Creating the Extraordinary Student Experience

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East St. Louis Partnership

In August 2014, Student Life's Social Change began a unique partnership in the East St. Louis, Illinois region centered on community development and civic engagement; and during spring break 2015 (in collaboration with Buck-I-SERV*) sponsored a week-long, substance-free alternative break trip for Ohio State students and staff to work within the region.

While in Illinois, students worked at the Trinity Outreach Center located in Washington Park. Working with local students, in grades K-12 and first-year college students, Ohio State students worked to empower individuals to achieve self-sufficiency to assure that a new generation of children have the family and community supports needed to be successful in school and in life and incorporated a new nutritional aspect to the Center. The program engaged students through education, sports and wellness and nutrition; encouraging the local youth to step out of their comfort zone and experience new things. Students also had the opportunity to explore historic monuments and museums in St. Louis, Missouri and engage with local Ohio State Alumni.  

The trip concluded with Ohio State students attending a graduate-level course at the Washington University's Brown School of Social Work, taught by Professor Jack A. Kirkland. In this course, Ohio State students were able to engage in a discussion with Washington University College of Social Work graduate students, about civic engagement and other issues evolving in the St. Louis metropolitan region. 

In November 2015, the Trinity Outreach Center was closed due to budget constraints.

Starting in January 2016, the department of Social Change, AmeriCorps and the East St. Louis School District: 189 will be partnering to send a delegation of students to work with the East St. Louis School District for one week on the University break schedule. Ohio State student volunteers will serve at East St. Louis Sr. High school, in the academic skills center along side Operation AmeriCorps members. During this time they will also hold discussion groups with interested students on college entrance, access, funding, and choosing a major. Ohio State student volunteers will also volunteer with a local after school program to get a better sense of the overall community.

During non-University breaks, the department of Social Change and the East St. Louis School District: 189 will offer a virtual pen-pal program, between current Ohio State students and East St. Louis Sr. High School Gear Up students. Social Change will also engage East St. Louis students via monthly [live] Virtual Conference Calls; during these sessions a panel of Ohio State students and representatives will offer a mini-lesson and Q&A for the student of East St. Louis, to learn more about the collegiate process.

The goals of this partnership is to build a sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship between The Ohio State University, AmeriCorps, East St. Louis School District: 189 and the residents of East St. Louis, Illinois.


Spring 2016 trip details:

Trip Name: Buckeyes "Bridging" for East St. Louis

Location: East St. Louis/ Washington Park, IL 

Dates: March 12-19, 2016

Trip Description: This civic engagement adventure uses the best of the Buckeyes to be the beginning of social change in East St. Louis. For the week, OSU students will spend time investing in historic East St. Louis, mentoring youth at East St. Louis Senior High School. Students will also cross the Bridge to explore St. Louis and learn about the social justice history of the city and its many surrounding municipalities. When OSU students leave they will have an understanding of the historical hardships of the residents in the area. Furthermore, they are given the chance to make an impact in the East St. Louis community.

Cost: $210.00 per student (payments will be made via the Buck-I-SERV website)


For additional details regarding this trip, please contact Dr. Patty CunninghamDaVonti' Haynes and Ryan Calvin


Note: This trip is only open to students currently enrolled at The Ohio State University - Columbus campus.

*Buck-I-SERV is a program planned through the Office of Student Life and supported in part by the Student Activity Fee. The mission of Buck-I-SERV is to provide students with a challenging and fun opportunity to lead and learn through direct service experiences. Students will learn the importance of reflection, social justice, and civic engagement while gaining new perspectives through working in diverse environments. They will also be meeting community needs, building on community assets, and bringing their experiences back to campus. Students will also be able to create new and lasting friendships by participating in a Buck-I-SERV trip over winter, spring, or summer break.


“I love kids and spend a lot of time around young people, and it's really important for me to be a role model for them. This is especially true for children that live in areas similar to Washington Park because they may not have parents or adults in their lives that push them to be more successful. I definitely try to share what worked for me and what didn't so they can see that there are people that care about their well-being and their futures.”  Spring 2015 Student Participants

“Working with the children of East St. Louis, I saw the deep inequalities that exist in our education system, but also the amazing ability of individuals to influence and inspire these kids. I had never worked with marginalized youth before, and as I got to know my elementary school students during the week, they were at times frustrating, but they also an amazing ability to make me laugh. Whether they were showing off their basketball skills or their new dance moves, they were eager for attention, and being able to spend a week in Washington Park taught me that a little love can go a long way with kids.” - Spring 2015 Student Participants


Click here to view photos from the Spring 2015 trip (March 14-21, 2015)

Click here to view photos from the Summer 2015 trip (July 15-18, 2015)


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