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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame transportation, Institute for Latino Studies bolster volunteering in South Bend

Notre Dame Transportation Services in 2007 founded a carpool program that allows students and faculty members to rent vehicles for University business. While using the service this year, a student fostered a collaboration between a local health clinic and the Institute for Latino Studies.

“Students were having a difficult time renting vehicles for University business due to them not being 25 years of age. It’s important that students have the opportunity to travel for their respective student clubs and organizations as part of their experience at Notre Dame. This program is also widely used by employees as they travel for University business,” Cory Thompson said. Thompson is the manager of transportation services for Notre Dame. 

“Vehicles can only be rented for University business,” Thompson said. “The reservation form requires the destination and purpose of the rental vehicle be completed. If the vehicle is requested for personal use, we direct them to contact our local Enterprise office, and they will assist with a rental vehicle.”

Parker Gaines, a freshman at Notre Dame, has been using the car rental service for his volunteering at the Sister Maura Brannick Health Center, a clinic that provides free primary healthcare services to people facing poverty who do not have health insurance. A professor in Latino Studies department encouraged him to get involved with the clinic, but transportation was an obstacle to service.

“Not having a car on campus was a little difficult for me,” Gaines said. “I had reached out to my scholarship directors, and I had told them, I had this really good opportunity, but how am I supposed to get there?”

After a previous conversation regarding how he was supposed to get to the center, the Institute for Latino Studies (ILS) helped coordinate his vehicle rental. 

“They agreed to work with the transportation services to get a rental vehicle ... it’s very nice that I have that form of transportation. It’s very generous of the Institute for Latino Studies to coordinate that for me, but also generous of the transportation services department to agree to let students use their vehicles to go do some of the community engagement,” Gaines said. 

Gaines became involved with the Latino Studies Department when he applied to Notre Dame. Notre Dame admissions committee forwarded his application to ILS, an organization that awards merit scholarships to students who have been involved with the Latino community. Gaines was awarded the merit scholarship by the Latino Studies Department.

“About 99% of the patients [at the clinic] are Spanish speaking, mostly undocumented patients, but they can access emergency Medicaid through an Indiana health care plan,” Gaines said. “It’s been very eye-opening to see some of the efforts that have been made on the government level to address the health care issues.”

The center takes a cultural awareness approach that he thinks helps people feel less overwhelmed by medical information, Gaines said. 

“Even though I’m doing some of the behind the scenes work, it’s also great to be able to go in the rooms with the patients, speak Spanish and learn a little bit more about some of the different health issues that Latino communities are facing as a whole,” Gaines said. “It’s been a really good experience.”

Gaines facilitated the establishment of a formal partnership between the health center and ILS. Utilizing his connections at the clinic, he spearheaded the initiation of the partnership for the upcoming summer. This collaboration is a component of the Latino Studies cross-cultural leadership program.

“We’re constantly building up the next generation, and particularly, the Institute for Latino studies focuses on activism for Latino communities in the United States,” Gaines said. “And I think that it’s very tangible work. We can work directly with the community organizations to help Latinos specifically in the South Bend area.”

Thompson said Notre Dame Transportation services has various vehicles available for rental and that they do their best to honor specific vehicle requests. According to a University Press release on March 18, 2024, transportation services has added four new electric vehicles to their cars available for rental.

“We have sedans, SUVs, minivans, and electric cars,” Thompson said. “We do our best to honor requests when we can. If a specific vehicle is requested and is available, we will assign that particular vehicle to the reservation, again, doing our best to honor the request.”

Gaines said the institute’s focus on activism within Latino communities makes the partnership with the health center very tangible work.

“We’re constantly building up the next generation and particularly the Institute for Latino studies focuses on activism for Latino communities in the United States,” Gaines said. “And I think that it’s very tangible work. We can work directly with the community organizations to help Latinos specifically in the South Bend area.”