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Independent student content

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Student group reaches out to impoverished


Students from CILA particapte in a Food for Thought program in Toledo on a Saturday.

Senior Stephanie Longmire wakes up early on Saturdays to build relationships with Toledo’s less fortunate.

“I think in college you get blinded by books and I think it’s important to see the world first hand instead of reading about it,” Longmire said.

She is able to do this through Community Interaction; Live Aware, a new student organization with a mission to provide relief to the poor in Northwest Ohio and to educate students on the realities of social issues.

Longmire realized that it’s easy for students to overlook issues like poverty when they are in college.

“A lot of [students] are exposed to this for the very first time,” Longmire said.

Senior Chris Sanchez formed CILA last semester after learning about social issues in his cultural pluralism class. Sanchez realized many students weren’t taking the class seriously. Topics like racism and poverty were easy to ignore because many students did not see them first hand.

“I wanted to find a way to make these things resonate with students. I wanted to widen their perceptions of reality,” Sanchez said.

Longmire has been involved since the organization was founded. Her background in other student organizations like The Common Good and the Mindfulness Club bring strong values to CILA.

She joined the organization to promote diversity.

“The hardest part [in an organization] is to maintain diversity and to not form a common ideology,” Longmire said.

Each week CILA organizes a trip to volunteer for Food for Thought on Saturday mornings in Toledo.

Food for Thought Executive Director Sam Melden said the organization exists to feed Toledo in a thoughtful way.

“On the surface it may look like a free lunch program, but it’s really about building relationships,” Melden said.

Food for Thought brings short-term relief to those who are unfortunate and do not have a stable or consistent place to live. Their mission is to bring back those feelings of community and build neighborly relationships among those who may not even have a house.

Through a network of “choice” food pantries, people can choose what their meals look like instead of being handed a meal and get the chance to have conversations with volunteers.

Students from both the University and the University of Toledo have volunteered in the past.

The opportunity to volunteer with CILA can be eye-opening for students.

“The experience can be emotional for students,” Sanchez said. “They’re emotional for me. The love, dedication and commitment I put into this is reciprocated. Now I’m on a first-name basis with many people there.”

Longmire stressed that students are there to engage with the community.

“We’re not there to serve them. We’re there to talk to them, listen to them and ask questions,” Longmire said.

Last semester CILA volunteered in an after-school program to keep middle school children out of trouble. They also volunteered at local farms to collect food for their trips to Food for Thought.

Sanchez describes the organization as underground and rebellious.

“We tend to do the services that get overlooked by other organizations,” Sanchez said.

Instead of focusing on popular events to promote awareness and diversity like those hosted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, CILA gets more creative by engaging the students and community in other ways.

CILA is made up of a variety of students who hail from many different backgrounds. Some members are international students, who Sanchez explained weren’t aware of the reality of socioeconomic issues in the United States.

For more information on how to get involved in CILA, students can visit the organization’s Facebook page by searching “CILA” or by contacting CILA President Chris Sanchez at [email protected].

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