A new global perspective

A service-learning trip helped break down barriers and bridge gaps of racial and privilege with students in Jamaica.

As part of a week-long faculty-led study abroad trip, a group of 12 RWU students visited Petersfield, Jamaica in January. The group experienced the culture, schools and community of the developing country. The trip was led by Assistant Dean and Professor of psychology Becky Spritz as part of the Special Topics in Psychology class on Community Mental Health in Jamaica.

Petersfield has been known for seeing significant amounts of violence among its residents. Because of this, Association of Clubs (AOC) was created in 1988 by a man named John Matthias Brown to help the people of Petersfield have a greater role in building a stronger and more unified country.

The RWU students were not in in Jamaica for a vacation and tropical excursions. Most of their time was spent in the classrooms with students in high school and elementary school to work with them on building their skills while promoting mental health.

“One of the goals for the Roger Williams students is for them to think about who they are in the world,” Spritz said, ”to start to question who they are as global citizens, and to think about what they can do when they return to actually be better citizens locally.”

Spritz said that the group had time before the trip to plan out what sorts of things to expect while they were there. She said it was a challenge to think about how to take all of the experiences that they had learned and put them into practice.

“I think a lot of the times for college students — for Roger Williams students — you don’t feel like you can have an impact on the world or make a difference in the world,” Spritz said.

Students stayed with host families and got to get an even deeper experience on what it’s like to live in the country. They worked directly with the students both one-on-one and in group settings to build the relationships that helped them strengthen their hope for a better future, while the RWU students gained a stronger cultural understanding.

Junior Jenn Reale said that the trip was incredibly eye-opening. She said that she realized that no matter what they had been through, they were all so hopeful of the future. Her favorite moment happened on the last night at their send-off party right as the lunar eclipse was happening.

The whole community there filled with people of all different ages at different points in their lives. Suddenly, everyone swarmed outside to look at the moon.

“It was just such a special moment being able to be out there and sharing this one thing that was going on,” Reale said. “It made us all realize how lucky we were to have had this experience.”