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PATEL: Being an ally to community members goes beyond service

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PatelcolorThis past Thursday, student organization Midnight Run went beyond its mission of volunteering to serve those affected by hunger and homelessness with a special event.

Midnight Run’s goal is to bring student volunteers into the Milwaukee community as allies and to support those who may face difficult personal and social circumstances was strengthened by a new form of engagement.

The heART of Milwaukee event brought students and community members together to enjoy creative forms of expression. Students and community members displayed talents in music, spoken word and photography. The event really united everyone in attendance, as it showed how, despite everyone’s different circumstances, things can bring people together and individuals can find things in common to relate to one another.

With Marquette being an open campus where people of all walks of life can pass through, we see firsthand examples of the social justice issues that affect Milwaukee. While these issues are visible, it can be hard for students to connect with people who live such different lives from the ones led on campus.

Midnight Run’s heART of Milwaukee and other community events can positively contribute to Marquette students’ connections within the community. Meeting on common ground shows how the similarities and uniqueness of individuals are more important to a strong community than only seeing the differences.

After the event, a community member expressed his desire for this event to be a monthly occasion for students and community members to engage in other ways besides just through Midnight Run’s meal programs. While this sort of work is still very necessary and beneficial, the positives demonstrated by this event focusing on creativity and expression can really bring a more welcoming feeling to those afraid to venture away from Marquette. Such events provide a more relaxed and open way to interact with members of the Milwaukee community and can speak to interests of students and community members alike.

My biggest takeaway from this event was that being an ally and not just a volunteer is important to being part of a community. By being an ally, one shows that he or she is on the same level as another with a mutual respect and understanding. Sitting and enjoying the same music, poetry and conversation really meant something to all those in attendance and fostered a deeper connection.

The focus regarding social justice issues in Milwaukee needs to shift from trying to fix or save these individuals to being a friend and truly understanding affected individuals.

Midnight Run did a really good job of capturing this feeling with their event and, by taking the event off campus, really helped in showing that students can be community members rather than just students. Other organizations can benefit from taking this approach and relating it to their own mission.

The Milwaukee community can benefit from what students have to offer and vice versa. We can really learn from the different individuals we encounter off campus while still finding a connection through common interests.

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