Arrupe Partnerships: Celebrating 20 Years of Community-based Learning

It’s not so much a physical space, or even a campus program, as it is a diverse group of people connecting to learn through interaction, study, and reflection.

TWENTY YEARS AGO, THREE JESUITS from Santa Clara set out to form partnerships that would allow the University and the community to learn from one another. The metaphoric bridge had a physical dimension, as well: In launching what they named the Eastside Project, Frs. Stephen J. Privett, Gerdenio “Sonny” Manuel, and Dan Germann took up residence in Most Holy Trinity parish in San Jose’s east side, so that they could both learn from and participate in the community around them. The University itself was “deprived,” the founders argued, because it was generally isolated from the marginalized and the poor. And in order to understand the universal human experience, the University had a lot to learn from those often excluded from participation in economic, social, and political life.

Speaking a new language: An SCU student leads an English language conversation group at the John XXIII Multi-service Center in San Jose. Photo: Charles Barry

Now known as the Arrupe Partnerships for Community-Based Learning, the program was renamed in honor of Pedro Arrupe, S.J., former Superior General of the Jesuit Community, and is part of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education. Each year, approximately 1,200 Santa Clara undergraduates participate in the opportunities in community-based learning that the center offers, both at home and abroad. And more than 40 percent of the Class of 2005 participated in community placements, taking advantage of internships and summer fellowships—from Estrella Family Services in San Jose to Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity in Calcutta, from working with the homeless through InnVision to an environmental justice program in Ghana.

While the programs have grown tremendously, the essential motivation remains: Experience will more likely lead us into new ways of thinking, rather than thinking lead us into new ways of acting. That is true for both scholars and students, and for community partners.

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What are the boundaries of your reality? SCU student Bruce Martinez talks with children during an immersion trip to Guarjila, El Salvador in spring 2001. Photo: Charles Barry

“Knowledge is not just something to find in a textbook on campus,” says Laurie Laird ’87, who, as associate director of the Ignatian Center, supervises Arrupe Partnerships. At the same time, she says, “There is solidarity—that mutual benefit.” She cites high school students who, through working with Santa Clara students, for the first time imagine that college is a possibility for them, too. It’s just one example of the thousands of lives the program has affected.

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