On Jan. 12, a group of College of Law students, joined by two staff, returned from a winter service immersion trip to New Orleans. Originated in the wake of the hurricanes and flooding in New Orleans in 2005, the annual service trip to Louisiana is one of multiple service immersion trips that occur each year at DePaul.
“In 2006 a student approached me about putting a service immersion trip together to help after the destruction and devastation in New Orleans,” says Tom Judge, chaplain at DePaul. “More than 30 College of Law students participated in that first trip. It was a very meaningful experience. The College of Law has been engaged in service immersion with the New Orleans community every January ever since.”
Since the inaugural trip in 2006, the program has developed to be more educational, holistic and Vincentian. This year, participants met with federal judge, Jay Zainey, to observe his courtroom and discuss his commitment to pro-bono work and public service. The group also visited the Southern Poverty Law Center to learn about how the organization advocates for social justice. A visit to the Lower 9th Ward Living Museum provided the group with insight on hurricanes and flooding, and the disasters’ disparate impact on people related to class and race.
Beyond informational meetings and experiences, participants also served with Depaul USA, The Rebuild Center, the St. Bernard Project and other organizations focused on community development, and outreach and support for people experiencing homelessness.
“Participating in these trips has truly been one of the highlights of my law school experience, as each trip has further strengthened my dedication to social justice and service,” says Mandi Moreland, a third year student in DePaul’s College of Law. Moreland has attended the New Orleans trip each year since beginning law school, and served as the student leader on the trip for the last two years.
“Each trip provides a unique opportunity to engage in direct service with individuals who face challenges associated with poverty and homelessness, while also introducing students to legal professionals who have dedicated their careers to social justice,” she says. “The most impactful aspect for me comes from the interactions and conversations I’ve had with those we serve. As one man, who currently is experiencing homelessness and receiving services at a shelter, told me, ‘No matter what we have, we can all do something to help others.’”
Upcoming Service Immersion opportunities at DePaul
The Division of Mission and Ministry Service Immersion Program is committed to the university’s Vincentian, Catholic and urban mission that emphasizes education and compassion through service to persons who live in poverty. The Service Immersion Program helps students understand their service experiences from the perspectives of their diverse faith backgrounds and personal convictions in order to foster a lifelong commitment to upholding the dignity of each individual.
Each year more than 130 DePaul students dedicate time during their winter and spring breaks to service, reflection, simplicity, community, spirituality and social justice.