Students in the MAC program’s Spiritual Integration and Social Concern class are living what they’re learning. The soon-to-be counselors recently completed an advocacy project on behalf of Oregon foster kids.
It began with Professor Chris Cleaver’s desire to create an opportunity for his students to experience real advocacy, an adventure that would take them outside of their lectures and textbooks.
“I’m trying to communicate the role of counselors, the role of advocacy, and then have my students practice those skills,” he says. “Why not actually make someone’s life better while we’re learning how to make someone’s life better?”
Once the students collaborated on the project, they chose to serve foster kids. With only weeks to make a difference, they quickly identified a need that continuously popped up during their research: Although there are many resources for young adults phasing out of the foster care system into independence, many of these resources are outdated or inaccessible.
“Foster kids can stay in the system up until they’re 23 if they go to college,” says Cleaver. But many have no idea this is an option. “Having current resources and knowing how to take advantage of all those resources can help foster kids avoid pitfalls,” he says.
The students set out to change that by creating multiple brochures with updated information helpful to foster kids moving out of the system. Then they passed them around to various agencies in Multnomah County.
MAC student Sarah Kumm was thrilled to be fulfilling this need with her classmates, and she was encouraged by the feedback they received from social workers. “Everyone I talked to said new resources are huge on their hearts,” she says. “Foster agencies do an amazing job, but they just don’t have time to improve all their resources.”
The project became more than just a grade or a deadline once the students saw how much their effort benefited the kids. “It reminds me of how much is going on in the world and the services that are needed,” says Kumm. “Culturally, we became more sensitive to people we were unfamiliar with. Listening and being there and supporting is what God has called us to do.”
Cleaver agrees. “I very much believe that Jesus is an advocate, and we as Christians are following him in that advocacy.”