student experiences that are shared in this section consider art and artistic expression as a “just action…a way to record history, shape culture, and promote imagination, conceptualization, and individual and social transformation” (420).

The creative or poietic power of the arts in social justice initiatives is manifest in the students’ experiences with a local Girl Scouts troop, a homework club, the Kids’ Cafe at Hope Station as well as through a spoken word poetry workshop at the YWCA.  Students taught junior scouts about environmental justice and sustainability by planting seeds that would help them earn a flower badge and through a digital photography project that captured the beauty of their physical environments. They also, with the assistance of local children, painted murals as part of Hope Station’s renovations. Others worked in the area of food justice, developing menus and preparing healthy meals for children after school. Finally, the students who led a spoken word poetry workshop provided a safe space for community members to break silences about their lives and experiences.  After reading their reflections, one may come to understand the ability of the individual and communal imagination to strengthen societies.

Post-Incarceration Employment


The YWCA is an organization that supports and advocates for the well-being of the Carlisle community. Its official mission statement is to be “dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all”. For this project, we were given the opportunity to work with the YWCA to create a directory of employers that are willing to hire people that have been previously incarcerated. As we have learned, incarceration affects those who have imprisoned well after their sentences have ended. According to International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS) , the U.S. imprisons more people than any other country in the world. In fact, the U.S imprisons 716 people for every 100,000 (Walmsley, 2015). Once those prisoners are released, they experience a second imprisonment in terms of being locked away from having the opportunity to better themselves. These ex-offenders are denied their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They are unable to secure jobs that allow them to be active members in society, which in turn renders them unable to receive health benefits, 401ks , and loans.


Our Methods

Employment discrimination is a national problem for the United States. This discrimination is the result mass incarceration. For our project, we focused specifically on how it affects Pennsylvania, more specifically Carlisle. However, Pennsylvania as a whole has countless legislation that employers fail to follow. In Pennsylvania, the law states that: “ Felony and misdemeanor convictions may be considered by the employer only to the extent to which they relate to the applicant’s suitability for employment in the position for which he has applied. (Community Legal Studies pg. 4)” That means that unless their crime has to do with the tasks associated with their job, then these ex-offenders should be given the opportunity to work. However, even from the beginning of our project we learned that is not the case.

Our first step in starting this project was to meet with Sonya Browne, the Hallmark Program Coordinator for the YWCA. When we met with her, we learned why she felt that there was a need for a directory of companies that would be willing to hire ex-offenders. Mrs. Browne knew of some members of the Carlisle community that were in the process of trying to find jobs after being released from prison. We decided that it would be beneficial to our project if we could have the chance to speak with these individuals. Mrs. Browne proceeded to set up a meeting time with two ex-offenders for the next week. On March 3rd, we met with the two ex-offenders and heard their stories. Their stories were moving, because at the end of the day the only thing on their minds was how they were going to provide for their families. When speaking with them, we were able to learn some specific problems they faced when searching for jobs, starting from not even being able to get an application to only being offered temporary jobs. We learned that some employers will allow them to go through the hiring process until they receive the results of their background check. After they receive the results noting their crime, employers will often end the process, leaving the ex-offenders hopeless.

One of the people we spoke to told us of one instance where he was completely set to begin his first day of work and on the morning of, as he was walking out the door he received a call telling him that he no longer had a job. He also told us of the false hope ex-offenders receive when they are hired by temp agencies that have no plan of keeping them on staff for more than a year. This is especially problematic because for most companies, it takes up to 6 months for a worker to finish their probationary period and actually receive the benefits associated with their position. The other person we spoke with told us that she had been able to find a job, but that it was infeasible because it was located in Maryland, which would mean she had to drive two hours to get to work everyday. After speaking  with them more, I learned that some ex-convicts cannot even get a job flipping burgers at fast food restaurants because even they rely on background checks during the hiring process. At the end of our conversation, what was most salient was the fact that many companies lead these people on wild goose chases, promising employment and then pulling out at the last second. This fact molded our approach to this project.

We approached the project by first creating a list of questions that we would ask companies once we called them. We then put that list into a script, so that we knew what to say every time we called .We started each call by saying “Hi my name is____ and I have a couple questions about your hiring process in regards to ex-felons.” This one sentence was the start of a difficult process. Depending on how “non-discriminatory” the company wanted to seem, they would either transfer us to HR or tell us right away that they didn’t discriminate. One of the most frustrating calls was to a warehouse in Mechanicsburg. When we called, after a couple of rings one woman picked up and said “Hold on let me transfer you to our HR office”. And so we waited and once we were transferred, the woman who picked up said ” Hold on, let me transfer you to corporate”. Come to find out, she had transferred us back to the original woman. After that, the two women continued to play ping-pong with our call. At the end, we ended up just being sent to voicemail.  When we went to our second calling session, we met the same disappointment. Although we were met much disappointment, we did encounter a few helpful people. There was one session where we called another warehouse; the hiring manager was very helpful. He answered all of our questions without giving us a hard time. We were finally able to ask the questions that we had formed after speaking to the ex-offenders. We asked him the following questions:

  •   Is there a specific period of time that has to have passed between their release date and when they can be hired?
  • What are the minimum qualifications needed for someone to be hired ?
  • Do they need special skills?
  • What types of criminal records are accepted or excluded ?
  • Does the applicant need to include anything with the resume or application?
  • What type of positions are generally available?
  • Can you accommodate people on probation that may have a curfew?
  • Is the application online ?
  • Do you need a  recommendation ?

He told us that everything depended on a case-by-case basis. Overall, the response by companies had been a real disappointment. It is really hard to even find a list of companies to call.



