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FEATURES

WJU students take Urban

A fall break immersion trip ‘plunged’ Wheeling Jesuit     being done by Catholic institutions,” he said.
students into eight non-profits agencies in Pitts-            “I explained how we use the law to assist and de-
burgh, opening their eyes to the plight many urban
residents encounter each day.                             fend low income clients who are involved in civil dis-
                                                          putes of one sort or another. For example, I represent
    This marks the first time Wheeling Jesuit stu-        clients who are in mortgage foreclosure, landlord/
dents participated in the Urban Plunge, a take off of     tenant disputes and creditor collection actions. These
an annual event conducted by the University of Notre      situations put me in court defending tenants and in
Dame’s Pittsburgh alumni club. Through the help           bankruptcy court to obtain discharges of a client’s
of Dan Haller ’61 and Kevin Hayes, a member of the        debts or to save a home that is in foreclosure,” Haller
Pittsburgh Notre Dame Club, WJU students, along           explained.
with two WJU employees, spent two-days learning
how eight non-profits help residents located in the           For respiratory therapy major Jonathan Haley, the
Steel City.                                               trip was eye opening.

    Kaitlyn Buehlmann, Service for Social Action              “It’s one thing to see people who are hungry or
Center assistant, worked with Haller to organize the      suffering, but it’s another thing to hear their story. It’s
trip. She along with Rev. Michael Woods, S.J., the        much more powerful,” Haley said. “I’m not oblivious
Appalachian Institute’s coordinator for sustainability    to poverty and other things that people face each day.
programs, participated in the Urban Plunge.               I was most surprised to see the number of girls that
                                                          don’t have a support system to help them take care of
    “I believe the Plunge opened our students’ eyes       their children.”
to the realities of racism, poverty and homelessness
that many people face in cities across the country. We        Rev. Paul Abernathy ’01, director of FOCUS Pitts-
stayed one night in a shelter, which was a real positive  burgh, understands very well what people in Pitts-
experience for our students. They got the chance to       burgh face. His faith-based organization provides
interact with the people staying there and see first-     solutions to poverty and offers professional develop-
hand what these people encounter,” Buehlmann              ment classes to promote employment and success in
explained.                                                the workplace

    Two of the non-profits WJU students visited were          Abernathy remembers how immersion trips as a
operated by alumni – Neighborhood Legal Services          students impacted his life. “This was an opportunity
Association (NLS) and FOCUS Pittsburgh.                   for me to ‘pay if forward,’ remembering all those who
                                                          took time to share their knowledge and wisdom with
    Haller, a lawyer at NLS, said he spent an hour        me. I explained what it means to minister to the bro-
with the Wheeling Jesuit students explaining what         kenhearted, understanding the immense multi-gen-
he does on a daily basis. “I think the experience is      erational, complex trauma they have experienced. He
something the students will long remember as they         also explored some practical responses to commu-
got to see the face of urban poverty and some of the      nity issues that are having a positive effect with the
significant efforts to deal with its effects, much of it  people he serves.

40 Wheeling Jesuit University
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