Baylor is clearly an excellent place for graduate students to further their education. However, what many students don’t realize is how many great opportunities there are to live, work, and serve alongside their neighbors in the Waco community.
This is exactly the opportunity graduate students will have if they choose to live at Good Neighbor Settlement House.
Good Neighbor is a nonprofit organization based on the settlement house movement which started in England in the late 19th Century as a way to serve the urban poor. Settlement houses often included daycares, literacy classes, and spaces for community gatherings. A century later this movement inspired Dr. Laine Scales to establish a settlement house in a historic Waco neighborhood.
Currently, Good Neighbor has two settlers, or residents, Hannah Hanover and Katie Robbins, both of whom are Baylor graduate students.
“For graduate students, it’s easy put ourselves in our own bubbles and only view this period of our life in graduate school as transient, as a means to an end,” explains Katie. “And I think by doing that, we devalue a potentially transformative experience. Good Neighbor allows more opportunities to get plugged into the community. Whether you want to live in Waco long-term or not, you’re giving back to a community that has really given a lot to Baylor and to its students.”
Currently, Good Neighbor is in its early stages of development, and the settlement house is still in need of repairs before it can begin its full operations. In the meantime, Hannah and Katie spend their time getting to know their neighbors so they can discern how to best serve their neighborhood in the future.
Often this includes taking walks around the neighborhood, attending community events, and raising awareness of Good Neighbor’s mission to serve Waco. Both Hannah and Katie have enjoyed the opportunity to live in such a diverse neighborhood with people from all walks of life, a diversity they would not find in an apartment near campus.
“My undergraduate school, Houghton College, always emphasized the concept of scholar servants, which means that you are a scholar so that you may serve better. That’s part of the reason I came to graduate school, to use my talents so that I can serve better,” explains Hannah.
Hannah sees Good Neighbor as a great way to not only become more involved in the community but to serve others. Similarly, Katie sees her role in Good Neighbor as a “mission at home.”
“I considered going on a mission this past December but I didn’t feel like God was calling me to it. When I learned about Good Neighbor, I became more attracted to the idea of being on a mission at home. I think it gives you a new perspective, and it makes you look at your own city differently,” says Katie.
Living at Good Neighbor is a rewarding but challenging experience. Though Hannah and Katie have a heavy course load, they are intentional about staying organized to ensure that they have plenty of time to complete five to ten hours of service a week.
Katie offers the following advice to anybody interested in becoming a settler at Good Neighbor: “Be open to trying new things, open to meeting new people from a variety of backgrounds, and be prepared to learn a lot about yourself and other people.”
Whether on “a mission at home” or serving as a “scholar-student,” Good Neighbor provides graduate students with the opportunity to find their place not only on Baylor’s campus but in the Greater Waco community.
To learn more about how to get involved in Good Neighbor visit the website at goodneighborwaco.org.
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