University course encourages students to learn from locals


Lisa Brockus holds up the whiteboard with a meaningful message. Photo credit: Sabrina Lee

University 105I is a self-identity and sustainability class that encourages students to learn about identity misconceptions and stereotypes. A large requirement of this class is the project, “Sense of Place,” which asks students to respectfully intervene in a public setting.

One group decided to focus on learning about homeless and transient people within the Chico community. This group came up with an idea called, “Humans of City Plaza,” which is a riff on Humans of New York. Sabrina Lee and four of her classmates will walk around downtown Chico this upcoming week and ask transients if they will be willing to tell their story. They have been taking individual pictures of each person holding up a white board with a quote of their choice.

Another aspect of this class project is to make the experience public as possible by getting social media and news organizations involved. While this group is made up of five students who all equally work on this project, Lee took the lead reaching out to The Orion to sit down and explain why they chose this experiment.

Q: So what role do you play in this project?

My name is Sabrina Lee and I’m a sophomore at Chico State and majoring in Kinesiology. I would love to continue my education and go into Occupation Therapy where I’m delved into the world of understanding how people’s brains think, feel, and move in coordination to our bodies.

Q: So can you tell us why you have to do this in the first place?

In my University 105 class, we were told to do an intervention– we needed to go into a space and disrupt it. We gathered up some questions, some mittens, cozy socks, granola bars and a trusty whiteboard to go out into the City Plaza and hopefully get some interesting, sad, happy and heartwarming stories coming from those who are living the life that everyone seems to turn a blind eye towards

Q: Where do you plan to execute this project?

We branched out and mostly all of us had focused on the City Plaza one time or another. We all knew that was a good area to do our intervention because of the history of the place and how much Chico is intertwined with the peoples and communities that are within it.

Q: What is the game plan as far as approaching these individuals?

Being able to just ask simple questions, and even having to bribe them with a hat or granola bars is so worth it. Hearing the stories, seeing the pain or happiness on their faces, just having them talk to someone brightens their whole day. (This) has given me the greatest joy, and being able to tell their stories is what makes this project even better.

Q: So why this project?

Everyone in my group wants to see the homeless taken better care of then what is given right now. There are so many different sides that all we want to do in this project is make sure they are heard, and make a difference in their lives.

Lee and her classmates have conducted a few interviews so far but are conducting more interviews throughout this week. The Orion will be tagging along to document the project as well as assisting in ensuring that these individual’s stories are heard.

Alex Grant can be reached at [email protected] or @AlexThomasGrant on Twitter.