A College of Charleston alumna is helping to provide opportunities for current students, like those that were provided for her. Stephanie Whelan ’11, a sociology alumnae, is coordinating a screening of the documentary My Own Four Walls on campus. The event will be held on February 21, 2013 at 6 p.m. in room 129 of the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building (corner of Calhoun and Coming Streets). The event, the final stop on a nationwide tour, also includes a question and answer session with Film Director Diane Nilan and Huffington Post Journalist Pat LaMarche. This event is free and open to the public.

“The sociology department and professors provided me with the best education possible!” Whelan says. “Because of the relationships that I built with my sociology professors as a student, I was able to contact them without hesitation for help. My hope is that maybe just one person might be inspired to dedicate a year of service after they graduate and join a program like AmeriCorps to help those in need.”

“Having alumni come back and talk with our students about the work they are doing in the community is invaluable,” says Heath Hoffmann, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. “In Stephanie’s case, she is demonstrating leadership in the community while simultaneously creating opportunities for our students to interact with a filmmaker on a topics that are central to what sociologists study. In this way, our students learn from alum about what is possible for them after graduation.”

Whelan is currently in the Master of Social Work (MSW) program at the University of South Carolina. As part of the program, she is doing field work at Charleston-based Crisis Ministries, South Carolina’s largest homeless service provider. There, Whelan is a case manager, working with clients on obtaining and remaining in permanent housing, increasing skills and/or income, and achieving greater self-determination.

“At the College of Charleston, I started out as a French major and as much as I love the language, it just didn’t ‘fit’ me, so I switched to sociology,” Whelan explains. “That’s where I found my niche. I took courses from Death and Dying to Qualitative Research and began forming relationships with my professors who got to know me, and I got to know them. After I graduated, I continued my desire to help others by becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA where I worked at Family Services, Inc. assisting with permanent housing programs. This is where I realized the extreme need in our community to help the homeless.”

For more information, contact Missy Page at 843.953.5738 or pageme@cofc.edu.

About My Own Four Walls

This film includes observations from elementary, middle and high school students about their experiences of homelessness. These courageous young people, with parents and without; staying in shelters, motels, abandoned buildings, doubled-up, living in vans, substandard trailers, or as “couch surfers” hopping from one fragile living arrangement to another, all have one important thing in common: They all have hopes and dreams just like children who have their own four walls.