Journey House: Positively Impacting Clarke Square through Service Learning
In May of 2012, Journey House opened a brand new facility attached to Longfellow School in the Clarke Square area of Milwaukee. I sat down and spoke with Cherise Myers, the Director of Community Relations for Journey House, about how Marquette service learners are helping Journey House achieve its mission of justice for all families, as well as about Journey House’s new location and state of the art facility.
Volunteers are a crucial and necessary part of Journey House’s daily operations. Cherise described having Marquette service learners volunteer as a “win-win” because in addition to helping Journey House achieve its mission, it exposes students to “the reality of people working and living check to check.” Cherise expressed that service learning is truly justice because it has “the power of changing lives in both ways.” A service learner can help make a difference for the young students at Journey House and the young students make a difference in the lives of Marquette service learners. Cherise explained that students in the Milwaukee Public School system are suffering from annual budget cuts, which keep getting bigger and increase the classroom size. After-school tutoring has become especially critical as the class room size increases, since it is much harder for students to receive individualized attention. In addition, some parents may not be able to help their children with homework because they work during the evenings, are single parents with younger children, or did not complete school themselves.
There is a great need for service learners to be tutors, instructors, and coaches at Journey House. Cherise wants service learners to teach topics in which they are passionate about and she is extremely flexible and excited to find a way for any student to incorporate their passion into their service learning experience at Journey House. Being passionate about what you are doing, truly wanting to work with the students, and finding meaning in the service you do makes service learning justice in Cherise’s eyes. “If students come here and don’t want to find meaning and put passion into the service they are doing, then that makes service learning simply charity.” Young students can see when a service learner is involved and engaged and has found meaning in working with them, and according to Cherise that makes all the difference in the world because it “sparks something in both the service learner and the students.”
Journey House is an important agency helping revitalize the Clarke Square area. The Clarke Square area has undergone many changes in the past few years. Cherise explained that crime, gang activity, and prostitution all used to be visibly present in the neighborhood, but now that is a different story. With an increase in police presence, as well as support from foundations such as the Zilber Foundation, the Clarke Square area has been undergoing a revitalization. Journey House is now able to offer a wide variety of easily accessible classes and services to people in the area with the new classrooms, computer lab, dance studio, and gym. Additionally, Journey House is able to offer Basic Skills/GED and English Language Learner classes for adults, leadership programs, sports, and tutoring for students, and even Zumba exercise classes.
In the future, Cherise sees the Clarke Square area becoming a destination spot in Milwaukee and believes the future of Clarke Square depends on people coming into the area because of newer, nicer homes and more local businesses and activities. Journey House will be playing a role in the Clarke Square area becoming a destination spot in the near future. They have just installed a brand new football field in Mitchell Park and will celebrate the grand opening of the field on June 6, 2013. Over 500 youth who are involved in the football and cheerleading leagues will begin practices in late June on the field, and Journey House has partnered with ESPN Deportes to have a Community Soccer Event on June 22nd. This football field will feature the official logo of the Green Bay Packers which has the community and young athletes very excited. Journey House has been instrumental in the revitalization of the Clarke Square area, and will continue to be in the future.