The Implications

It wasn’t until Janaiya and I met with two people from the Carlisle community that were previously incarcerated that we really understood the severity of the issue in a community that we’re so close to. They explained to us the trouble and the obstacles they have face when trying to re-enter society. Here were two people who are really trying to provide for themselves and their families and they can’t because of this blemish on their resume. To take on this project, Janaiya and I had to gain their trust. Like Howard McGary expresses in “Racism, Social Justice, and Interracial Coalitions”, Black people have to gain the trust of their people in order to be legitimized in a movement, and so we gained their by just sitting and talking with them. They told us how the employer would lead them on to think they had he decision to be rescinded because of their background check. Instead of re-entry, what they end up experiencing is isolation. It is a continuing cycle of isolation; when they are imprisoned they are cut off from civilization, their families, and their loved ones. When they get out, the expectation is that they will be able to just rejoin their close community and their greater society, but it doesn’t happen so smoothly.

With that in mind, we set out to find employers in Carlisle and the surrounding areas that would hire ex-offenders. We found the companies by Googling what companies exist in Carlisle and then we called them to ask them questions about hiring ex-offenders. I knew that this would be a difficult task. I didn’t get real answers from most places, and so the other times that we worked on the project we Googled companies that hire ex-offenders in Pennsylvania. Some of them worked out and some didn’t. I noted warehouses would answer our questions and offered us advice. The company Central Transport was really helpful and gave us good tips on how an ex-offender could be hired by their company. He explained that in order to have the best chance for employment that the past offender would have to be upfront and honest about their conviction. Also he suggested that on the application where they are asked about their offense that the applicant tell everything because that is what the employer sees first. I had those moments when I felt really good and had good conversations but there were also moments where company didn’t even try to listen to us. I contacted a moving company and began with our usual introduction and then proceeded to ask about their hiring policies. The woman seemed very unsettled just talking to me after I explained that I’m asking about hiring when it comes to ex-offenders. Her answer to my question, “does your company hire ex-offenders?” was explicitly no. She then went on to explain that it is because they are a moving company and they directly go into people’s homes. I just said ok, and got off the phone because I couldn’t believe she implied that all ex-offenders are thieves. It was in that moment that I realized how stigma really works against those who were previously incarcerated. I wonder if outcomes would be different if the ex-offenders were educated but we couldn’t even get that far into the conversations with employers to discuss that. Overall, we only had a few places, like Ace Hardware, and Central Transport, that were willing to speak to us and look into hiring ex-offenders and the rest continue to contribute to the discrimination of past offenders.

Sociologist Erving Goffman focuses on the concept of stigma. He breaks stigma into different categories but within these categories there is either a discredited attribute or a discreditable attribute. A discredited attribute cannot be seen initially but can be uncovered which would then lead to stigma. A discreditable attribute is something that is clearly visible, like skin color physical disability (Goffman, Stigma: Notes on the Management of a Spoiled Identity). Because, these things are visible then they are automatically subject to stigma. Being an ex-offender is a discredited attribute but is quickly uncovered when applying for employment, hence why it is difficult for ex-offender to find a job because they face stigma. According to the NAACP Criminal Justice fact sheet, the U.S is only 5% of the world population and has 25% of world prisoners. To imagine that many people having a difficult time finding employment is disheartening since a job is essential to being able to afford a quality life.



There is still a long way to go to eliminate the stigma that has been placed on ex-offenders in the Carlisle and surrounding communities. The biggest issue is that most companies are simply uncomfortable even talking about their hiring processes for ex-offenders. That being said, the future of this project seems bleak based off the results that we have gotten so far. Because Carlisle is a small town, it is difficult to find many places that are not difficult to access through local transportation. Companies need to approach each offender on an individual basis instead of stereotyping them as unfit and incompetent. The YWCA and its volunteers should continue to hold these companies accountable to not only the law but their claims of being non-discriminatory. Due to the limitations of this project, we were not able to assess the skills that past offenders in Carlisle may have. This information would influence the employers that we contacted. To further expand this project, we suggest reaching out to past offenders, getting to know what skills they possess, and work with them on resume building so that they can present themselves to the employer in a holistic fashion.

Company Address Background Check? Online Application? Notes
Best Western  1155 Harrisburg Pike, Carlisle, PA 17013


Company did not answer Company did not answer HR is only available on Mondays at 10:00 am
Dollar Tree 650 E High St #640, Carlisle, PA 17013


Yes Yes No special process
Allen Distribution 670 Allen Rd, Carlisle, PA 17015


Company did not answer Company did not answer Company did not answer
NFI Warehouse 1605 Shearer Dr, Carlisle, PA 17013


Company did not answer Company did not answer Company did not answer
Carlisle Self Storage


1910 W Trindle Rd, Carlisle, PA 17013


Yes N/A No open positions currently.
American Red Ball Moving Company 1235 Ritner Hwy, Carlisle, PA 17013


N/A N/A Company does not hire ex-felons at all.
Ace Hardware  

4072 Carlisle Rd, Dover, PA 17315

Yes Yes Company says that it depends on what the felonies are , everything is on a case by case basis

Recommended Readings and Links


  • Goffman, Erving. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1963. Print.
  • McGary, Howard. “Racism, Social Justice and Interracial Coalitions”. Race and Social Justice. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1999. Print.
  • Walmsley, Roy. “World Prison Population List.” Institute for Criminal Policy Research (2015): n. pag. Web.

