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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Celeste Kennel-Shank

Goshen College senior serves on Capitol Hill

GOSHEN, Ind. – Celeste Kennel-Shank spent her summer with a view out her office window of the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress, but was working on reducing world debt rather than assisting a Senator or Representative.

Through Goshen College’s Service Inquiry Program (SIP), Kennel-Shank, a senior environmental studies major, served with Jubilee USA in her hometown of Washington, D.C., for the summer. Jubilee USA is dedicated to working for a world free of debt through active solidarity with global partners, targeted and timely advocacy strategies and educational outreach.

Kennel-Shank has had interest in Jubilee’s work since high school because the organization is “faith-based and they come out of a moral understanding of how to build right relationships in the world,” she said. “I see this as the movement for a more democratic globalization. It is an excellent organization as part of that and they have a very clear niche, which is international debt cancellation.”

Kennel-Shank’s responsibilities as a summer intern were more significant than many of her Capitol Hill counterparts. “It felt like I was there to work – not to just wear a suit and file papers every day. Many congressional interns do a lot of busywork,” she said. “It was kind of exciting for me, though, to be an intern on the Hill. It is a really beautiful part of the city with very grand buildings.”

Though she occasionally lobbied in Congress, Kennel-Shank worked primarily on communication and outreach for Jubilee, which meant calling organization members, keeping track of media coverage and even researching and compiling data about debt in Ethiopia – the country where she spent three months as part of Goshen’s international education program, Study-Service Term (SST).

“It was a lot of fun to feel like I was doing something for the country I went for SST,” she said, “which happens to be one of the world’s heavily indebted poor countries.”

Kennel-Shank also had the opportunity to travel to Colombia on a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation. She previously spent three weeks in Colombia as part of a Goshen College May term course, studying Anabaptist theology and peacemaking. “Colombia taught me a lot about how war is another cause of poverty and the displacement of people,” she said. There she stayed with a recently displaced family because of threats against them. “They are working at leaving the country, which is a very sad thing for them,” she said. “It was very powerful to see the other side of an immigrant experience. Being in a town like Goshen, where so many people have come seeking refuge and jobs from other countries, it was powerful to see what a difficult experience it is to be forced to leave your country.”

Kennel-Shank’s summer experience gave her a good introduction to how international economics and trade impact poverty around the world. “When I travel around the world, I now know that the poverty I see has roots, that children around the world not having enough food or being able to go to school is not inevitable. There are actions we can take,” she said.

Kennel-Shank said her SIP experience has certainly increased her understanding of how nonprofit entities conduct their work. “I feel more confident to work with service-based organizations in the future because I learned so much about the nuts and bolts: how to get grants, how to manage an office, how to apply for legal status. This was a chance to apply the skills I have been learning with the passion I have been developing to work on global issues. It seemed a good fit to bring that into my continuing education as a student.”

Her experience has also shaped her views on what service means to her. “I think there are two really important components to service: to work directly with people and to go to the root cause of the problem. As long as you can stay in touch with those who are directly impacted, then it becomes a real drive to continue serving, to end suffering, to end injustice,” Kennel-Shank said.

SIP provides students at Goshen College with the opportunity to spend three months in service with a church-related service or mission agency. Kennel-Shank was one of four students participating in the program this summer. The goal of SIP is to facilitate significant student engagement with service under sponsorship of a church agency and through the tutelage of an on-site mentor. Students are expected to learn from both their active service and from their observation of others engaged in service. At the end of the summer, each volunteer will receive a scholarship of up to $2,000 toward tuition costs for the next academic year. Lilly Endowment Inc. funds the scholarships, supplemented by contributions from the students’ home congregations and the agencies being served.

Kennel-Shank is the daughter of Duane Shank and Ellen Kennel of Washington, D.C. She is a 2001 graduate of the School Without Walls and attends Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen.

Other participants in the Service Inquiry Program, and their assignments, include:

Alicia Janzen (Soph., Beatrice, Neb.), Discovering Outreach and Opportunity for Reflection (DOOR), Chicago, Ill.

Abigail Nafziger (Soph., Goshen), YMCA, Belfast, Ireland

Rachel Wigginton (Fr., Indianapolis, Ind.), Discovering Outreach and Opportunity for Reflection (DOOR), Miami, Fla.

Goshen College, established in 1894, is a four-year residential Christian liberal arts college rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition. The college’s Christ-centered core values – passionate learning, global citizenship, compassionate peacemaking and servant-leadership – prepare students as leaders for the church and world. Recognized for its unique Study-Service Term program, Goshen has earned citations of excellence in Barron’s Best Buys in Education, “Colleges of Distinction,” “Making a Difference College Guide” and U.S.News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” edition, which named Goshen a “least debt college.” Visit https://www.goshen.edu/.

Editors: For more information, contact News Bureau Director Jodi H. Beyeler at (574) 535-7572 or jodihb@goshen.edu.


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