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New Students Get Quick Exposure to Community Needs


September 3, 2010 – An early education center for homeless children and a nonprofit organization helping people with HIV/AIDS are just two places Georgetown’s First-Year Orientation to Community Involvement (FOCI) introduced to new students before the school year began.

FOCI is an intensive pre-orientation program that begins a week before classes start. The program gives first-year and transfer students an early exposure to community service and social justice opportunities and issues in the Washington, D.C., community.

Leadership Development

“It’s an opportunity to introduce our new students to the community, and it’s a chance for them to develop as leaders through service, exploring social justice issues and reflection,” said Raymond Shiu, a program director at the university’s Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, which sponsors the program.

More than 15 returning FOCI alumni run the program, now in its 25th year. The alumni this year supervised 54 students who spent six days working on volunteer projects at local schools, soup kitchens, homeless shelters and community organizations.

Service Across the City

Participants volunteered at 18 sites across D.C., including Bright Beginnings, an early-education center for homeless children; Damien Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit organization helping people with HIV/AIDS and KIPP DC, a college-preparatory charter school in one of Washington’s poorest neighborhoods.

Brittney Blakely (C’14), a first-year student from Atlanta, called her work at the Perry School Community Center – a non-profit organization providing social services to some of Washington’s poorest residents – inspiring.

“I loved working with the children … and observing the coordinators of the Perry School at work,” Blakely said. “I plan to spend a lot of time at the Perry School in these next four years to come.”

Homeless Neighbors

Alissa Orlando (SFS’13), a transfer student from Syracuse, N.Y., says the highlight of the week came for her when the group shared lunch with homeless people in city parks.

“Many of us engaged in thought-provoking and deeply personal discussions that will forever change the way I think about homelessness,” she said. “We must see those who are homeless, hungry and hurting as our neighbors and friends.”

Growth Through Reflection

FOCI participants engage in a series of reflections every night exploring issues of social justice and to exchanging ideas on social responsibility.

“My favorite experience during FOCI was the nightly reflections,” said Patrick McCusker (C’14) of Ardmore, Pa. “I feel like the small reflection groups helped me more fully understand the purpose of the work we were doing … I can use these experiences to enhance both my experience at Georgetown and the communities around me.”

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