Gather the Women Program

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 9.22.03 PM


The YWCA is a national organization whose mission is to “eliminate racism and empower women.” It has many branches including one in Carlisle, PA. Within this branch of the YWCA, Mission Impact Director Sonya Browne created the Gather the Women program as a means to uphold the mission of the organization. Gather the Women is a program where women of different socioeconomic and social backgrounds come together on a bi-weekly basis and act as a support system for one another. The program is “[a]n economic advancement program for women with limited financial resources designed to guide them toward personal growth and economic advancement” (YWCA). This program tackles issues of economic and gender inequality by creating a space where women can hold each other accountable through goal-setting and group discussions. The Gather the Women program is important for the Carlisle community because it provides a means for women to have accessible emotional support.

Family Responsibilities Discrimination:


Resume Template

The process by which we worked on the resumes was that we asked the women to provide a list of previous employment or a resume. From there we began typing their employment as well as their basic information, such as their name and address. We provided resume templates from Microsoft Word for the first woman we worked with, but that was very intimidating for her to see. Because it was already intimidating to apply for a job, the next time we worked with someone, we did not use a resume template.

After we typed the employment, we asked questions about what the women did so we could cater their past duties to the job they were applying for. As we worked with the women, we made conversation with them. We were able to get to know the women beyond their resumes. It was very important for us to see the women as humans and not just a project that we were working on. It’s crucial to connect with the women and show them that we do care about them.

An interesting point that one of the women brought up was that motherhood should count as employment due to the skills and work it takes to be a single mother. The government assistance that is provided is not enough to support a single mother. It is difficult to enter the workforce as a single mother because you aren’t sure whether or not to be honest about your availability due to childcare. Even in meeting us for the resume building, one of the women had to have Sonya Browne watch her daughters, while we worked. Whether or not to disclose information about being a mother is not very clear for most women. Many women, including the one that we worked with, are not sure if it is something to talk about during an interview, but there is actually a protection from discrimination for parents with family responsibilities. Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD) protects individuals from employment discrimination based on family caregiving responsibilities, but there isn’t federal law which protects parents. ” FRD does not exist in any statute (only Alaska and the District of Columbia have laws that specifically bar discrimination based on family responsibilities)” (Bergen, 2). Although there is no federal statute that protects individuals from discrimination, The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, ERISA, Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and other statutes provide protection for employees and hires.  It’s important for single mothers to know that when they are trying to enter the workforce, they are protected from discrimination based on motherhood and are not required to give information about their family or childcare.

Entering the workforce as a single mother is difficult because women have to manage the household and provide for their children by working. Not enough credit or support is given to single mothers and it is important that access to resources, such as resume building, is available so that single mothers can support their families.

-Mergitu Yadeto ’18

Gender Inequality:

The initial methodology of my service-learning project was to create a presentation that I could present to the members of Gather the Women. I had to create a presentation that would be relevant and useful to the different financial backgrounds of each member. Through my efforts to aid Gather the Women, I created a PowerPoint presentation on budget construction. My plans were diverted after further organizing with the program coordinator; she recognized that the women would be better helped through one-on-one interactions. My project partner and I waited for the women to reach out to us and ask for help on their resume and/or budget. Unfortunately, none of the women in the program needed help with their budget, but two women (I will call them TG and JF for the sake of anonymity) did reach out for help on their resume. My partner and I worked together to help each woman with her resume. The meetings were helpful for TG and JF because we created a new resume, but also had discussions on how they could market their skill sets. Both women were apprehensive about re-entering the workforce, but financially needed a new source of income. By working with TG and JF, the implications of gender inequality were brought to the forefront because we had conversations about motherhood and how a lot of their previous jobs were in the health care field.

Though I learned a lot from both women, by working with TG, I was able to understand the realities of gender inequality. When TG became a mother she took time away from the workforce in order to take care of her children. TG sought out our help because she wanted to be prepared for an upcoming job interview. As my project partner and I helped her write her construct her resume we discussed her future exploits and she shared her concerns with us. She was nervous because she had not worked in a while; she wished that motherhood were a job that could be put on her resume. This sentiment is an issue that women of all races face. Scholars and policy makers are trying to address the lack of recognition that stay-at-home mothers receive. “Most people visualize ‘unpaid care work’ as work done, primarily by women, to care for family members: cooking, cleaning, and shopping … These activities deserve special attention because they should, in principle, be included in measures of [GDP], but are poorly measured by most surveys” (Folbre, 186). “Unpaid care work” is work primarily done by women so TG has brought up an issue of gender inequality. Staying home and taking care of children is work that mothers are expected to do, so mothers seldom get recognition or benefits for this work. By incorporating “unpaid work” into the workforce, policy makers are paving the way for policies to be set where mothers can get better benefits for themselves and their family.

The YWCA and programs like Gather the Women act as evidence of the existence of gender inequality in the United States. From an economics perspective there is a need for the program because statistically women are at a disadvantage compared to men. For example, the gender pay gap in the US for women is seventy-eight cents to a man’s dollar. Since we worked with two Black women, naturally I focused on the disadvantages that Black women have, such as earning sixty-four cents to the white man’s dollar. “Furthermore, oppression in one sphere is related to the likelihood of oppression in another. If you are black and female, for example, you are much more likely to be poor or working class than you would be as a white male. Census figures show that the incidence of poverty varies greatly by race and gender” (Mantsios, 203). Black women are discriminated against at a higher rate because they have to deal with oppression associated with their womanhood and race. Their identities also influence their class, where they are most likely to be a part of the working class. While working with TG and JF, my project partner and I discussed their work experience in detail because we knew that they were at a disadvantage because they were Black women. It was important for us to make sure they had unique attributes on their resumes.

