Honors Students Partner With Local Nonprofit
December 21, 2017
At Texas Lutheran University, community service is interwoven into many aspects of campus life. Special projects or programs often take students outside the classroom and into their community.
This was exactly the case in Professor Rodrick Shao’s Honors Freshman Experience class where an emphasis was placed on global citizenship through service by working with Mosaic of South Central Texas—a faith-based nonprofit serving people with intellectual disabilities.
The project paired students in the course with individuals being served by two Mosaic residences in the Seguin area hoping to build positive and sustainable relationships. Each student was required to complete 10 hours of community service throughout the semester.
“I wanted to foster learning and an understanding of the complexities of learning about cultures and communities, and their values, needs and perspectives,” Shao said. “I was so moved with the idea of engaging with the individuals Mosaic serves to learn more about their lives, contribution to society, needs, challenges, and ways to support them.”
Mosaic of South Texas Executive Director Justin Botter said their mission is embracing God's call to serve in the world.
“Mosaic advocates for people with intellectual disabilities and provides opportunities for them to enjoy a full life,” Botter said. “We believe that every individual is a person of worth. Together, Mosaic staff members, volunteers, and the people we support work as partners.
He oversees the Individual Plan of Care for more than 100 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He, along with around 35 staff members, more than 50 contractors, and a handful of volunteers all are passionate about opportunities and partnerships that create meaningful lives and give a voice to the needs of people they serve.
“Anytime we can increase community involvement, it positively affects the lives of those we serve” Botter said. “When the ladies in one of our Intermediate Care Facilities knew the students would be visiting them that evening, they would visibly brighten up with huge smiles stretched across their faces. I do feel that the affect on many of the students is more profound.”
According to Professor Shao, many of the students who reflected on the project agreed it was different from anything they ever expected, defying stereotypes they had of people with intellectual disabilities.
"I believe students’ reflections speak volume about the impact of this project to TLU students, the Mosaic individuals, and the TLU mission of civic engagement," Shao said. "I hope this is the beginning of educational seeds that can sustainably grow and touch our lives in the world. It starts with understanding ourselves through the lenses of others – meaning it’s all about people."
From playing bingo and learning sign language to simply talking and interacting with the Mosaic clients, the overall response from students was heartfelt and enlightening. Some even said it was an escape from the pressures of college life and looked forward to spending time at Mosaic.
“This partnership allows students to work with a population they are extremely unfamiliar with and even somewhat uncomfortable with,” Botter said. “Our clients are people too and hey have the same wants and needs as everyone else. Quite a few of the students found this to be an enriching experience for their own life and I feel that at least a couple of them found this to be a life changing type of experience.”