APRIL 2, 2020 — With the help of the virtual realm a group of Roadrunners is connecting not just with each other but with their fellow San Antonians to show what compassion means during the age of COVID-19.
The Civic Leadership Integrative Seminar class, an undergraduate course in UTSA’s College for Health, Community & Policy, is partnering with SA2020 and Compassionate San Antonio to host the event “Compassion in the Time of COVID-19: San Antonio Community Conversations” from April 2 to 18.
“The students are hosting a series of virtual conversations to allow community members an hour to connect, reflect on our experiences during this public health crisis, and consider what compassion means to us as a community in a time of social distance,” said Gina Amatangelo, a lecturer in the Department of Public Administration.
The Roadrunners plan to lead groups of eight to 10 people in discussions about their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and what everyone hopes to learn from this experience as a community.
“These conversations are open to anyone in the San Antonio community. We’ve reached out to several high schools that are offering this to their students as a service-learning opportunity,” Amatangelo said. “The conversations will be hosted on Zoom.”
The civic leadership class is a capstone course for students minoring in civic engagement. It offers students service-learning opportunities where students lead small group discussions, serve as scribes, assist with outreach and tech support.
When the university shifted to remote learning on March 23, the class also saw the need to shift quickly as well.
“This spring we were planning for students in the class to lead breakout sessions for high school students at the Up Partnership Youth Summit and to serve as small group discussion leaders for SA2020’s community outreach efforts,” Amatangelo said. “We had to pivot and quickly create a new service project when those events were postponed. This conversation project allows students to put their leadership skills to use and to bring community members together in a meaningful way.”
With UTSA being a community-engaged university, it was natural to open these conversations to the broader San Antonio community, Amatangelo said.
“During this time of vital self-isolation, people have been coming up with all numbers of ways to remotely stay in touch with their family and friends,” said Cassandra Perez, a junior environmental science major at UTSA. “The caveat, though, is that with diminishing interaction with other members of the community, people can start to care almost exclusively about their inner circles and become quite literally out of touch with the whole of society, abandoning all civility and losing sight of the bigger picture in the process. But having this forum for members all across the San Antonio community to engage in allows for constructive or even cathartic dialog between people coming from different backgrounds and bringing in different perspectives. These connections and budding relationships, in turn, better allow for compassion and adapting with grace.”
Senior criminal justice major Quin Reinish agreed that the project will be very beneficial to the community.
“Reaching out to folks to check on their well-being as well as being there for relaxed conversation will help advance our social communication during these hard times,” Reinish said. “I hope people take away the importance of communication from this project. We take social interactions for granted in our everyday lives, and I believe this project will open our eyes to appreciate our surroundings.”
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Following each session, students plan to document themes from the conversation, which they plan to share in a report to SA2020, Compassion San Antonio and the City of San Antonio’s faith liaison.
“One of the things that I love most about San Antonio is the way that people come together to share their ideas about our community vision, plans for a local park or other local policies,” Amatangelo said. “This conversation gives participants a moment to think about what we want to learn from this challenging situation and who we want to be as a community. My students and I are building on the work of Compassionate San Antonio and SA2020, and we’ll share what we learn from these conversations with the broader community.”
If there’s sufficient interest from the community, Amatangelo said they hope to continue hosting them throughout the remainder of the semester.
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