With a truncated Fall term due to the pandemic, the academic term was devoid of the coveted annual Fall Break. Nevertheless, the Civic Scholars Program continued to provide current cohort members with a virtual immersive experience geared toward learning more about housing security and land use in the greater St. Louis region.
Civic Scholars had the opportunity to engage in content and discussions with leaders in various aspects of the housing sector, such as President & CEO of Beyond Housing, Kris Krehmeyer; Paula Carey, Director of Housing from the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis; representatives from the City of St. Louis including Alderwoman Marlene Davis, Zach Kassman, SLDC Program Specialist, and SLDC Vacancy Strategist, Laura Ginn. Also featured were entrepreneurs, Eltoreon Hawkins of Finest 15th and President/CEO of Dream Builders for Equity, Neil Richardson. Community dinner hosts representing seven neighborhoods of focused interest rounded out this year’s content with personal narratives about living in the neighborhood. Dr. E. Terrance Jones, author of Fragmented by Design: Why St. Louis Has So Many Governments, opened the 3 day experience with a macro-level summation of housing trends and issues in the St. Louis region. Highlighting this year’s immersion experience was the dynamic engagement opportunity between current cohort members with 18 Civic Scholar Alumni members.
Civic Scholar senior, Logan Phillips noted that she gained “more perspective on the neighborhoods,” From this year’s immersive experience. “I feel WashU students often have a negative conception of St. Louis communities outside of Clayton… Outsiders tend to generalize without even speaking to actual residents. I appreciated the chance and the time of the different residents. I learned a lot about how much of a role internal community care plays. Universally, neighborhoods are not as connected as they may have been in the past, but there is still that dynamic of community members that everyone knows or community members who are truly invested in ensuring that their communities thrive even as times change.”
“I think I learned a lot more about the intersection of housing with other aspects of your life,” expressed Civic Scholar junior, Lauren Loftis. “I also learned just how deep some of our societal issues are, and how much of this is like ‘opening a can of worms.’ I also learned how we should recognize our history as we navigate our way through the world.”
While the 2020 Fall Immersion experience was not the typical experience and was virtually different this year, it continued to provide a high level of learning and engagement. This year’s experience allowed students to “connect with Civic alums and the other cohort of current scholars,” noted Senior Keishi Foecke, while providing junior Josh Valeri with the opportunity to “understand the broader scope of civic engagement in St. Louis, which I think will be invaluable for my Civic Summer.”