Off-campus Site: UCC Experience
As part of my learning about the Latinx community in Milwaukee, I visited the off-campus site: United Community Center (UCC henceforth). I learned about UCC first in our class, and then during my conversation with Mr. Maldonado, the interim director for Roberto Hernandez Center at UW-Milwaukee. My initial motivation regarding the visit at UCC was to know more about the center, and find out ways for service learning opportunities the center may have for UWM English graduate students.
What is most prominent regarding the history of the center, as I learned from its website, is its decades of service to “Hispanics and near south side residents of all ages in the areas of education, cultural arts, recreation, community development, and health and human services.” The center has been giving its services for 47 years.
My visit to UCC was rather informal, a walk-in experience. I visited parts of the center and picked up some brochures and learned a lot about UCC from both these sources. The UCC moto/slogan is “One Life. One Family. One Community.” —The oneness which I read as “inclusivity” seems to be the biggest strength of this center. As listed in the brochure, the UCC runs a lot of programs: Education Programs (The very listing of it at the beginning is rhetorical, tells me as an audience they value education immensely), Pre-college Programs, Elder Programs, Human Services Programs, Fitness and Health Program, and Walker Square Neighborhood Development Initiative
From my first step into the center, it seemed the UCC is really big on Arts and Literature. Pictures are the first thing that one sees while walking in to the center. The walls are in the center are all RED (not posting any pictures here since I do not have formal permission to do so). I am not sure whether that signifies the struggle of the Latino community in Milwaukee or in the US, but it did seem suggestive to me. Even though I could not tour the entire center fully, the UCC brochure filled in lot of information. From the mission statement (cited above) in the brochure, it seems the center caters to individuals of all ethnic backgrounds.
English graduates at UW-Milwaukee can volunteer in their various education programs. For example, none of the programs in listed in the brochure seem to have a focus in writing. UWM English graduate students from all plans, especially English 101 and 102 instructors can volunteer to see what writing practices are dominant in these programs and help them with this. Especially, UWM English graduate students can contribute in their after-school programs. Such partnership between an off-campus community center and UWM English graduate students can forge a lasting bonding. Also, students’ involvement can increase their understanding of a new culture. I, for one, had no idea about the Hispanic culture. However, this class has already created the first opportunity for me… More classes like these can create more opportunities. We, 101/102 instructors can perhaps also ask our first-year writing students to involve themselves with these sites, at least with the on-campus site, Roberto Hernandez Center at UW-Milwaukee.
Being a minority myself in the US, my visits to these community sites has informed me immensely about the community practices. Back in Bangladesh, where I was a part of the majority community based on my religious affiliation, a Muslim Bangladeshi I never really took time to think about the minority—The Hindu community. Never really cared to understand why they would stick together in smaller communities. Now these visits make me realize…they perhaps cultivate a sense of security, oneness and belonging…a feeling of inclusivity—just by sticking together.
One or two visits are never enough to learn about the community practices. However, these visits sure were a start for me. We all need a start regarding whatever we do. At least, this new realization, what it feels like to have a sense of shared feeling, is a major takeaway from the sites I have visited as part of community research. The feelings, emotions, thoughts and desires to keep alive cultures that center around and in these sites—are part of learning they teach us.