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Modesto Junior College

Sociology students seek to make a difference through websites

Modesto Junior College students enrolled in Dr. J. Douglas Penn’s Sociology of Family (Soc. 125) and Race and Ethnicity (Soc. 150) courses are given the option to be a service learner (volunteer in the community) or an activist (contribute to their community via research).  Over the last two years, students choosing activism have developed and continue to maintain two group project websites that seek to make a positive difference on campus, in the community and beyond. 

The MJC Poverty Project website was initiated by Sociology of Family students in fall of 2015, but it took until spring of 2016 to complete the current template on Wordpress. The Poverty Project has a target audience of Stanislaus County. It contains resource information on affordable housing, shelter and food, transportation, county services, and job opportunities, as well as research and articles on homelessness and homeless policies.

The RISE UP website was initiated by the Race and Ethnicity students in spring 2016 to supplement MJC’s new Multicultural Center, located in Founders Hall 118 on East Campus. RISE UP stands for Realizing Intellect (through) Student Effort, Umoja Puente. Umoja, (a Kiswahili word meaning unity) is a community and resource dedicated to enhancing the cultural and educational experiences of African American and other students. Although tied to the MJC Multicultural Center (RISE UP Center), this site includes a more global aspect, containing information and articles on genocides and racial conflicts.Sociology students in class

“The websites are a way for us to ‘do’ sociology,” explains Dr. Penn. “They are but a couple of the opportunities I provide to enhance our students’ civic engagement.”

The websites are ongoing projects for which the students have drafted mission statements, and both have a list of contributors with approximately 30 students contributing to the RISE UP site, and over 40 students having worked on the Poverty Project website.  

The students and professor meet weekly over a ten-week period, with most of the brainstorming and planning taking place during the first meeting. During the weekly meetings, students report on any new blog postings, and devise strategy and suggest content to fill any voids in the websites. The students have access 24/7 to update and edit the sites. 

“These past three years our students have been privy to a front row seat on the procedures, moving from good intentions to actually making a difference,” Dr. Penn stated. “It has been a learning experience for us all. The websites will continue as long as I am teaching these courses, or the activists brainstorm another way to best impact their community.”

The websites also have corresponding Facebook pages: mjcpovertyproject@mjcpovertyproject and riseup@mjcsociology.  For more information, contact Dr. Penn at or (209) 575-6108.