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Breaking Down the Walls

Breaking Down the Walls
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Breaking Down the Walls

Zach shares some of the things he is learning while living at the Jericho Project, an on-campus mentoring community for friends with special needs.

by Zach Wheeler on October 09, 2019

Going into my senior year at SWU, I never expected for things to change. One would think that by my fourth year at university, I would have pretty much developed a routine. By the time I was a junior, I was living in the apartments on campus and had no plan to leave them before I graduated. All that changed when I heard about the Jericho Project. The Jericho Project is a great opportunity for SWU students to “break down the walls” between the special needs community and the SWU community. SWU has partnered with the Pickens County Board of Disabilities to create a beautiful living space where SWU students get to live with special needs individuals (called “friends”) and interact with them on a daily basis.

I can’t tell you enough how much this opportunity has affected me so far. In the eight short weeks I’ve been living there, I have seen so much growth, so much love, and so much courage from the friends who live there. I’ve gotten to go to chapel with them, have dinner with them, take them shopping, and just sit and talk about their lives. It’s incredible to see just how open and accepting these friends are. They have taught me so much about life and finding joy in the little things. They are ecstatic about riding the CatBus to and from work, they get so excited when you walk in the door, some almost cry tears of joy from worship services, others jump up and down when you ask them to go shopping, and they always offer you a hug and ask how your day was. It’s these simple things that have made the Jericho Project one of the most rewarding things I’ve done while at SWU. It has given me new insight into the lives of those who may be a little different than me. It’s opened my eyes to a new type of friendship and has taught me to not be so quick to judge. Most of all, the friends at Jericho have shown me how to persevere in even the hardest situations. 

By living in the Jericho Project, I get a firsthand look into the friends’ lives. I get to see them work toward accomplishing their goals, learn how to cook (while maybe setting off the fire alarm in the process); I get to see the friends enjoy a movie with other friends and students, learn to wash and dry their clothes, and so much more. I think one of the most rewarding things is getting to see their growth. I get to see so much of the friends’ lives. I get to help one friend learn to count change and save money for going out to eat or shop. I get to walk another friend through serious life issues and guide them through tough decisions. Overall, it’s been a great opportunity for me to learn how to counsel and share about my life, but also how to just enjoy spending time with the friends and watch them grow.

John 15:12: “My commandment is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” 

If you see a friend at SWU or out in the community, remember this verse and see what you might be able to learn from someone that is different from you.

Tags: community, college, campus, special needs, residence life, special education, jericho project