Nine Manhattan College students recently had the unique opportunity to study New York City from the inside out. LeadWeek 2017, a new program spearheaded by the Multicultural Center in conjunction with Campus Ministry and Social Action (CMSA), introduced students to public policy and the way the city works through different systems.
“New York City has so many different facets to it,” says Hayden Greene, director of the Multicultural Center and the LeadWeek program. “When you look at any aspect of city governance, you also have to look at the difference in demographics — wealth, race, immigration status. New York has many of its own idiocentric issues.”
Held in January, the five-day program kicked off with government day, which included a tour of City Hall, and visits to the New York Comptroller’s and Manhattan Borough President’s offices. Having students meet their elected leaders on Monday puts the rest of the week in perspective, says Greene, as they learn about governance in motion through education, health care, the judicial system and community service.
On Tuesday, the group visited three schools in the Bronx — a charter school, a private school and a public school. Similarly, the next day, they had the opportunity to tour a local private hospital, a public hospital and a clinic. With each visit, the students were encouraged to question who has access to these different systems, what kind of resources are available, and what impact public policy might have on the lives of the people at each facility.
The site visits also introduced different career opportunities to the mostly underclassmen crowd.
“A lot of times what we know is based on personal experience, or the experiences of parents, family and friends,” says Kathleen Von Euw, coordinator of community partnerships and service for CMSA and facilitator of the LeadWeek program. “In visiting many public sector sites, the students saw so many roles and different career opportunities that are interconnected with social issues.”
Each evening back on campus, a guest speaker helped to dissect the day’s events. On health care day, Jeff Cherubini, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the kinesiology department, led a discussion on the “health of society,” asking who or what is responsible for society’s health.
“We discussed responsibility and accountability, and we concluded with the thought that, as human beings, we are both products of our environment and individuals with the capacity to choose,” Cherubini says. “As future leaders in a variety of professions, we decided that one of the most effective ways to view health behavior change is through an ecological lense — looking both at the factors that influence behaviors and at the choices individuals make.”
With this same concept in mind, the group examined the judicial system on Thursday from two different perspectives with visits to the District Attorney’s office, followed by the Legal Aid Society, which provides legal services to those who cannot afford it.
On the final day of the program, Greene wanted to expand the students’ understanding of what community service can encompass by visiting Her Justice, an organization that operates solely on the goodwill of lawyers who provide pro bono work to women in battered relationships. That afternoon, they served meals to the homeless at Part of the Solution (POTS) soup kitchen in the Bronx.
“Community service day had the biggest impact on me,” says Hannah Rome ’19, an urban studies major and student coordinator of the LeadWeek program. “Throughout the week, we learned about services that are offered around the city to all kinds of people, especially those who are low-income, without health care, in unhealthy relationships or homeless. Our time at POTS was a great way to tie everything that we had been doing that week together and give back to the community.”
At a closing night dinner, participants had the opportunity to share their thoughts with members of the Manhattan College community.
“As the only senior, I reflected upon what’s really important to me after graduation, and further realized how I want to make a difference in people's lives, especially in the healthcare field,” says Cloe Savino ’17, an allied health major. “It also brought a lot of governmental issues to light, and allowed me to gain a passion for political issues, so I'm really happy about that.”
“I was so impressed with how much the students learned from the site visits,” adds Richard Satterlee, Ph.D., vice president for student life. “This, to me, is the value of experiential learning and how impactful it can be in the area of civic engagement.”