Carrying on Father Foley’s mission of service

Tue, 03/01/2011 - 4:45pm
Jordan Biggers tutoring
By Joe Ackels ’11

The Rev. Albert S. Foley, S.J., played a dominant role in the struggle for civil rights and wanted to create equal relationships between all people living in the Mobile area. The Foley Community Service Center was created in 1992, in order to carry out Father Foley’s mission after his death in 1990.

Dr. Kathleen Orange, director of the Foley Center, says, “Our students have a tremendous capacity for the empathy that can transform society.” The Foley Center gives Spring Hill students a chance to build a relationships with people they might not meet anywhere else.

“We saw that when our students serve on a regular and consistent basis, a relationship begins to form between the student and the young person. Giving attention and care are the best things our students can do for the young, old and less fortunate citizens of Mobile,” Orange says. “Every person is different, and to listen and be with people and understand that they are different and they are themselves all takes patience.”

The Foley Center partners with three local high schools, two middle schools and nine elementary schools. The Foley Center also coordinates with other programs such as nursing homes, hospitals, Catholic Social Services, Legal Services of Alabama, English as a Second Language, the Boys & Girls Club, the Amachi Program, United Cerebral Palsy and L’Arche. Additionally, there are eight environmental programs that involve maintaining Alabama’s coastal resources.

There are currently 650 Spring Hill Students doing service in the Mobile community through the Foley Center. Of those students, 93 are contributing to the service program through service-learning courses such as philosophy, English and the social sciences.

“There really aren’t a lot of words that can express how grateful these children are to see us every week,” says senior Winslow Butts '11 of Mobile, Ala. “Just taking a couple hours a week out of your own day to spend time with them can positively change their lives and it’s reciprocated.”

During the fall semester, students worked with children at the Boys & Girls Club on an art project, and graphic design majors made promotional brochures for various organizations. The Foley Center also runs an ACT prep course where students help young people in their preparation for the ACT. After comparing the students’ test scores before and after tutoring, Orange says, “we discovered that the young people are improving with the help of our students.”

Jimmy Rapp '11, a senior from St. Louis, Mo., has been volunteering through the Foley Center since his freshman year. “This semester I’m volunteering at Blount High School tutoring students in subjects like mathematics and history. Ever since I started volunteering I could see the benefits these kids were receiving from the time I spent with them, and I plan on continued volunteer work once I graduate from Spring Hill,” Rapp says.

Each student who participates in community service for the Foley Center attends reflection meetings every semester to share their stories about serving the Mobile community. Orange says, “These reflection meetings not only give students a chance to reflect and learn, but also they help build community on our own campus.”

Chris Angle ’11, a journalism major from St. Louis, says, “My favorite part about working with the children at Dearborne YMCA in Mobile is the fact that the kids know who you are by name when you walk in the room, and the excitement they have when they see you is contagious.”

The underlying teachings of Jesuit education have given Spring Hill College students the tools needed to make a change in society and the Mobile community. The Foley Center offers a channel in which these students can go about making those changes.

Orange says, “Students do have something to give, and the places where they can give it are places where one human being ought to be helping another.” Father Foley’s goal is realized every day when Spring Hill students take the time to show compassion and care for the less fortunate people of the Mobile community.

Joe Ackels ’11 interned in the Office of Communications and Marketing during the fall 2010 semester.