The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

The School Newspaper of Urban School of San Francisco

The Urban Legend

    Students Take ‘Project’ to the Next Level

    Biology. Functions. Recent America. Shakespeare. On top of the varied courses available at Urban, there’s one that has the potential to make an immediate impact: Service Learning.

    Lauren Greenberg (’13), who is volunteering at La Casa de las Madres and David Stack (’13), who is volunteering at the San Quentin T.R.U.S.T. program, took advantage of the opportunity and ventured beyond the typical Service Learning experience.

    Service Learning, (also known as “Project”), is led by teachers Tómas Jacquez and Amy Argenal. The class is required in some shape or form for all four years at Urban.

    “The true purpose (of Urban’s Service Learning program) is in alignment with our mission statement to foster the Urban core value of creating a civically-minded, reflective citizen who believes in positive social change though selfless action,” Jacquez said.

    Service Learning is also unique in that it is the only non-graded class at Urban. Jacquez said, “A lot of discussion has to happen around that … it may change, or it may not.”

    In the end, however, “students are ultimately responsible,” Jacquez added. “I’m not trying to spoon-feed them an agenda.”

    So it’s up to Urban students to become the civically-minded, reflective citizens that the Service Learning program at Urban hopes to foster.

    Below is a close look at the Service Learning projects that seniors Greenberg and Stack have completed this year.

    Greenberg is working at La Casa de las Madres, an organization seeking to respond to violence towards women.


    Why did you decide to work at La Casa de las Madres?


    I’ve always had a strong desire to help women in their most trying of times. Domestic violence fits that bill very well in that there are so many internal struggles going on: Should I leave, should I stay, what will be the repercussions of these choices, etc.

    I wanted to be the person who was able to help the client solve these inner struggles, as well as help her choose which path was best for her to take.

    In addition to helping women, I also decided to work at La Casa because of how much Spanish I am able to speak there. I plan on minoring in Spanish in college, and being based in the Mission District, I am able to communicate with people in Spanish about 50  to 75 percent of the time, which is awesome.


    What are you currently working on/doing at La Casa? 


    Right now, I am volunteering at La Casa’s emergency shelter. This is where clients go if they are in an emergency crisis and in need of a place to live. I answer the crisis lines there, as well as run childcare, lead various activities and converse with and counsel the women.


    What do you think are the most important issues La Casa is trying to end/fight against? And why is it important?


    I think the most important issue La Casa targets is helping women find their way out of domestic-violence based relationships. The whole point is that La Casa isn’t doing this for them, but rather leading them in the right direction to be able to do it themselves. The hope is that the women can pass these skills along to others, that the cycle of domestic violence will stop because of it.


    Will you continue to do service projects like the one you’ve done at Urban later in life, or in college?


    Since I went through a 40-hour training that allows me to work in domestic violence shelters all over California, I will definitely be doing more service projects in college and beyond.


    What do you think about Urban’s service learning requirement? What are the best parts about it? Is there anything you would change?


    I think that Urban’s service learning requirement is phemonal and an amazing way of helping kids recognize how they can focus their interests/passions into making a real difference in their communities.

    The lower level service learning requirements are great starting points, but I think the best parts about Urban’s service learning is what you can do in your upperclassmen years. Junior year, you can pick an organization to work with, and this is really when you get to delve into the work. Senior year is a continuation of this, and if you want to go beyond, you can continue your work with Independent Study.

    I think that Urban has laid out countless opportunities for their students to get involved, and all you have to do is reach out and grab them.


    Stack is volunteering with prisoners from the San Quentin T .R.U.S.T. program, which stands for Teaching Responsibility Utilizing Sociological Training.


    Why did you decide to work at San Quentin T.R.U.S.T. Program?


    I wanted to work at a totally foreign site. I guess I’ve always liked to shock myself. As a kid I liked to jump into water off of high points. As a young man I wanted to learn more about a part of our world that is ignored, and a group of people that are completely marginalized, that don’t often get talked about. I’ve also always been interested in how our childhoods form us and hearing how certain circumstances contribute to criminal behavior.


    What do you think are the most important issues your site is trying to end/fight against? Why is it important?


    The T.R.U.S.T. and Options programs are both programs that work with men inside prison and recently paroled.

    The goal of these programs is to help provide strategies for men who are likely to be paroled and already paroled to adjust to the free world without relapsing into bad habits and hanging around the same folks that helped get them incarcerated.

    These organizations don’t provide help for just anyone. The men involved who are receiving benefits are men who demonstrated exemplary behavior while incarcerated.

    I think it’s important that convicts and ex-convicts are given second chances at life, and opportunities to succeed.

    Many of these men, whether they were incarcerated for gang violence, drug abuse or armed robbery, made poor decisions at a young age and have had years to reflect. They are all highly motivated but they just need positive structures to help them get back on their feet and a second chance. These men want to do good and I think it’s great that there are people who want to help provide opportunity. We just need more of them!

    What are your opinions on the California prisons? Do you know any prisoners personally? 

    During my project I got to know a few convicts and parolled men on a personal level.

    I was closest with one in particular, whose name was Henry. He grew up in gang-infested South Central Los Angeles, and committed man slaughter after a rival gang member tried to assault him and his daughter, when he was just 20 years old. Though he was only sentenced to a few years in prison at first, gang-related and behavioral issues added to his time in prison.

    When all was said and done Henry was released from prison when he was 43 years old. After struggling through his first few years in prison, Henry found reading, meditating, song-writing, and crying to be what kept him going during his time on the inside. He took classes at San Quentin and participated in many community service programs while incarcerated.

    He eventually earned his associates degree from taking classes taught by Cal-Berkeley professors. Now he takes non-credit classes at Cal and hopes to enroll full time in the near future. He frequents Alcoholics Anonymous, despite not being an alcoholic. He just finds the support group helpful.

    Henry lives in a half-way home with a few other motivated parollees. They are all on food-stamps and struggle to find consistent work, because few people want to hire ex-cons.

    Henry also has pursued acting and I recently saw him playing a small role in a Law and Order episode. I love hearing his stories and supporting his progress. I’m inspired by his perserverance and his genuine love of life.


    Will you continue to do service projects like the one(s) you’ve done at Urban later in life/in college?

    I hope to continue working in a field similar to this one. I’m not sure where or how, but this is the area of life that I am really passionate about helping deserving folks get second chances.


    What do you think about Urban’s service learning requirement? What are the best parts about it? Is there anything you would change?

    The freedom that Urban’s service learning department provides is great. Tomas was very supportive of my interest in working at a site that no other Urban student has pursued, and I think that’s the beauty of the service learning program.

    If I could change anything, I would just keep on trying to find ways to diversify the possibilities. There are so many people who need help. But for now, I think Tomas and Amy are killing it, and they are stand up people.



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