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Phoenix Urban Service Learning

Students pose at St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix 2017 The Phoenix Service Learning Course is one of five, week-long, field-based service learning courses that engages students in community-based collaboration within the Central Phoenix area. The course is community-grounded and aims to provide students opportunities to collaborate with organizations in service activities while also reflecting on their experiences. This combination of service and reflection is a key way to build long lasting impressions and encourage community engagement and understanding of social justice and health equity. Community partner organizations for the 2017 included St. Vincent de Paul (pictured above with students posing at the facility) and nine other programs and organizations, listed below:

  • St. Mary’s Food Bank
  • Circle the City
  • Fresh Express by Discovery Triangle
  • UMOM
  • St. Vincent de Paul
  • Human Services Campus
  • Maricopa County Department of Public Health (panel)
  • Arizona Department of Health Services (panel)
  • City of Phoenix, FitPHX (panel)
  • Vitalyst Health Foundation (panel)

Students pose at St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix 2017Students participated in varied service activities including sorting donation rooms, distributing food boxes to clients, creating handouts on food safety and healthy eating, serving dinner to families, as well as participating in tours and detailed discussions with representatives from these agencies. In the adjacent photo, students work distributing food with Fresh Express volunteers (click to enlarge):

A number of health related themes emerged for the students throughout the week and were a key part of both informal discussions and more formal reflection time. These themes included:

  • Transportation challenges in an urban environment
  • The built environment
  • Barriers to health and social services access
  • Mental health
  • Housing insecurity/availability of affordable housing
  • Access to care
  • Food insecurity/access to affordable health food
  • Job training opportunities in a social service setting
  • Healthy Equity and Social Justice
  • Public health and community leaders and the importance of "intersectionality"

Service Learning Students pose with a companion dog at Circle the City Public health students find the service learning opportunities rewarding to understand the structural barriers and forces that hinder health care access, as well as assets that drive communities to positive health outcomes. Students of this year’s cohort shared the following thoughts about the course:

  • I think that classroom-based learning in necessary and important but having a hands-on experience helps to practice what you have learned in a real-world setting. The skills gained through this experience will also help students to be successful in their careers as public health professionals.
  • Going to each place, back to back, every day made the experience more overwhelming in the best way possible. It just made every experience more intense and left a more lasting impression.
  • I am glad I got to be part of this course because it has opened my eyes to how I can help the city I call home.

Students distributed food at the Human Services Campus, Phoenix 2017

The University of Arizona