Cutline: For advanced students, CND’s sociology program supplements classroom study with active involvement.

Just one of the things the CND sociology department is doing is placing interns where they can do some good. According to long-time staff member Don Stannard-Friel, all three staff members are activism oriented, and programs and students re­flect it.

“The College of Notre Dame has tremendous diversity in the daytime. We get a lot of minority students in our program who are interested in social change, but a lot of white students, too. That doesn’t mean they’re going to go out and be sociologists, but more and more are going into social work,” said Stannard-Friel. “They may go to work in business, they may change and be­come psychologists, who knows.

“My feeling about the under­graduate degree is you are training the mind and you want to teach people how to learn, how to teach themselves, how to keep on learning though life,” he said. His methods have visible results.

America Rios, 20, lives and works in San Mateo County at outreach programs. She started at CND in pre-law but changed after attending so­ciology classes. Now she works for Barrios Unido, United Neighborhoods, a community outreach and gang prevention organization.

She spends her time dealing with Hispanic youths who have already been in trouble. The focus of the program is to get the youths off the street by giving them some positive alternatives.

Rios has two prejudices to fight with the youths, age and sex. “The kids take the attitude of what can you offer me if you’re the same age I am.”

Being Latina in a Latino­heavy environment doesn’t help matters any, she said. On the softer side of helping out, Rios also works with a childcare food program.

Since she is being paid for her work, she is already a professional, but Rios knows she has work ahead of her. She is still working on her bachelor’s degree and CND and would like to stay for a couple of years to work on her master’s and continue in her jobs.

“It’s just something that I like doing. I love working with people,” she said.

Berdine Oliva is CND sociology graduate working in the field at a group home and a probation department, both places with Hispanic youths .

At age 24, she has a few more years of experience on her side than Rios and it helps. “I’m at an age where I can go to their level, and also be at a level where I can exercise authority,” she said. At the group home she coun­sels and interacts with the youths.

The probation department work has less interaction and is more authoritative, Oliva said.

“As a group supervisor I maintain the safety and security of the group. These kids have been in trouble and this is the last chance to redeem themselves before they go to the California Youth Authority.

“I hang out, maintain the program. I take points away and I play basketball with them too. It’s not so much like a counseling thing, we’re more authoritative than helpful.”

Oliva wants to go back to school for a teaching credential. One place she thinks she can help is with tutoring these at-risk youths. Often the young people she sees have very weak basic educations and can improve dramatically with tutoring.

“After a six-month program they come out three or four grades higher, I want to be able to do something worthwhile like that,” she said.

One of the goals of activism is to motivate others “to make a difference whatever you do with your life: contribute to your society and do something meaningful.

“That may mean working for a major corporation, and that’s fine, but have social consciousness about what you’re doing,” Stannard-Friel said.

Of course, not all graduates go into human services.

“We get more and more going into graduate work, some in criminal justice, some going for law, a lot of them just going out into the world.
“Classes are well-enrolled. I think we’re dealing with topics students really are interested in so that the average class at the college is 15 students, the sociology classes are 25 students. However, most of them are non-majors,” he said.

The sociology department vehicle for drawing students into their work is a class called Social Service Through Social Change, that is essentially a year-long internship program.

Stannard-Friel is arranging a meeting between Tenderloin and CND people in early April to talk about student research, internships and participation in the arts in the Tenderloin. This project is in addition to his sabbatical research.

“Currently I’m calling it Tenderloin U. The meeting in the Tenderloin is open to any student at the college. I’ve talked to fifteen faculty members who are interested working on a project to develop internships,” he said.

This article was written by William Cracraft/Freelance News Service and first published in 1998 in the 75th Anniversary Edition tabloid published by Alameda News Paper Group. Any accompanying photos were also taken by William Cracraft. It is reproduced here as a portfolio piece.


Comments are closed.