Living-Learning Center to Visit Puerto Rico’s Schools

BY LANA SPENDL   |   MARCH 6, 2019


Following a trip to Ireland in 2018, INSPIRE Living-Learning Center at Indiana University Bloomington plans to take seven students to Puerto Rico in the summer of 2019.

Fifty-four students who plan to become educators reside at INSPIRE, and the center regularly organizes seminar discussions, excursions, service-learning experiences, and special events that facilitate student-faculty interactions. “Learning does not only happen in the classroom,” said assistant director Diana Velázquez. “It also happens where students live.” 

Grace McDougall, a sophomore who moved into INSPIRE during her freshman year last year, said, “As undergrads, we’re getting a lot of theory, but applying it also matters.” McDougall finds the communal experience of the LLC supportive, hands-on, and fun. She returned to the center this year to be a peer leader, because she wanted to create for other students the sense of community she herself experienced as a freshman.

INSPIRE LLC students on the 2018 trip to Ireland. Photos courtesy of INSPIRE LLC

During the 2018 trip, INSPIRE students visited various elementary schools in Ireland. This year, Velázquez selected a site that had a direct relationship with the U.S. “I want the students to understand how this relates to them as teachers here,” she said.

This summer during the nine-day trip, students will visit a laboratory school connected to the University of Puerto Rico, a private English-only school, an arts-based school, and an alternative school, among others.

Every evening, students will take time to process their experience during a reflection session where they will listen to a song or a poem and then journal and share their thoughts with the group.

The scholars from Puerto Rico who, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, studied at IU Bloomington in spring of 2018 were crucial in connecting Velázquez to schools in Puerto Rico. “These schools have been so kind and gracious when I’ve contacted them,” Velázquez said. “They say they feel so honored by our visit.” Besides hosting scholars in Bloomington last year, IU also sent an undergraduate student to Puerto Rico through the Media School to gather content for a website and documentary to help local campuses rebuild.

As educators, we have a limited perspective on what a teacher is and what a good student is. When you go to other regions, it breaks the mold you have in place.

Grace McDougall, sophomore