Kathryn Ludwig is a professor of English at Ball State University and teaches writing, literature, specializing in contemporary American literature. She is currently involved in the partnership with the YWCA Central Indiana.
Can you tell us a little about the Write for Change with the YWCA Central Indiana?
With our partnership with the YWCA, students conduct secondary research, and they make regular visits to the YWCA. The goal of this is to learn about homelessness and to learn about residents. At the end of their first semester, they propose projects that will somehow support the YWCA’s mission, and during the spring semester they compose texts in a variety of genres and modes to fulfill those project proposals. Past projects have included a website sharing resident stories, a book drive for the YWCA and a book club with students and residents. Currently, students are planning a Human Library event highlighting diverse experiences and perspectives for the upcoming ‘Until Justice Just Is’ event in April for the YWCA.
How do you think the efforts of students within the YWCA affect their understanding of ethics and the need for community?
So, because we’re a writing class, students do research. Through their research, they grow in their understanding of the structural factors that lead to homelessness. They also learn how homelessness impacts all of society. That research is valuable, but the interactions with the residents that really impresses upon students – the human impact of homelessness. We build relationships that contribute to students’ sense of responsibility for others and embolden in them how they can contribute to change in their community.
How do you think the identification of these issues within Muncie affect yourself and your students? Is there something that sounds out as to why you commit yourself to Write for Change with the YWCA?
I think students can feel overwhelmed by the political divisions and social injustices that they see in the world; I mean we all can. Students in this class have expressed to me that they are grateful for the chance to do something. To get outside their bubble or to look beyond the challenges they’re facing. The mere fact of getting off campus can make us feel more connected, and working with our community partner really makes us feel like change is feasible.
In your experience, what has been your most impactful moment within the YWCA? Was it with a student, fellow faculty to one of the members in the community?
During our first semester working with the YWCA, we held weekly story sessions. One resident who came regularly was. A mother of three and her kids often came with her, and she was also expecting another child. Her world had been turned upside down, but she was so generous with us in sharing her story. She helped us to understand how homelessness results when people lack a support system, and she explained what it meant to her to have her story heard. Obviously, the staff at the YWCA do the real work of support, but she taught us that we in the community can contribute by just not looking away.
With all these courses have to offer, how can students that aspire to join the efforts of 8Twelve or YWCA Central Indiana to become part of community outreach?
Our goal is always to listen to the community members and what they want from us, rather than imposing a project that we think will help. So, the best thing students can do is come to class ready to learn from the experts in our community.