Our service work was established to combat gender inequality by helping women empower themselves. The women within the program are given the opportunity to develop the tools on how to create a resume and a budget. Through the process they will hopefully gain confidence to update their documents and finances on their own. They will learn how to promote the strengths of their past experiences. The two women that we had the honor of working with were truly an inspiration and motivation enough to end gender inequality so everyone can have a better quality of life.

-Bria Antoine ’16


Gather the Women is an environment where women learn useful skills for their own advancement. Through our experience working with the Gather the Women Program, we recognize that there is a need for this group within the community. Gather the Women creates a community of support that women can utilize since there generally is not a space for them within society. We focused on resume writing and budget construction to teach skills that are useful for women who do not have access to these resources. Resume writing and budget construction offer women the opportunity to become better equipped to enter the workforce and also construct a system where they are in control of their finances. In order to continue our project of skill building, Gather the Women should continue to affiliate with Dickinson College. Possible partnerships between Gather the Women, Dickinson College’s Center for Service, Career Center and Black Student Union can be formed so that students that are interested in this program can “tutor” the members of Gather the Women. Students can continue to meet with women to assist them with resume building. Gather the Women can take the budgeting presentation that was prepared and use that as a resource for women that would like to work on budgeting in the future. Also, templates could be made and provided to the women so that they could have a reference in the future. We believe that Gather the Women will be successful provided that everyone in the community is invested in its success.



Folbre, Nancy. “Measuring Care: Gender, Empowerment, and The Care Economy.” Feminist Economics. Volume 2. Households, Paid and Unpaid Work, and the Care Economy. 555-571. n.p.: International Library of Critical Writings in Economics, vol. 248. Cheltenham, U.K. and Northampton, Mass.: Elgar, 2011.

Mantsios, Gregory. “Class in America.” N.p.: n.p., 2012. 189-207. Print.

Bergen, C. (2008). “The Times They Are a-Changin”: Family Responsibilities Discrimination and the EEOC. Employee Responsibilities & Rights Journal, 20(3), 177-194.

Miller, A. L. (2014). The Separate Spheres Ideology: An Improved Empirical and Litigation Approach to Family Responsibilities Discrimination. Minnesota Law Review, 99(1), 343-379.

Men Overcoming Obstacles Mentoring Program


There is a crisis that exists in the Carlisle Area School District. While data will show that the graduation rate for the Carlisle Area High School is higher than the national average, this is not the truth for all the demographics represented. The dropout rate for young men of color at Carlisle Area High School is not only high but is increasing as each year passes by. To combat this pattern, students at Dickinson College have partnered with Carlisle Victory Circle (C.V.C) to aid the young men of Carlisle. C.V.C’s mission seeks to challenge young minds through youth development workshops, community service opportunities, and after school programs. The goal of these services seeks to assist the community’s youth with their personal and academic success. Carlisle Victory Circle once offered a youth male mentorship program that existed for one year as a means to assist and encourage young males within the Carlisle CommIMG_4551unity. Although it had tremendous success, the program was discontinued due to a variety of circumstances. However, with the help of Ms. Sonya Browne, Quadrese Glass, Teryon Lowery, and Karl Lyn, the youth male mentorship program has been resurrected. Carlisle’s “Men Overcoming Obstacles” operates as a branch of Carlisle Victory Circle, and aims to provide male youth with leadership workshops, after school tutoring, and a space for self-reflection. With the assistance of C.V.C and Dickinson College, Men Overcoming Obstacles will help these young men gain access to facilities and education of which some youth are deprived. Carlisle Community members lack access to resources, support, and knowledge that are allocated to other communities. As Carlisle Victory Circle has already implemented a program for young women, GirlPower!, Men Overcoming Obstacles will help apportion resources, such as a two story house and educational amenities to male youth as an initiative for social justice. This program will achieve this mission through a series of measures such as leadership workshops, community service opportunities, guest speakers, college visits, and homework tutoring sessions.


The Clubhouse at 368 W. North St.

By working with Carlisle Victory Circle to create this male youth mentorship program, I have understood the myriad of injustices that prevail within marginalized communities such as lack of resources and educational deprivation. However, I also understand the ways in which justice can be restored within these communities. Before I began the process of establishing Men Overcoming Obstacles, I decided to research the necessity and significance of executing such an idea. My research consisted of analyzing statistical data on male youth outcomes, reviewing successful and unsuccessful accounts of similar mentorship programs, and community outreach within the Carlisle community I wish to serve. These modes of research served as a basis for developing Men Overcoming Obstacles. The statistical data that I gathered from the Pennsylvania Census Bureau and Carlisle Area School District corroborated the national trend that minority youth are prime victims of social and educational underachievement. In addition to this information, when I conversed with Carlisle community members around 149 W. Penn street about a potential youth mentorship program, I became aware of aIMG_4556 few sentiments that pervade the community’s minority male youth such as low self-esteem, difficulties with identity construction, and alienation. These realities that my research illuminated are not reflections on the individual community members, but rather a reflection on the impact of structural inequality and social injustice. In his article, Understanding Cultural Diversity and Learning, Professor John Ogbu delineates the ways in which individuals are subjected to injustices according to their individual identities. He states, “Structural forces such as gender, class, and ethnicity circumscribe one’s opportunities” (Ogubu 2). Ogubu’s assertion that components of one’s identity can limit one’s access to opportunities is indicative of Carlisle community members’ experiences. The young males that I spoke with in Carlisle were predominately Black and Latino males. I found that these youth lacked opportunities and developmental resources such as educational support, counseling, career guidance, and spaces for social engagement. My overall research revealed that a male youth mentorship program established in Carlisle is pivotal, and will be able to serve as a social justice intervention plan.

