Local experiences are just as transformative as study abroad in a new Macaulay program that focuses on community service.
The Kenan Scholars Program at Macaulay Honors College is a unique program designed to instill a deeper understanding of New York City’s housing crisis through research, direct service, and advocacy work. Students selected for the program interact one-on-one with unhoused individuals via a partnership with Xavier Mission, a non-profit located in Manhattan.
Preparing many meals.
Within the first few weeks of the program, Kenan scholars had already helped serve over 1,500 dishes to unhoused and housing-insecure New Yorkers in the mission’s dining areas and kitchens.
But the experience goes beyond mealtime. “Service can have many faces,” explains Cameron Stewart, the program’s leader. “Sitting and listening to another’s experience is increasingly important. We need listening and we also need action. That’s why we’re excited about the advocacy component of the program, where students can apply what they’ve learned in class to the Mission’s pressing needs.”
The scholars bring their diverse academic interests and backgrounds to creatively address the crisis together as a cohort.
Randa Elsayed ’24 (John Jay College) applied because she was hoping to combine her love for art and her passion for social justice into a career while helping those in need. “I’m interested in learning more about the causes and impact of the housing crisis, so that my work can diffuse negative stereotypes around homelessness.”
Stewart collaborated with the mission, understanding its needs and the listening to its patrons, to offer a two semester experience that begins with real work: preparing meals, distributing food and clothing, and developing an understanding of the causes of homelessness. Intimate engagement with the Mission’s patrons brings the housing crisis into sharp view.
Students then carry the bonds they’ve made and the stories they’ve heard to an examination of structures, and engage the housing crisis from a policy perspective. Each scholar brings their unique vision to the mission and becomes an advocate for our city’s vulnerable population.
It’s already having an impact.
Michelle Del Villar ’24 (City College) was inspired to apply after witnessing the inequities and lack of humanity that vulnerable communities receive in her neighborhood. She’ll apply her experience as a Kenan Scholar to focus her studies on disparities in healthcare.
Community service and experiential learning constitute a huge part of a Macaulay education. The Kenan Scholars program offers students a chance to make a difference not merely as visitors who take on a short term project in a foreign country, but as neighbors who understand the fabric of the community.