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For Jordan Harris ’20, an up-close look at the power of community

Jordan Harris '20.

Jordan Harris ’20 knows something about interconnectedness.

While interning at United Ministries, a Greenville, South Carolina, nonprofit that empowers those struggling with poverty to achieve self-sufficiency, he learned about the many ways opportunity and our connection to each other can affect an individual’s life. Harris’s work will be among more 145 digital presentations of students’ engaged learning experiences during the virtual 12th annual Furman Engaged. Student presentations will be available for public viewing beginning May 4.

Harris conducted intake interviews for community members requesting help to pay for food, rent, utilities or life-sustaining medication and helped other clients move into permanent housing. He helped a man experiencing homelessness replace his driver’s license so he could apply for a job. And he tutored students enrolled in the United Ministries’ adult education program.

“I learned how interconnected so many aspects of a community truly are and how they can impact, both positively and negatively, its residents,” said Harris, who was advised by Diane Iseminger, internship program director for the Center for Engaged Learning, and Amy Jonason, assistant professor of sociology.

Harris said the internship showed him how much a child’s future path depends on their parents’ current circumstances.

“It was surprising to see how much family struggles affected kids, how much those struggles and obstacles, whether they be financial, education or psychological, could determine their futures,” said the Atlanta native and Paladin football player. “It reinforced how important it is to have a solid family structure.”

Harris, who is majoring in urban studies and international affairs and minoring in poverty studies, hopes to work in city and regional planning and public administration after graduation.

“This experience working with a nonprofit has helped me understand how vital equitable development is in a sense that everybody has a fair and just opportunity to succeed and grow within the community,” he said.

“By interning with United Ministries, Jordan had an opportunity to apply the knowledge he learned in the classroom to a practical work experience and develop additional knowledge, skills and abilities as a result,” said Iseminger.

Furman Engaged, a celebration of undergraduate research, internships, study away, creative projects, service learning and other immersive learning experiences, gives students the opportunity to share their work with peers, faculty, staff and the community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the daylong campus event has been adapted to an online-only event this year.

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