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On Thursday, August 25, John Carroll’s Center for Service-Learning and Social Action (CSSA) introduced first-year students to an exciting array of community engagement and service-learning opportunities during ‘Meet CLE,’ part of the University’s Living the Mission Day. 150 first-year students and 15 upperclassmen student-leaders spent the day exploring downtown Cleveland, participating in one of nine unique experiences related to service-learning. Faculty, staff, and administrators also participated in the day and played a key role in welcoming and getting to know new students.


The groups explored the importance of urban farming, supporting a local bicycle co-op, paper- making, composting, sorting back-to-school supplies for families in need, and upcycling computers for community members. Students also engaged with seniors from the Fatima Center at Cleveland’s Historic League Park, getting a historical perspective on baseball in Cleveland while learning about the lives of the Fatima Center seniors through conversation.


Blake Yoho, CSSA's Assistant Director of Data Management and Communications, worked alongside the entire CSSA team to coordinate this year's 'Meet CLE' event. Yoho says there are several objectives CSSA hopes to accomplish through this annual event.

It's a great way to introduce 150 first-year students to the call from Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., of living their lives as men and women for and with others. While students participate in activities that might serve organizations around Cleveland, we hope that we can also emphasize the "with" part of that mission as students begin to meet all kinds of folks around Cleveland, from local partners to their new classmates, as they explore during Meet CLE.
Student learning about Ohio City Bicycle Co-op

JCU Student Learning about 'Ohio City Bicycle Co-op'

Additionally, Yoho believes the event provides students firsthand knowledge of JCU's community partners' influence in our area. "​​The larger goal of Meet CLE is threefold – to get students out into Cleveland to meet community partners and begin to understand their importance and impact in the Greater Cleveland area; to build relationships among first-year students, their upperclassmen peers, and JCU faculty and staff in a fun and meaningful way; and to immediately welcome students to participate in the diverse opportunities that the vibrant, dynamic community of John Carroll University and the city of Cleveland have to offer," he says. 


Sydney Burger ‘25, one of this year’s upperclassmen student-leaders and a CSSA student liaison, knew she wanted to be a leader this year for other students because of her own experience last year. “After being a participant in Meet CLE last year as a freshman, I was excited to take on the role of a group leader this year. At Meet CLE you start to experience immersive learning, build new relationships, and overall just have a ton of fun exploring the city. Since Meet CLE was a highlight of my freshman year, I was eager to help create this memorable moment for other new students.“



Meet CLE

Getting ready to board the busses for 'Meet CLE'

Burger also believes that Meet CLE plays an important role in exposing JCU students to all of the opportunities that CSSA and Cleveland have to offer throughout their JCU careers. “To me, Meet CLE is just a small introduction to the robust network of connections John Carroll has to offer. It was an opportunity for me to meet new people, explore the city which I would be living near for the next four years, and further my education on social issues.”


Understanding how “the Jesuit education is a really crucial part of the JCU experience,” Burger now focuses on deepening her experiences in the community that she was first introduced to at Meet CLE. “After my experience in Meet CLE, I work to keep the connections I’ve made with Cleveland’s non-profit organizations. I take part in service-learning classes every semester, which allow me to continue to build the connections I made with some of the organizations throughout Meet CLE.” In addition to her leadership role in service-learning as a student liaison, Burger was a JCU Summer in the City Intern this past summer at a local non-profit in the St. Clair-Superior Neighborhood, where a majority of the morning activities took place.


Meet CLE

Naomi Sigg, JCU's VP of DEI, with students in front of Progressive Field

Outside of the St. Clair-Superior Neighborhood, one of the most popular morning activities was a scavenger hunt across downtown Cleveland organized by the staff of the Cleveland Leadership Center (CLC). The CLC staff first discussed their events that promote leadership among young adults and the many activities and programs that JCU students can take advantage of while they go to school in Cleveland. CLC leaders then divided up teams for the hunt. Competing teams raced through the city to take group photos with local street art for a few points, or they could try for higher-point tasks like meeting a person who has resided in Cleveland for over forty years. Event organizers say the scavenger hunt is a fun, engaging way to explore Cleveland while connecting with other students, faculty, and staff.

After spending the morning meeting at community partner sites, all first-year students gathered at Wendy Park for a lake shore lunch. The park has excellent city views and is a great space for students to connect and get to know each other.


Following lunch, students set off in new groups to engage in one or four fun activities: Dragon Boating on the Cuyahoga River, a Bike Tour of the Flats and Near West Side, an Environmental Walking Tour, or Games at Wendy Park.


Meet CLE

Lunch and Games at Wendy Park

Despite an activity-filled day, students' energy was palpable on the bus ride back to campus. Yoho says the event was great for students to engage with community partners and service-learning opportunities. "Meet CLE is an introduction to the culture of community engagement, social action, and belonging that CSSA strives to create on campus and off. We hope that students hold on to their first experiences through Meet CLE and promote that culture throughout their JCU career and beyond." To learn more about service-learning opportunities through CSSA, click here.