All students graduating from the University of La Verne are required to do a senior project in their major based on what they have learned throughout your college career.
“Recession Realities: Suffering and Surviving in the Inland Empire” was created by seniors Kevin Garrity, Aaron Braunwalder, Sher Porter and Megan Sebestyen. The site was designed by senior multimedia major Kaena Keefer.
The idea for the project – a Web-based magazine – was suggested by Associate Professor of Journalism Elizabeth Zwerling, who served as their project adviser.
Each senior was asked to pick an issue that intertwined with the recession and to experience the issue first hand by immersing themselves in the situation through volunteer work.
Staff and state budget cuts have taken a toll on public education, so Garrity decided to focus on this issue.
Garrity volunteered at a local school and was able to talk to teachers about the problems schools face.
“I (got) a sense of what they’re really going through,” Garrity said. “ Some of the stories I heard were humanized to me after helping out at the schools.”
Porter chose to focus on homelessness in the Inland Empire.
“It’s becoming an issue for people who never thought it would be an issue for them,” Porter said.
Porter wrote about the Foothill Homeless Shelter in Upland, and volunteered God’s Kitchen, a soup kitchen in Corona.
“Just learning how many people are homeless is an eye-opener,” Porter said.
Sebestyen concentrated on animal shelters, whose facilities and employees have been overtaxed because of the recession.
“I feel like its something that hasn’t really been explored, but the truth is animal shelters are underfunded,” Sebestyen said.
She volunteered at the Upland Animal Shelter where she became keenly aware of the issues in the shelters.
“Animal shelters were in a really tight spot, and since the recession there’s a huge increase in the number of animals and a huge drop in volunteers, budgeting and donations,” Sebestyen said.
Sebestyen said a statistic that stuck with her was that one in four dogs born in California has a very good chance of winding up in a shelter.
Braunwalder chose the topic of health for the website.
“Health is very important and I got to see that people were not in the best position because of poor nutrition,” Braunwalder said.
Braunwalder volunteered many hours at True Vine Church in San Bernardino. And he did a story on a health education program in Montclair called Por La Vida.
Braunwalder said working on this project made him appreciate what he has.
In addition to the bleak “Recession Realities” explored on the site, Garrity wrote a story on green building construction and how local green projects are creating jobs.
Project adviser Zwerling said she’d been wanting to do such a group project, which combines the skills students have learned in journalism with some of the changes brought about by the Web.
“For one thing there are no space restrictions on the Web, so students could immerse themselves in the issues and write longer pieces.”
Zwerling added that the idea of writing first-person stories was also Web-influenced.
“With blogging and so many niche sites, we see a lot more first-person journalism today than we did 10 years ago. It’s a style I wanted the students to explore, since they will very likely have to write first-person stories in their professional careers.”
“I really liked the idea for our senior project because I thought it was a great opportunity to raise awareness,” Braunwalder said.
The site will be available through a link on the Campus Times website starting next week.
Rebecca Bravo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.