After recognizing that a youth male mentorship program could yield justice to Carlisle community members who lack opportunities and resources, I began periodically meeting with two of my colleagues who are also attached to this idea to coordinate, plan, and structure the program. As my colleagues and I collaborated on this project, it became clearer that a youth mentorship program was a means of reconstructing different forms of justice. The first form of justice that I sought to achieve was communal justice. In his book, Racism, African Americans, and Social Justice, Rudolph Alexander delineates communal justice as “consisting of individuals, groups, and organizations within society pursuing and promoting the common good” (Alexander 4). With Alexander’s delineation in mind, a question with which I grappled was who decides this “common good” and will it truly be for the benefit or interest of an entire community. Instead of my group and I imposing what we believe to be a benefit to the community, I decided to speak with community members about what they would like to see in their community and in a youth mentorship program. This outreach was a way for community members to construct their own ideas of communal justice according to their individual subjectivities. My colleagues and I took these sentiments and subsequently integrated them in our ideas and plans for the program.


Computer Lab

In addition to communal justice, another form of justice that I considered was distributive justice. Alexander explicates distributive justice as “involving the responsibility through the government to allocate resources and burdens fairly” (Alexander 4). Due to the lack of resources from the government, I collaborated with my group members to think of ways in which we can help restore the distribution of resources. One of the resources that Men Overcoming Obstacles provides is a two-story house that serves as a space for social engagement, homework sessions, and community development. Within the house, we also provide resources such as computers, Microsoft office software, an array of books, and a kitchen for healthy cooking. In addition to distributing resources to the community, I also noticed there was an unequal distribution of knowledge amongst Carlisle’s youth residents. While, older people were aware of particular information and amenities that served for their individual advancement, the community’s youth were oblivious to those services. Knowledge about physical, mental, social, and sexual healthiness are a few subjects that parents within the community expressed that youth should be educated on. So in addition to the distribution of material resources, I also thought about ways in which I could distribute information and knowledge. I utilized Dickinson College’s campus resources such as the career center and wellness center by collecting their free brochures and placing them within the M.O.B house. These brochures will supply the youth with information that they do not typically have access to such as career guidance and health advice.

What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing                                                                                                                               ~ C.S. Lewis 

Alexander defines social justice as; the duty of privileged individuals to advocate for the well-being of those susceptible to injustice (2005). Being a college student at a Liberal Arts college, I have a sense of privilege. I have access to resources that others do not; therefore, I have a social responsibility to assist those experiencing injustice. Aside from what I could potentially dispense to the community, members of the community have knowledge that is relevant to my own learning process. By participating in service learning projects, one is exposed to an array of practical skills that college students often lack (Eifler, Kerssen-Griep and Thacker). Usually these skills are learned by the “organic intellectuals” of the community. They are individuals sometimes without a formal college education, yet are well versed in the “interest of their particular class” (Chrisman, 2013). Men Overcoming Obstacles aims to use the resources that are made available to Dickinson students, and gain insight from the Carlisle community on the interest and needs of its residents.


Quadrese’ at the Carlisle High School

We have been in conversation with Dickinson’s office of Student Life and Admissions, to discuss the process of inaugurating local students to the college experience. Even though these offices reported to us that they are unable to provide funding for the programming of Men Overcoming Obstacles, we were assured that we are free to use on campus spaces for Men Overcoming Obstacles’ activities. We are also in conversation with the Career Center, discussing the possibility of a representative speaking with the participants of Men Overcoming Obstacles. This talk we hope will expose the young men to a range of career opportunities that are available to them, and outline the current steps they can take in order to attain them. Furthermore, there are numerous Dickinson students who have expressed interest in participating in this program. After we receive further approval from C.V.C, establish a base participation group, and design volunteer applications, we will extend an invitation to those who are interested. Our method of consulting the resources that are readily available on Dickinson, which in turn we will use to support our community service initiatives, correlates to the assertion that this approach “[p]rovide[s] [a] multi-disciplinary assistance to communities…. that improve their…. environments” (Shelton, 2016). Because residents are equipped with resources that concentrates on specified areas in the community, they can use them in order to better the entire community.


Hope Station

Our first means of collaborating with the community was with Carlisle High School. We reached out to this school because of Carlisle Victory Circle’s previous relationship with them. We are currently waiting for the principal to give us clearance to recruit students. Until then, we are beginning to reach out to a local community organization, Hope Station, which has a strong connection with the youth in the community. Community organizations, like Hope Station, allows for organic intellectuals to interact with college volunteers. This interaction not only deepens one’s knowledge of the community, but volunteers also learn valuable skills (Eifler, et al 2008). In collaboration with Hope Station we aim to enhance their students’ availability to computers and our lack of students occupying the Clubhouse. Presently, Teryon, Karl, and I are in the process of creating a flyer. Our flyer will outline the programs that M.O.B offers and at upcoming community events, we plan to distribute them to community members in an effort to gain interest.

As a result of my experience in working with the community, I have come to understand social justice as an initiative tIMG_4565hat is multi-faceted. It requires multiple partners, from diverse backgrounds, who all share a similar vision for the community. Also, working for social justice is a process that is not easily achieved. While working to construct the components of Men Overcoming Obstacles, we were faced with many obstacles that seemed unsurmountable. We concluded that there was a need for the collaboration with organizations in the community in order to gather youth participants. With Men Overcoming Obstacles, we are combating the insufficient support that exists for the young men of color in the Carlisle community. We are providing a venue for these young men to express their grievances amidst a world that often mitigates their experiences.

