By Fatima Magana '22
LAKE CHARLES, LA- Every year for spring break, the Social Responsibility course, which is part of the Department of Justice, Diversity and Interdisciplinary Humanities at Mount Union, takes a trip outside of or in the United States to apply in-class concepts and learn to be socially responsible. This year, I was part of the class which traveled to Lake Charles, Louisiana.
In class, we learned about social topics like giving to charities and organizations, poverty, environmental and racial inequality, and helping others in any way possible. The topics learned were an eye-opener while in Louisiana.
Prior to leaving for Louisiana, I presented on environmental racism and racial inequality in Louisiana. According to the West Baton Museum, the area that is affected by pollution is where the late town of Morrisonville used to be, primarily due to petrochemical companies.
In addition, the museum stated that the African-American race is the most at risk from contracting illnesses like cancer from pollution as well as receiving benefits like loans and healthcare. Learning about these concepts helped my experience in Louisiana because I appreciated every story we heard and was able to put myself in the residents’ shoes.
Although giving to charities and organizations is important, I learned that money is not the only way you can help someone. I liked the fact that I was able to help reconstruct people’s homes which were full of memories and years of hard work.
A passage from the book "Surviving," which we were assigned in class, stated: "As a species which deems itself wise, the evidence is now amassing that humanity is collectively behaving no more wisely than a drunken adolescent at the wheel of a very fast and powerful car--- ignoring threats to our own life and the lives of others and persisting in the behaviours most imperil to them” (11).
I compared this phrase with what I learned in my presentation and with what I saw in Louisiana because the drunken adolescents are us, people, driving Earth and our lives to danger. In Louisiana, the danger caused was reflected in the damage that hurricanes left behind and residents having few resources.
My favorite parts of the trip were meeting and interacting with the homeowners and other Louisiana residents like our hosts, Mama K and Bill, immersing myself into a new culture, and becoming closer to my classmates.
“One of my favorite parts of the Social Responsibility trip was getting to meet the different members within the community. Even though they had been through so many hardships in their lives, they still managed to have a smile on their face,” said Cla Figaro ‘23, a fellow classmate. “They were also very welcoming to us, which I appreciated. Another thing I liked was how easy it was for the group of students to get along in the span of the week. They have now become people who have impacted my life greatly.”
Lastly, I not only learned life lessons, but new skills too, such as putting up insulation, becoming a better painter, and just being sustainably responsible, like doing more than recycling.
Listening to each other's life stories introduced me to a new perspective on life, too. Being someone’s friend is a greater help. Humility and empathy are what makes a person who they are. If you have these two, you will go far in life.