by Alexa Schmidt & Samantha Walla Asst. A&E Editor & Asst. Production Editor
The Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Program, or L.O.V.E, as it is more commonly known on campus, has recently made changes to their application process that will better reflect the values of the program.
Sophomore Ireland Twiggs participated in a trip last year, and is currently leading the winter break trip to New Orleans. As a double major in peace and religious studies, she is no stranger to the concept of social justice.
“I think the L.O.V.E. program is good for Manhattan students because it offers them an opportunity to make a community and meet people they may not have had the chance to interact with before. It offers a space to talk about pertinent issues in our society along with ways to address them and be an ally in some cases. It also provides a cultural immersion experience that is memorable to everyone that is apart of the team,” she said.
“It offers exposure and a sense of community on campus that teaches the applicant about a variety of topics and how to work alongside a team. The L.O.V.E. program is actually what drew me to apply to Manhattan College and the people I met alongside my team have become some of my closest friends,” Twiggs said.
Although the program evolves each year, several changes have been made that will cause the application process to differ as compared to years prior. Students will find the website updated with clear dates, prices and descriptions of each excursion, as well as updated, ethical photography. “Simple living”, a long-valued aspect of the program, was also added as a pillar and now holds a place among the official standards for L.O.V.E. participants.
The most notable change, however, will be seen when the students actually begin to fill out their applications.
This year, instead of applying to a specific trip, students indicate which areas of social justice they are interested in, as well as their price range. Trip preference is still a factor, but the program hopes to shift the emphasis from the destination to the actual activism tied to the experience.
After applications for the winter trips closed, the student trip leaders worked together to place applicants on the trip that best combined their interests and affordability.
“That was a really positive process because we were able to see where people were at in their understanding, how exposed they had been to thinking about issues of social justice,” said Kathleen Von Euw, Assistant Director of Community Engagement and Partnerships.
Being placed by student leaders has solved some of the problems the program has faced in the past regarding transparency of the experiences and diversity within the groups.
“It’s like a giant puzzle. We’re trying to make sure that there’s diversity within the group, so that’s year, major, resident, commuter, where people are from, languages spoken, everything.”
The application questions have also been tweaked to emphasize service rather than destination, as the old questions asked people to answer why they were interested in visiting a place they had never been to. Having applicants answer based off of generalizations about a place or community that they might not have ever encountered went against the aim of L.O.V.E.
Students are now asked to talk about why they’re interested in the program, how they define social justice, which experiences are they most interested in and why, and what they hope to learn.
“They have more of a reason why they would want to go on a particular experience based on those justice issues instead of saying ‘oh, it’s spring break, I want to go to Jamaica.’ Having it be a little more in depth,” said Jacqueline Martin, Coordinator of Social Action and Campus Ministry.
Student preferences on trip location are still considered, but the revamped application better reflects the essence of L.O.V.E. In doing this, newer and less popular trips are given more encouragement to grow, as students who may have been unaware of their interest in a particular trip can be accurately placed by the leaders.
“Being open-minded is really important for entering into this program. Applying to the program and having the willingness to be open to whatever experience you get placed on is sort of a good indicator that students will be open to the experience in general,” said Von Euw.
The new application has also eliminated the interview process, which created unnecessary stress for both applicants and trip leaders.
“When there’s an interview, there’s a power dynamic,” said Von Euw. “And one thing we try to teach the love participants is about power and privilege, so eliminating the structures we had within our own program that reinforced power was something that we’ve been doing. If you want to do it, you’re interested in doing it and you have the means to do it, then you should get to do it.”
Students are now guaranteed that they will have the opportunity to go on an experience, if not the first time they apply, then for a program later in the year.
These outward changes have a notable effect on students who want to apply to these trips.
”I think change is always difficult in any situation, especially trying to convince those around you to accept the new mode of how things are being done,” said Twiggs. “As a participant last year and a leader this year I have seen how the application process works from both sides.”
“I personally like the new way of doing the applications, I think it pushes the applicants to really understand the issues that they are interested in more than the location of the trip and that makes the experience more meaningful. On the side of the leaders, I think it brings them together as well to work cohesively with applications and devise the best possible teams,” she said.
After being placed, students attend an orientation to acquaint them with the values and mission of L.O.V.E.
“We’ve started an orientation program over the summer for navigating L.O.V.E. That way we can give everyone a good background on what the program is about, they can have a good understanding and we can make sure they know what’s expected of them, and they get the policies and procedures,” explained Martin.
“Once they really get into it then they know exactly what to be expecting. It’s a positive addition. With that, the participants, once we place them on different experiences, they go to their specific meeting and that’s where they meet their leaders and team and have some connection and bonding with them in addition to learning more about the program.”
The time once spent on interviews can now be used to creating a space for everyone to dive into social justice.
Both Martin and Von Euw hope to increase the opportunities for students to continue their involvement in social action after they return from their weeklong experience.
“We want to get students out in NYC or Bronx to hear speakers or go to museums or to protests. We do a lot of talking so we want to encourage even more by creating opportunities,” said Von Euw.
Ultimately, the changes made to the L.O.V.E. application have been in the works for some time, as the program is always undergoing internal improvements. However, this outward development clarifies what it means for students to experience L.O.V.E.
“They understand the approach of the program. We are focusing more on immersion, being with people, building relationships, and less on service and doing things for people. People still have a perception that we’re service-mission trips, so I think that helps people know what they’re getting into,” said Martin.
L.O.V.E. applications for spring break trips are due on Oct. 9.