The Justice and Urban Studies Team is in the process of opening up the previously Honors-exclusive program to students who are not involved in the Honors College.
JUST, a program in partnership with ACU@CitySquare, is a year-long educational program where students who have at least sophomore standing commit to spend a year in Central and South Dallas fighting the problem of urban poverty.
“I want to see this program thrive,” said Jason Morris, dean of Honors College.”I want to continue to see students come to ACU passionate about digging into the problem of urban poverty.”
While in Dallas, students in the JUST program go through rigorous academic classes as well as work on projects dedicated to fighting urban poverty, such as New Friends, New Life, a program dedicated to bringing women out of sex trafficking.
“This is an opportunity for you to apply what you’re learning and make a difference in the world right now,” said Molly Clemans, site administrator of ACU@CitySqaure. “You can have different passions, different strengths, but you can be put on this team and fight the same fight.”
Clemans, a 2105 graduate, was a member of the pilot JUST team in 2012. She was recruited directly out of high school and spent portions of her freshman year preparing to spend her sophomore year in Dallas. This preparation included different immersion trips to Dallas and a summer AmeriCorps internship.
“I think this is the future of education,” Clemans said. “As we’re learning, we’re applying these different principles that we’re learning in class to the real world. The world is our classroom.”
Tessa Cave, a junior sociology major from North Richland Hills, was a part of the second JUST team. While in Dallas, she worked on a project called Design For Change, which is aimed at teaching students about their own power and strengths and how to implement those in their communities.
“That’s the beauty of JUST,” Cave said. “Throughout the three years that we’ve been in Dallas, there have been so many different projects completed. You get to choose what your passion is and get to explore the things you love.”
Cave and Clemans agree that this format could be the future of education. They took many principles they learned through their academic classes and had the opportunity to apply them in the real world before even getting their degree.
Morris said the group currently in Dallas has started their coursework and are beginning to think about the projects they will invest in.
“Our numbers are lower than normal, but the hearts aren’t any different.” Clemans said confidently about this group.
Meanwhile, here on campus, recruiting has already begun. Students who have previously been involved with JUST are leading justice Chapels this fall. In the spring semester, in a community learning fashion, the students who commit to do the next JUST program will spend a January short course in Dallas and then return to campus to participate in an Honors Colloquium and a Bible course together.
“My dream for this program is to have students commit to a year in Dallas and then go out into the world and match the ACU mission to be prepared for Christian service and leadership throughout the world,” Morris said. “The end result would be preparing students to go out and fulfill ACU’s mission.”
Morris says that students who return from JUST are energized and passionate about changing the world around them.
“There’s power in Dallas,” Clemans said. “There’s power in that exposure to the city in a non-traditional ACU experience.”
Find out more information about the Justice and Urban Studies Team at http://www.acujust.wordpress.com.