Service is deeply embedded in Valpo’s culture and driven by the University’s mission to prepare students for lives of leadership, service, and generosity. For many years, students have participated in service-learning experiences in Northwest Indiana, across the country, and around the globe that have made a significant impact on them personally, the communities they served, and the world.
This past spring semester, 10 first-year students participated in a service trip for students to Appalachia. Their trip was supported by the Schloemer Family Spring Service Trip Endowed Fund. Andrea and Jim ’81 Schloemer established the fund for the specific purpose of providing resources for Valpo students’ spring service trips.
Jim earned his bachelor of science in accounting from Valpo. While a student, he co-founded Continental Properties Company and still serves as the company’s chief executive officer — a position he has held since 1979. Headquartered in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Continental Properties develops, owns, and operates apartment, retail, and hospitality real estate across the United States.
“We are so grateful to Mr. Schloemer and his family for establishing the endowed fund,” says Ryan Bye, Valpo’s assistant director of student activities. “Of all the spring service trips that I have been on, I really believe this year was the most impactful. It is exciting to know there is a permanent fund in place that will allow generations of Valpo students to have similar experiences.”
The spring 2019 trip to Appalachia was in partnership with the Appalachia Service Project (ASP). The ASP has been operating for more than 50 years, with a mission to “accept people right where they are, just the way they are.” The Valpo students traveled to Jonesville, Virginia, and spent the week repairing houses, cleaning, and providing other physical labor to area families. Twenty-one percent of the families in the ASP service area live below the poverty level.
One group replaced a leaking roof with a new tin overlay, after spending hours clearing away snow and moss. The other group removed a crumbling floor and installed new joists and floorboards in a small house that houses nine family members.
The living conditions of the residents left a lasting impression on the students. “I never realized how much poverty affects people,” said Kimberly Nieman ’22 of Valparaiso. “I am now inspired to help people experiencing homelessness and dealing with poverty.”
The students were headquartered at the ASP camp, which included bunk room sleeping accommodations, cafeteria, shower facilities, and space for fellowship and recreation. Each evening featured time for reflection and discussion. For example, one evening they participated in a privilege walk exercise where they learned how to use the individual privileges we have and to collectively work for social justice for all.
“Acts of service can lead to social change,” said Khalil Porter ’22 of Merrillville. “On trips like this, you want to make a change and raise the awareness of what you have seen. If others do not learn what you have experienced, then things will generally remain the same.”
Making the world a better place has long been central to the mission of Valparaiso University. The programs and services that uniquely prepare students for lives of leadership and service are stronger because of the support of the Schloemer family. Those learning experiences and programs will continue to make the world a better place.