What do poverty and homelessness have to do with entrepreneurship? Plenty. On April 14-15, MC and PGCC Hillman entrepreneurs were given a wonderful opportunity to learn these lessons as well as contribute to the well-being of our community through direct service and deep learning at the Steinbruck Center at Luther Place in Washington, DC.
The goals for the weekend were 1) to facilitate cohort bonding through shared experience, 2) create deep awareness and empathy for the situations and challenges of the homeless and poor population in DC, and 3) to reflect on personal and group goals for future service as well as how to integrate this experience into life and entrepreneurial planning. Through thoughtful and intentional planning, all of these goals were met. As Hillman student Dimitri Mitrothanasis pointed out, “The biggest takeaway from this trip for me would be the friendships I made. Before the service trip, I knew nobody at PGCC and I am so glad we got a chance to bond with our fellow Hillmaners and grow as a program. I cannot thank Professor Razavi, Professor Lewis and the Hillman program enough for this incredible experience that I will remember and cherish for years to come.”
Hillman student Alona Hapey shared these thoughts: “This community engagement event was very enlightening for me and my classmates. We are at advantage right now being part of this prestigious program, but there is nothing in the world that could guarantee that in any moment of our lives we won’t end up on the street. Despite the difficult times that we might have with our homework or classes, it is nothing comparing to seeking a place to sleep overnight. Moreover, this is not just down to earth experience, but an inspiration to give and contribute to the community . . . . The biggest lesson that we learned from the event is not to be indifferent. The dollar that a person might need to get some food or to get a shelter could be nothing for us, but life-changing for them. It was shocking to learn that some people got frozen to death because they had nowhere to go, or were not able to go.”
Michelle Salah found the experience “spoke to me as a person as well as an entrepreneur.” By participating in this community service, she said, “I realized how privileged and blessed I am to have food on my table and to have a roof over my head. . . . This weekend has taught me that I need to think out of the box; I need and want to affect as many people as I can. As I study entrepreneurship and participate in the Hillman program I think more and more that I can create positive change through business.”
Program Director Rebecca Razavi described the event this way: “This was the most amazing service experience I have encountered, with thoughtful programming that included all types of learning to make the learning meaningful and life changing. Thank you to the Steinbruck Center and to Sarah Johnson for hosting us. We will be back!”