Midnight Run 1

 

SERVICE LEARNER

A Reflection on Education, Service, and Spirituality

Examining the Impact of Midnight Run

By Sheila Connelly

“There are just some things you can’t learn in a classroom,” Gerry Fischer, Director of Campus Ministry and one of the leaders of Midnight Run told me as we sat down for an interview on service learning and spirituality. Midnight Run has been a Service Learning site for over 15 years, and currently has over 30 service learners involved in it.

Founded in the late 80’s, Midnight Run started as a group of students who drove around Milwaukee at night, searching for people who might need a blanket or a meal. However, the students realized many people were already in shelters by the time they were driving around. So, they started a noon-time meal program, now called “Noon Run.” Beginning with 20 loyal volunteers, the program has now grown to over 150 volunteers serving 12 sites within the community.

I asked Gerry about his thoughts on connection between service, education, and spirituality, and he commented on spirituality being the motivation for service. Although students in the Service Learning Program may be volunteering for Midnight Run as a requirement for a class, many find the call to serve through that experience. Being a site coordinator for Midnight Run, I also have seen evidence of this. I ask my volunteers at the beginning of each semester how they got involved, and there are usually at least 2 or 3 who reply, “Well I started it with service learning.”

Service learning is the base for students to get involved with serving the community, and from there they are able to find that spark that motivates them to continue. That spark can be connected with spirituality. Coming from a Catholic background, I see it as the Holy Spirit calling us to serve. What is great about continuing our service is that it will enhance our education.

“Service is more essential to mature as an adult than, say, trigonometry,” Gerry remarked. The lessons you learn from serving others are what will shape your values—it will affect you for the rest of your life. “Service will make you a more compassionate person, a more altruistic person.” It all starts with that first semester of service learning, or that first experience of walking in solidarity with the poor.


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