Community Engagement News

Dec 12, 2022. 5 min read

Community Engagement News December 12, 2022


Plans for Day of Service Projects Inspired by King’s ‘Fierce Urgency of Now’

The Fierce Urgency of NOW

Almost 60 years after the civil rights leader spoke at the March on Washington, his words have “renewed meaning” in a still-divided nation.

“The Fierce Urgency of Now” will be the theme of Barry University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service next month.

On January 14, students, faculty and staff members, alumni, and community members will honor Dr. King’s memory by participating in collaborative service projects designed to contribute to the improvement of marginalized communities—particularly Miami’s historic communities of color.

Liberty City is one such community, where projects are being planned in partnership with Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI). A nonprofit organization, MCI is focused on transforming Liberty City into a prosperous community.

When he spoke at the momentous March on Washington in August 1963, King emphasized the “fierce urgency of now.” He reminded the people of a divided nation that they needed one another and that they were stronger when they marched forward together.

Almost 60 years later, in a still-divided nation, observers say King’s words have “renewed meaning.”

Each year, on the Saturday immediately preceding the King holiday—the third Monday of January—Barry volunteers honor the civil rights leader’s life and legacy by taking part in a day of service.

Volunteer registration for the 2023 MLK Day of Service is underway via Corq/Engage and GivePulse.

Additional information is available from the Center for Community Service Initiatives (CCSI) at

Social Work Students Make a Difference in the Community Through Service-Learning Projects

Laiz Alvarez (left), Laverne Smith (center), and Daniella Lexine (right)

Laiz Alvarez (left), Laverne Smith (center), and Daniella Lexine pose for a picture after making a presentation at the Service-Learning Symposium in the School of Social Work. – Photo by Glenn Bowen

Social work students made connections—and made a difference—in the community this semester, thanks to the service-learning requirement of the undergraduate program.

Whether serving at an assisted-living facility, in the Barry Urban Garden, at a social service agency, or at an event to process applications for community ID cards, students demonstrated the power of making connections and tackling salient social issues.

The students were enrolled in SW 323, Service-Learning and Social Work Practice. They reflected on their experiences as they made presentations at the end-of-semester Service-Learning Symposium in the School of Social Work.

Students pursuing the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) are required to complete 45 hours of community-based work as part of the designated service-learning course.

Evan Taylor
Anthony “Tony” Wilson

Evan Taylor (left) and Anthony “Tony” Wilson share their service-learning experiences at the event in the School of Social Work. – Photos by Glenn Bowen

As the students made their presentations, they connected what they learned in community settings to the social work course content as well as to standards of social work practice.

Students like Leverne Smith, Daniella Lexine, and Laiz Alvarez reflected on their experiences in helping recently resettled refugees feel welcome in Miami, their new home.

A Cuban national, Alvarez made connections between some of the refugees’ stories and her own. People come to the United States “to have a future,” she noted. “My parents moved here … when I was just a child to give me the opportunity to pursue education and a career.”

Through her conversations at the on-campus event for the new residents in November, Alvarez sought to “give them hope of what the future can hold for them.”

Both Smith and Alvarez expressed appreciation for the opportunity to assist at an event in Florida City, where the processing of applications for Miami-Dade County Community ID cards took place.

Lexine reported that she “had a great experience” serving in the community. She also valued what she learned—for example, that students could help to fight food insecurity and hunger by writing letters to Congress, a project facilitated by Bread for the World.

Course instructor Preeti Charania thanked the community partners and mentors for supporting the BSW students, who came away from their semester of service-learning with a sense of achievement.

Also, Prof. Charania shared a letter from a community partner, who commented on a student’s service at an assisted-living facility in Fort Lauderdale. Shawanda Spencer, of Touched By Angels, wrote in glowing terms about the service provided by Anthony (Tony) Wilson, who assisted residents with the routines of daily living and provided companionship to them while also giving the facility’s staff a helping hand.

Dr. Maria Teahan

Dr. Maria Teahan, interim dean of the School of Social Work, commends the students for providing assistance to community agencies and hope to people through their service-learning projects. – Photo by Glenn Bowen

Mr. Andrew Hoo, executive director of A New Start: Financial and Social Services, attended the symposium. He served as mentor to one of the social work students who shared his service-learning experience at the event on December 1.

Dr. Maria Teahan, interim dean of the School of Social Work, commended the students for making connections, providing assistance to community agencies, and helping to transform people’s lives.

“You held up hope for people,” Dr. Teahan told the students. She added that they made a difference by “taking someone and reminding them of their dignity.”

Dr. Heather Johnson Desiral, experiential learning facilitator in the Center for Community Service Initiatives (CCSI), praised and thanked the students for their service to the community. She noted that they gained valuable experience, which has contributed to their knowledge and professional development.

In attendance were BSW Program Director Deborah (Debbie) Chanan and other faculty members of the School of Social Work.

Students Demonstrate in Support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program

Student Demonstrations
Student Demonstrations

Students chant in support of the CIW’s efforts to ensure that all women and men who harvest in the tomato fields are free from forced labor and abuse and are given the respect and dignity they deserve. – Photos by Courtney Berrien

Students from Barry participated in a demonstration last month in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program and to advance a boycott of Wendy’s, the fast-food chain.

Barry Service Corps Fellows were at the forefront of the demonstration outside a Wendy’s restaurant in North Miami, and among the demonstrators were representatives of the CIW with some of their family members. They called for Wendy’s, the parent company, to sign on to the Fair Food Program.