If we don’t stand up for our children, then we don’t stand for much

~ Marian Edelman 

David Miller States in his work, Principles of Social Justice, “social justice is regarded as an aspect of distributive justice”, which is “the fair distribution of benefits among members of various associations” (Miller 2).  As we have already stated, hidden behind a mist of positive graduation rate statistics, there dwells an issue in the Carlisle Area School District. Young men of color are not finishing high school. While multiple factors attribute to this, it is evident that these young men are lacking encouragement to finish school. Men Overcoming Obstacles was created to combat the lack of focus on young men of color in Carlisle, PA. Women of color have similar issues yet they have specific organizations and programs that focus solely on encouraging them. In the same way that these programs, Carlisle Victory Circle’s GirlPower! and the Carlisle Girl Scouts, exercise positive academic, social, and leadership qualities in young women, we aim to do the same with young men. Our goal is to provide young men with academic support and encourage them to finish high school while also teaching them how to be better members of their community through tutoring, leadership workshops, community service, community engagement, and sustainability.

While each member of this group worked together on every aspect of this project, I focused primarily on the structuring of our program. To create a program that was not only unique but effective, I looked closely at similar programs and their positives and negatives. Through this method I realized that for this program to be an effective mentorship program, where the mentors and students would build healthy relationships, consistency is key. To ensure this a separate schedule and application was made for mentors that would be background checked as well as trained. Once the mentors are selected, they will have set days that they will be at the program. This will allow the students to become familiar with, and hopefully trust, the mentors. Another thing I realized is that many academic programs forget to incorporate community service and engagement into their programs. This program was created in the hopes of benefitting the community of Carlisle and thus we have decided to make community service, outreach, and sustainability apart of our core values.

The programs we hope to incorporate are as follows. We wish to set up a peer tutoring program. This would require that the older students come 30 minutes earlier to the program so that they would finish before the younger students and thus would be able to help them with their work. This would be the first step in teaching the students about leadership, community service, and mentorship. We believe that it’s important that these mentees will one day take what they learn from this program, the skills that we are trying to foster, and use it, so that if their is a lack of interest from Dickinson students,  they can keep the program operating themselves. Secondly, we wish to have leadership workshops led by trained mentors. We will critique what it means to be a leader, as well as have exercises that foster and engage leadership skills and qualities. We will also have community service obligations which will include, working at Hope Station, neighborhood cleanup, working at the Soup Kitchen, tutoring, and fundraising for other organizations. This will teach the students the importance of investing in one’s own community and will also be a way of allowing them to be on the giving and not receiving side of community service. This is important as it will show them that not only do they have a stake in their community but they are contributing to its progress. Finally, we wiIMG_4557sh to use the space outside our clubhouse to create a garden. As of know we do not know what we will grow but ideas range from a community garden to a food garden where we would sell our produce to the farmers’ market to help fund our program.

The outcomes of the program have been as following. We have a space for the program, we have community support, we have a mission statement, and we have applications for mentors. The issue that we have right now is that we do not have the students yet. To combat this we have shifted our recruiting ideology and have decided to go straight to the community to recruit students. In doing this we hope to show the community our dedication in helping these students. Through this project my ideology of social justice has altered. I used to be under the impression that social justice was about people helping others because they have more than them and are in a position to help. Now I understand it to be people helping people because they lack the basic resources and support that has been provided to other members of the community. Social justice is not a hobby; it is a necessity.

           Without education, you are not going anywhere in this world

~ Malcolm X


As a means to ensure that M.O.B is not a temporary program, there are several methods that we will employ to guarantee lasting success. Firstly, it is essential that a partnership with Dickinson College be maintained. Dickinson has the means to provide resources to the men of M.O.B that will complement its overall mission of youth development. From Dickinson, we will seek the assistance of their Career Center, Wellness Center, P.E.A.C, and the Dickinson Farm. M.O.B members too will have the opportunity to participate in on-campus activities, lectures, fairs, sporting events, and classes. In addition to maintaining a relationship with Dickinson, the advancement of mentees into mentors will be utilized to preserve the effectiveness of M.O.B. Also, the mentors will serve as a source of motivation for the matriculating group of young men. Additionally, communal interest is important for M.O.B’s sustainability. We will invite community members to a series of open houses and social gatherings held at the Clubhouse in order to continuously generate interest. Finally, representation of M.O.B and its constituents should be visible on the board of C.V.C. Representatives must have the vested interest of M.O.B in mind when they are deliberating on issues that could potentially modify the dynamics of the program. One area of representation will be fundraising. The representatives will fundraise for the programming of M.O.B as to mitigate any future instance of financial issues that may arise. These initiatives will serve to sustain the efficacy and integrity of M.O.B. Lastly, the use of C.V.C, as an ally will aid in the formation of communal connections. C.V.C is revered within the Carlisle community, so through collaboration with C.V.C, MOB will have a brand that the Carlisle Community is familiar with and trusts.



Alexander Jr, Rudolph. Racism, African Americans, and Social Justice . Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. , 2005.


Chrisman, Robert. “Black Studies, the Talented Tenth, and the Organic Intellectual .” Black Scholar (2013): 64-70.


Eifler, Karen E., Jeff Kerssen-Griep and Peter Thacker. “Enacting Social Justice to Teach Social Justice: The Pedagogy of Bridge Builders.” Catholic Education: A Journal of Inquiry and Practice (2008): 55-70.


Sanon, Marie-Anne, Robin A. Evans-Agnew and Doris M. Boutain. “An exploration of social justice intent in phtovoice research studeis from 2008 to 2013.” Nursing Inquiry (2014): 212-226.


Shelton, Aimee J. “Implementing Community Engagment Projects in Classrooms.” Journal of  Higher Education Theory & Practice (2016): 61-67.


