As the new semester floods students with assignments, reports and papers, one thing that most students look forward to is filling out their housing plans for the next year.
Although freshmen are mainly confined to the dorms, many sophomores, juniors and seniors take part in a wide variety of housing options. Among these options is a newly-developed program known as the Living Simply Community.
The Living Simply program was inspired by a mission trip that seniors Andy Trares and Theresa Prabucki took to El Salvador in the spring of 2008. During the trip, the students led very simplistic lives and worked as a community to accomplish their daily tasks.
Reflecting back on the trip, Trares said, “It was a really great experience for us.” With this sentiment in mind, they contacted Campus Ministry Director John Scarano and put together the program. It debuted last semester with four seniors, two juniors and two sophomores.
It has been designed to minimize the luxuries that students would normally have in their residence and maximize the role that the students play in their own community. The program is committed to five core values: hospitality, spirituality, sustainability, community and conscientiousness.
According to Prabucki, these values were “the product of three long nights of thinking.”
Although all eight members agreed on the basic principles of the community, both Trares and Prabucki agreed that coming to a consensus on a concrete statement like this was a learning experience. This communal learning experience is one of the most beneficial parts of the program.
“Everyone is doing something in the community,” said Trares. The Fatima Family Center, the Domestic Violence Center, and the Catholic Workers Storefront are just some of the service projects these students have helped.
Because of the emphasis on conscientiousness, being environmentally-friendly is a very important facet of this program. Even in the first week of the new semester, Prabucki said she has already studied by candlelight.
In addition to turning the lights off whenever possible, the students try to keep all appliances unplugged unless they are actively using them. Because of this seemingly primitive lifestyle, the electricity and heating bills were as low as one third of other duplexes on Warrensville Center Road.
This spring, Trares looks forward to starting a garden in the backyard, where they will be able to grow some of their own food. This addition will compliment the worm compost that they already keep in their basement for organic waste.
Although it seems like this lifestyle demands a great deal of sacrifice, Prabucki said, “I don’t think of it as much as giving up as it is being more mindful.” The focus is on simplicity.
“We take the attitude that we’re all just asking people to simplify their lives,” said Trares.
As college students, almost everyone in the group has computers and cell phones; however, they do try to limit their use to academic work and communications. “There is more chance for solitude [than regular dorms offer]ÉI can be more reflective in my own life,” said Prabucki, “Now we can use our time to focus and be in tune to ourselves.”
The deadline to participate in this program next year is quickly approaching. The application process only requires two reference letters and several responses to community based questions. In order to ensure that students who do not qualify still have plenty of time to apply for other housing, everything is due on Feb. 5. The application form can be found on the Campus Ministry section of JCU’s Web site, and any questions should be directed to John Scarano.
Because this is still a very young program, the opportunity for growth is great. “Looking forward, [we really hope] it’s going to reinvent itself and evolve,” said Trares.
But the most important thing to remember is that it all depends on the students who participate. Whether you choose this as an immersion experience right in Cleveland or just an interesting way to simplify your life, the rewards are limitless. And if that isn’t incentive enough, Prabucki said, “At least it smells better than Murphy.”