Students taking selected service-learning classes took part in the public action, staged on the Saturday just before Thanksgiving Day.

The CIW is a worker-based human rights organization committed to fighting human trafficking and gender-based violence at work. The organization has pioneered the design and development of the “worker-driven social responsibility paradigm,” a market-enforced approach to the protection of human rights in corporate food-supply chains.

The Fair Food Program involves a partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail-food companies that ensures fair wages and humane working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. According to the CIW, the program harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture.

Student Demonstrations
Student Demonstrations
Student Demonstrations
Student Demonstrations

The demonstrators bring attention to the student boycott of Wendy’s by waving flags and holding large signs aloft while chanting to passersby. Barry Service Corps Fellows help to lead the chants. – Photos by Courtney Berrien

The students who participated in the protest first learned about the plight of farmworkers, and about the Fair Food Program, by viewing the 2014 film, Food Chains. The documentary reveals the unsafe working and living conditions that farmworkers experience in Florida and other parts of the country. It also highlights the positive effects of the Fair Food Program on industrial agriculture.

At the Wendy’s North Miami location, the demonstrators brought attention to the boycott by waving flags and holding large signs aloft while chanting to passersby. They wanted people to know about the CIW’s efforts to ensure that all women and men who harvest in the tomato fields are free from forced labor and abuse and are accorded the respect and dignity they deserve.

Barry Service Corps Fellows Yolissa Graham-Richardson, Joseline Bucumi, and Jocelyn Flores helped to lead the chants.

Later, Graham-Richardson and Joseline Bucumi accompanied longtime CIW leader Lupe Gonzalo into the eatery to speak with the manager and to request that she deliver a letter to the Wendy’s corporate offices, requesting the company’s participation in the Fair Food Program. However, the manager refused the letter from the CIW.

Student Demonstrations
Student Demonstrations

Through an activity in which volunteers attempt to break a bundle of fragile sticks, CIW leaders—including Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a Clinton Global Citizen Award winner (in plaid shirt)—demonstrate the power of working together. The activity shows that it is easy to break the sticks one by one; however, when put together, the sticks cannot be broken. – Photos by Courtney Berrien

Corporations like Taco Bell, Burger King, Walmart, and McDonald’s participate in the Fair Food Program. Wendy’s has yet to join them.

The Student/Farmworker Alliance (SFA), a CIW ally led by college students, has encouraged customers to boycott Wendy’s until the company becomes a Fair Food participant. Barry students have supported the boycott since the SFA announced it in 2015.

Before the protestors went to Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami, they gathered on campus, where CIW members helped them build energy for the demonstration.

Student Demonstrations

At the end of the demonstration, BSC Fellow Yolissa Graham-Richardson (center) tells demonstrators that the local Wendy’s manager did not accept a letter from the CIW to be delivered to the corporate offices. – Photo by Courtney Berrien

Besides the fellows in the CCSI’s civic leadership program, most of the students were drawn from service-learning courses in theology and social work.

CIW members spoke with the students about the power workers possess when they unite and work with allies. Led by Gerardo Reyes Chavez, a national figure in the fight for farmworker rights, the CIW group facilitated a simulation that they often conduct in the fields to demonstrate “people power.”

Though CIW leaders have come to Barry’s Miami Shores campus several times to make presentations, Reyes was making his first visit. The CIW leader—who worked in the fields, first in Mexico and then in Florida, and is featured in “Food Chains”—has spoken at Harvard Law School, to the Interfaith Council on Corporate Responsibility, and to numerous national media outlets. He was an Aspen Institute Scholar and is among the CIW members honored with the Clinton Foundation’s Global Citizen Award.

Barry student leaders are expected to continue supporting the work of the CIW in next semester by recruiting students and others to participate in the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food.

‘Community Engagement Educator’ and ‘Service-Learning Faculty’ are Among Categories of Awards for Community Engagement

Community Engagement Awards Nominations

“Community Engagement Educator” and “Service-Learning Faculty” are two of seven categories of awards in which nominations are being accepted.

The Community Engagement Educator Award honors administrators and faculty members for significant contributions to the institutionalization or enhancement of community engagement at Barry University. 

The Service-Learning Faculty Award is presented to faculty members for exemplary integration of community-based or community-focused collaborative service into the curriculum. 

Students, faculty and staff members, and community partners are invited to submit nominations by the last Friday of January.

Community engagement award nominations are being accepted also in six other categories: Community Impact, Community Partnership, Community-Based Research, Community-Engaged Scholarship, and Engaged Department.

The primary purpose of the awards is to publicly recognize students, faculty, staff/administrators, departments, and community partners for their participation, contributions, and achievements in various areas of community engagement. Each award is also designed to encourage excellence in university–community collaboration and to inspire similar achievements by others.

The 10th Annual Community Engagement Awards Ceremony is scheduled for the last Wednesday of March. Additional information and the nomination forms are available at the CCSI website.

Face-Painting Artist Puts Smiles on Refugee Children’s Faces at Thanksgiving Celebration

Thanksgiving Celebration

At a Thanksgiving celebration for recently resettled refugees, Dr. Liliam Dominguez, a lecturer in the Department of Fine Arts (right), put paint—and smiles—on children’s faces. Church World Service (CWS) Miami hosted the event with support from Barry students and faculty/staff. The refugees were from Afghanistan, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Ukraine, and Venezuela. – Photo by Ruth Ban (School of Education, Leadership, and Human Development)

Happy Holidays

Community Engagement News is a publication of the Center for Community Service Initiatives.

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