2016 YWCA Youth Leadership Conference: White Privilege


White Privilege |Wh·i·te|priv·i·lege| :

The concrete benefits of access to resources and social rewards, and the power to shape the norms and values of society which white people receive, unconsciously or consciously, by virtue of their skin color, in a racist society.

(Adapted from Oberlin College’s Multicultural Center Privilege and Allyship Pamphlet)


The official mission of the YWCA is “dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and girls, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all”. During the Week without Violence program, the YWCA organizes their annual Youth Leadership conference. The goal is to provide a unique opportunity to integrate a diverse group of students with the common goal of promoting justice within their respective school communities and personal lives. Usually, throughout the conference, the participants learn about racism, personal bias, and ways to be change agents. The students also learn how to promote respect and acceptance in daily behaviors, which will help empower peers in their schools. This upcoming conference’s theme is going to be “White Privilege”. We were assigned to construct the content as well as research engaging activities for the upcoming conference. Sonya Browne, who is the Mission Impact Director of YWCA, believed our group would bring a fresh perspective to the conference planning. By organizing a conference for students from across Cumberland County, we learned to appreciate how unique of an opportunity it is to come and discuss pertinent issues with peers. In the YWCA 2016 winter newsletter, Sonya Browne stated, “we must engage in ongoing self-assessment and awareness of how power differences affect our ability to be genuinely helpful. Committing to this process will bring about change, and that change will afford us the ability to denounce violence and injustice and stand in solidarity with marginalized and oppressed groups of people.” Our group had the opportunity to conduct intensive research about activities that will only live up to the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism by providing a space for critical discussion that can make change agents in the Carlisle community.

Individual Student Entry (Kennedy):

After going from voter registration with the Hope Station, I was sent to work with Jahmel as a part of the YWCA in organizing their annual fall conference. Going from just asking people to sign up for voting to organizing and planning a conference for the youth, had me questioning my abilities as a leader. I was shocked that the YWCA entrusted two college students to organize a major conference that would include over 100 students from the Cumberland county, and discuss the effects of having White privilege. Apart from discussing race and race relations in America, I first had to understand how to create a conference and lead a conference. Working with the YWCA and Jahmel, I was forced to tap into my skills as a leader and researcher but also my personal experience being a young woman of Color in  America.

The first thing I had to figure out was how to define what white privilege is. What is White Privilege? Is the conference just limited to discussing white people? How could we make this conference an area of discussion without being an attack zone? Would students even come? How do you introduce race to students at 8 in the morning? How do you level the playing field of the discussed and those doing the discussing? All these thoughts ran through my head in the creation of this project, and some questions went unanswered while some answers led to more questions. If it were not for the help of Jahmel setting a framework for the conference, I would have not known where to start.

I knew I could not step in front of high school students in an academic setting and attack their experiences or invalidate their opinions, but what I could do is fight against the basic story line. Like we discussed in class, we cannot simply look at things through one lens, we have to take a  multi-layered approach to see a more holistic picture. Instead of focusing on only White privilege, we will open up the floor to discuss everyone’s privileges at the conference. By doing that we would be able to set a groundwork of trust and not exclude the white students in attendance to being the scapegoats. We will define White privilege to the students as “the concrete benefits of access to resources and social rewards, and the power to shape the norms and values of society which white people receive, unconsciously or consciously, by virtue of their skin color, in a racist society” (adapted from Oberlin College Multicultural Resource Center). In order to make this idea definite I pulled from Peggy McIntosh’s article White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. McIntosh was writing on learning about white privilege based off of her experience as a white women and growing up in an environment that gave her “no training in seeing[herself] as the oppressor” (1). I used the idea of McIntosh’s term of training as a leading tool in understanding how to address this topic. Like McIntosh expressed white privilege is an invisible knapsack.  While it hangs on the back of white bodies, it is invisible to them because they could not see it, so it is our mission to make them see it. I am going to have to define what white privilege is, what it means and also get not only White students to see their privilege but also everyone else to see theirs as well. If everyone addressed their privilege, sees their privilege and talks about it, we would be able to evaluate the impact of race and generate a conversation on how to end racism. Also, we would be able to discuss the intersectionality of race, class, gender and sex in ways that the students were not “trained” to think about because while White privilege focuses on race, privilege adds into the intersectionality of socio-economic factors.

By opening up the floor to discuss privileges, we are taking drawing on Kimberle Crenshaw’s well-known argument about the importance of intersectionality. In order to start the journey of white privilege, we have to exhibit the intersectionality of class, race, sex, and sexuality that impacts the power whiteness has on our society. While this topic is in no way tied to the Black Panthers or the Nation of Islam, it is tied to a more conscious America. We are using diplomacy and academia to question the validity and impact of White privilege. Through our work with the YWCA, we are creating this conference with the hopes to break the hysteria of talking about race in white spaces and look forward to White students being able to have a seat in a discussion that is centered around them. I know that this one conference will not cover everything and will most likely upset more students than please, but I know that they will benefit from it in the long run. By giving each student a space to speak freely without worrying about being told that their opinion does not matter or without having their experiences invalidated, we can change the narrative and tone about the status of race in America. We can unpack white privilege and get answers to questions that a lot of students are wondering and raise some questions that they did not think they had. We are not striving for a perfect or smooth conference but we are striving for knowledge to be gained and tolerance to be heightened.

