Nearly 120 college students, from more than two dozen institutions, convened at Marymount University recently for the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty’s (SHECP) 2019 Frueauff Closing Conference.

The two-day event was the culmination of an eight-week internship program that provided students with the opportunity to learn about poverty beyond the classroom, by working with nonprofit and government agencies that address issues of income inequality related to community and individual services, education, healthcare and legal aid.

“It is inspiring to see the hard work and dedication that the interns have shown over the past two months,” said Dr. Brett Morash, SHECP executive director. “I am confident that this experiential internship will continue to inform their future careers and path in life.”

The conference, held Aug. 3-4, afforded interns a forum to reflect and report on their experiences to fellow students, consortium faculty advisors, and SHECP leadership.

“The SHECP internship was a unique opportunity to learn, from an established organization, how to serve a community that could benefit from health and nutrition education. I learned that there are simple ways that public health practitioners and invested community members can engage the community in such a way that can improve long-term health outcomes. I hope that I will have the opportunity to bring this knowledge back to my hometown area,” said Meghan Lippa, Niagara University, who spent her summer with the Food Bank of South Jersey, in Pennsauken, N.J.

SHECP interns provided approximately 34,000 hours of service to agencies in 18 different geographic locations. In many cases, their work will have a long-lasting impact on the communities in which they lived and worked. For example, Shawn Li, University of Wisconsin–Madison, helped the City of Shamokin, Pa., organize and digitize decades worth of ordinances, as well as make the city’s website more resident friendly.

Scholar authors, Dr. Anthony Fontes, of American University, and Dr. Gabrielle Oliveira, of Boston College, delivered keynote addresses to the students. During which, they discussed the relationship between poverty and migration.

“We have become uncomfortably numb to the suffering of migrants,” said Fontes, author of “Mortal Doubt: Transnational Gangs and Social Order in Guatemala City” (University of California Press, 2018). Fontes spoke to the history of geopolitics, war, and crime that drives Central Americans to our own borders, as well as the evolution of immigration policies in the United States.

Oliveira shared her research on transnational families for “Mothering Across Borders: Mexican Immigrants and Their Children in Mexico and in New York City” (New York University Press, 2018). She also discussed her current work with a Boston-area school district that has seen a rise in Brazilian immigrants. Oliveira said that it is far too easy to point fingers and assess blame when confronting issues. “There’s more to the story, what are the layers?” Oliveira said. “It’s important to understand where fears (on both sides) are coming from.”

Beyond the presentations, the conference was an opportunity to embolden the students. Dr. Jennifer Warlick, an associate professor of public policy and economics, and director of Notre Dame’s poverty studies interdisciplinary minor, was presented with the third annual Harlan R. Beckley Award.

“Dr. Jennifer Warlick’s leadership and advocacy and has helped hundreds of students better understand our collective roles in economic inequality,” said Dr. Louwanda Evans, SHECP board chair and associate professor at Millsaps College. “Naming Dr. Warlick the recipient of this year’s Harlan R. Beckley Award was an easy decision for our board and council. Her insight and passion serve as an inspiration for students pursuing an education in poverty studies.”

Under Warlick’s leadership, 258 students have graduated as poverty studies minors at Notre Dame since 2008. She has guided 26 Notre Dame students through SHECP internships since 2012.

“I see the future in you, and I have confidence that you will carry the faith of optimism to the realization of concrete goals that make this world a better place for everyone,” Warlick said to the interns during her acceptance speech. “It has been my great privilege to be a member of the SHECP community.”

Though the internships have concluded, the students will now take their findings to their own campuses. To learn how you can support SHECP and its internship program, visit shepherdconsortium.org.

About the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty: The Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty (SHECP), is a consortium of colleges and universities that are committed to the study of poverty as a complex social problem, by expanding and improving educational opportunities for college students in a wide range of disciplines and career trajectories. SHECP institutions support undergraduates toward a lifetime of professional and civil efforts to diminish poverty and enhance human capability. For more information, please visit ShepherdConsortium.org, or find us on Twitter at @TheSHECP.

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