Retreat brings urban issues to suburban students

Are you looking for a more fulfilling way to get your service hours rather than going to Feed My Starving Children for the umpteenth time? Do you want to learn more about disadvantaged people in your extended community and make new friends in the process? If so, you should go on the Urban Immersion Retreat.

Currently led by campus ministers Mrs. Nancy Devroy, Ms. Amy Northrop and Mr. Jason Wilhite ’15, the overnight Urban Immersion Retreat is now in its fifth year and will be held at the David Darst Center in Chicago three times this academic year: November 1-2, March 6-7 and April 3-4. Students learn about social injustices in Chicago, listen to people’s stories and interact directly with the people they serve.

“It’s a very eye-opening experience,” said junior Michal Brankin, who has gone on the retreat twice before and plans to go again this year. “It hit in a different place than other retreats I’ve experienced. You see people in a different light and experience things first hand rather than just hearing about it.”

The retreat also corrects stereotypes about poor people being lazy or wanting to take advantage of welfare, according to Mrs. Devroy.

“I hope people hesitate before judgment and start to open their eyes to others who are not in the same economic situation as they are,” said Mrs. Devroy.

Students help at different service sites each time, such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens and after-school programs for children.

“When we learn about social justice at other places, you learn about justice issues around the world and think, ‘So what? That’s so far away,’” said senior Clair Edens, who has attended Urban Immersion three times already and wants to do it again at least once this year. “On Urban Immersion, you learn and experience for yourself the issues in your community that you overlook.”
Just because the retreat is about a serious topic doesn’t mean it is unenjoyable.

“It’s challenging and fun,” said Mrs. Devroy. “The Darst house is an old mansion, and it’s really funky.”

As a plus, participants even earn ten marginalized service hours.

“If you’re thinking about it, even as a maybe, go on it,” said Brankin.

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  • Photo courtesy of Mrs. Devroy

  • Photo courtesy of Clair Edens

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