Multimedia Example:

This is a video segment from MTV’s documentary, White People, that would supplement ignite a dialogue about White Privilege and the phenomenon of ‘reverse discrimination’:

Individual Student Entry (Jahmel):

For our project, the ultimate goal is to foster deep reflection on the impact white privilege has on their overall social interactions. Scholar Peggy McIntosh’s famous piece, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, models the type of self-reflection the conference wants to foster in the participants. As a group, our methodology included understanding the socio-cultural background of the participants. Through my bi-weekly service hours, used to constructing the leadership conference, I began to appreciate the ample amount of resources used to teach me about topics like White privilege through the Posse Foundation as a Posse Scholar. The difficult aspect of this service project is going to be translating this information to youth in high school, who may not have had exposure to topics of this nature. In my eyes, it is an exciting challenge to develop an undervalued skill to have in social justice work— to disseminate information to various demographics especially young people. I learned at the end of this research project how invaluable it is with including youth education in social justice work. If the youth can comprehend dense topics then anyone of any age could. Plus, they will be the new change agents to continue the work for the next generation.

The groups of high-school students come from different parts of the Cumberland County, with diverse sets of exposure to peers of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. This factored exponentially in our decision to include a section about terms and phrases like white privilege and racism. We want to equip the students with the terminology necessary to have a critical dialogue. Also, we took into consideration the need to make this critical dialogue interactive and intellectually safe for exploration for students because our society is not even well-versed in conversing on such a topic. We had to design activities that would not attack participants for an “invisible knapsack” of unearned socio-cultural benefits. Instead, we creatively sought to formulate activities that would instead highlight the collateral effect of racism called white privilege. We attempt to complete this feat by framing certain activities of self-reflection on their daily behaviors and privileges that spread across the spectrum from gender, class, sexuality, ableism, and race. The benefit allows students to create an idea of the host of privileges that permeate our society, which creates unwarranted marginalization of others. The facilitators will be explicit in focusing the conversation on race and white privilege in discussion question portions. Also, we considered different learning styles to transform the experience into learning a difficult topic by allowing for small group discussion time as well as a writing portion.

Throughout research, we believed having leading discussion questions as a big group will help guide the critical dialogue for the whole day. The four leading discussion questions for the conference we settled on exploring more depth throughout the conference are:

  1. What is whiteness?
  2. Are white people hurt by racism?  
  3. Can white people experience racism?
  4. What does it mean to be privileged?  
  5. Have you ever spoken about race? Especially with your family?  
  6. Can white people use their white privilege as a source of allyship with social justice initiatives by people of color?

So, the impact of each one of the questions depends upon the make-up of the small groups, where students can provide perceived “insight” on how white privilege and whiteness (or lack of) differs in their lives based on their racial/class backgrounds and geographic location.

Conclusion (critical reflection):

Young people do not have these daily conversations about power dynamics and social benefits that may be unconscious to them. If they do understand, they just accept it as norm since it has always been that way. The YWCA’s mission of dismantling racism starts with igniting crucial conversations about its by-product called white privilege. By providing young teens the space to explore what the implications of white privilege are, they will see the individual benefits and structural oppression affecting their peers. But also the space of self-reflection should question possible avenues to ally-ship in the fight to dismantle racism. It is a conference that has the potential to transformative and provides a basic level of understanding of a crucial portion of Racism—white privilege. They will understand their positionality to the inequalities that exist in our society and the marginalized communities unable to have equal opportunities and access provided by their citizenship. Our society has historically been fueled on white domination through racism. In response, the YWCA constructs this conference in order to conduct dialogue on topics that sustains racism in our society. Lastly, we think the conference could be expanded by holding the conference for two days due to time constraints on the students’ chance to dive deep into the material. And, the YWCA can utilize the relationships built at this conference to forge a positive connection with the school administration. This connection can lead to the school’s ability to track the development of the attendees and continue to inspire them to be change agents. The YWCA can encourage schools to use the students from the conference as student liaisons, who could give input on how to best move the school forward in a quest to combat marginalization and built acceptance at school.


Recommended Online Resources: ( a discussion guide about white privilege based on MTV’s documentary, White People) ( various resources to help sustain a dialogue around white privilege)


Hackman, Heather W. “Five Essential Components For Social Justice Education.” Equity & Excellence In Education 38.2 (2005): 103-109. Education Research Complete. Web. 2 May 2016.\

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack.” Independent School 49.2 (1990): 31. Education Research Complete. Web. 2 May 2016.

“Privilege Walk,”—race.pdf?sfvrsn=2

“Privilege and Allyship Pamphlet,”


Empowering the People: Social Justice and the Dynamics of Racialized and Gendered Personhood

Frocropped-res.jpgm the enslavement period to contemporary times, many African Americans have mobilized to formulate social justice movements that demand the rights of full citizenship which the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution guarantee. In Justice and Grassroots Struggles, Loretta Capeheart and Dragan Milovanovic quote Doug McAdam’s argument that “[s]ocial movements are an expression of a desire for justice that has gone unmet. When those concerned for social justice, including equality, need, and/or desert, find that their demands are not considered or seriously addressed by the political structures in place, they will often turn to social mobilization in an attempt to be heard and/or attain justice” (160).  In their attempts to be heard, various African American social movement organizations, such as Black Lives Matter, have devised “ideological and political interventions” that demand the abolition of racist, sexist, and classist practices in this country that impact the viability of Black people and communities most directly.

The student reflections in this section highlight social justice initiatives that strive to empower various community constituents in Carlisle in the areas of racial and economic justice.  In particular, their projects address issue of power and privilege, the importance of mentoring Black male youth, the economic empowerment of Black women, and the employment challenges that African Americans who have been released from prisons face.


Capeheart, Loretta and Dragan Milovanovic.  Social Justice: Theories, Issues & Movements.  New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2007.
« Older posts