Sweet greetings

SPRINT creates immersive experience in local community

Isabella Tranello, Staff Reporter

Jon-Martin Lee (left) hands starter questions, for Tomas Founder of Bell’s Cookie (in the back), to Anna Bursch (left). (Jacky Chen)

Seattle Pacific’s Reach-Out International (SPRINT) provides opportunities for students to engage with social issues that expand beyond their own backyard. In a time where travel is limited, global engagement looks a little different.

For students who have not heard of SPRINT or been able to experience what they do for students at SPU, junior SPRINT fundraising coordinator, Amanda Lester, provides a bit of insight.

“Typically, SPRINT sends students on a three week long immersive trip to Colombia to learn about social justice and reconciliation through our partnerships with the Universidad Reformada and the Presbyterian Church,” said Lester.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, SPRINT had to look for other options to help students explore these social issues. Looking for a way to expose students to Columbian culture while staying COVID safe, they found a connection with Bell’s Cookies. By providing space for questions, personal interaction, and a literal taste of Columbia, students were given the chance to have a global experience in a brand new way.

“We want students to still learn about Colombia and this was one way to do it. We decided to partner with Bell’s Cookies because they are a new local business owned by Brooke and Tomas Perez, who moved here from Colombia,” said Lester. “The SPRINT program has a relationship with a University in Colombia and although we aren’t able to make a trip happen this year we still want to foster partnerships and gain global perspective.”

SPRINT was able to provide students an easy way to not only learn but interact with each other in a safe way in a time when interaction is very minimal.

“SPU provides opportunities for great discussions and scholarly work, but SPU is also a bubble. Events such as these help students get off campus and engage in conversation with their community members outside of SPU,” said Lester. “This is a great way to connect with people from different backgrounds and learn a little bit more about the people who make up the Queen Anne area.”

Senior sociology and theology major, Gracie Kavanaugh, attended the event on Friday and got the opportunity to get out of this “bubble” and engage with her community.

“I have such a hard time trying new things or going to new places, so to be encouraged to come to a new place to ask questions was a really fun experience. It was less daunting than I thought it would be,” said Kavanaugh. “A kind and warm gesture may not be received by everyone, but it’s worth trying to talk to someone.”

Kavanaugh enjoyed listening to Tomas, as he informed them about his life in Columbia.

Michael Chew, UMin Coordinator for Immersive Community Engagement, looks at the owner of Bell’s Cookies as they talk about his experience growing up in Colombia. (Jacky Chen)

“It was really interesting to hear him talk about the tourist town that he grew up in and how it was, for the most part, only Columbian tourists,” said Kavanaugh. “It was also interesting to hear about how there are more and more foreigners coming in from other countries because of the changed perspectives of how safe the town is to travel to.”

Another attendee, senior nursing major Talia Ferguson, really enjoyed hearing about the personal aspect of Tomas’ Columbian culture being integrated with his family.

“In general, I just learned more about Columbian culture. I really liked what he had to say about preserving the culture with his daughter in very small but important ways like speaking Spanish with her and sharing stories of his culture with her,” said Ferguson.

Feguson was also impressed with the organization of the event and felt like it was a safe event to have during the pandemic.

“I would definitely come back to one of their events. It was organized nicely and I felt very safe when attending. I felt like the right precautions were taken to make it safe while still being immersive. Plus, we got to have delicious cookies.” Ferguson said.

If you were not able to attend this event, no need to fret. SPRINT is planning an immersive, week-long experience for students in the Spring.

“We are hoping to do another global perspective talk in partnership with ASA (African Student Association) next quarter,” Lester said. Keeping students safe is our biggest priority, so we are currently coming up with a week-long experience where students will get to learn through different lenses such as culture/history, social justice, and environmentalism.”

SPRINT is continuously working to make sure that students at SPU have the chance to engage themselves within a culture that is different from their own while keeping students safe. The pandemic was a curveball, but that has not stopped their drive to divulge students into cultural understanding.

“This event helps us be more curious and open to asking questions about where people are from. It helps us have more knowledge of those who are different. It also gives us a chance to support local businesses. I have walked past here so many times and never knew that they were from Columbia or knew their story. I’ll definitely be back,” Ferguson said.