“Woodland Academy and Building Relationships: Connecting Life Experiences”- Anna Kerns ’26

As I am finishing up my first year as a CBL Intern and as we begin welcoming new Interns to the cohort, I have been more active in my reflections on my CBL experiences. Just two years ago, I enrolled in a Montserrat course with a Community-Based Learning component, intrigued to learn more. I began the class, expecting a few class-trips into Worcester, some guest speakers, and services similar to those I participated in during high school.

When Professor Jenkins explained the CBL component to my class of first-year students, invited us to the enrollment session, and took us through orientation, I became much more curious. Truthfully, none of it seemed new to me. I had previous experiences volunteering, and assumed it would not be different to those. Entering my first year of College, I was very confident in my identity. I knew what I came to Holy Cross to study, I knew exactly what I planned on accomplishing, and I felt that I knew exactly how to do it. The CBL component, in my mind, would be another activity that I engaged in during my time. 

Little did I know that this was not the case. My academic interests shifted drastically, my priorities changed, and I often found myself feeling lost, stranded, and uncertain. The one consistency was the time I spent weekly at Woodland Academy. I always knew that regardless of what my plan for my future career was developing into, what I was going to do during the upcoming summer, and what my next four years would be like, there would be a classroom of Kindergarteners waiting for me, eager to tell me about their week. I began to look forward to my two hours in Worcester every Friday morning, and I got to know each of these students personally. I could identify when they were feeling stressed, overwhelmed, excited, nervous, or scared without them telling me. I knew how to help them perfect their counting, adding/subtracting, and multiplying skills without losing their interest or pushing them too hard. I found it so inspiring to be a leader in this environment because, for much of my day-to-day life, I was searching for my own guidance- for grounding in my own emotions, assistance in my own academic pursuits, and identifying my own emotions. One specific experience that has stuck with me, was when a new student joined our class. The other students, excited to get to know her, were shocked when she met them with tension, irritation, and unfriendliness. The cheerful classroom environment was disrupted as teachers and administrators attempted to understand this new student’s behavior, and she responded with cursing, screaming, and being mean to the other students. 

During a group reading time, all the students were sitting on the carpet and listening to a teacher read them a book. This new student, talking and interrupting the teacher, was told to sit at her desk, away from the other students. Angrily, she obeyed, and sat alone at her desk. In an attempt to calm her down, I started asking her questions and getting to know her. From this five minute interaction, I learned that she had just moved to Worcester from a shelter in Grafton, and she had an older brother, and her Mom was expecting a baby soon. She was nervous about starting over in a new town, and she seemed very hesitant on what changes a new sibling would bring. I could identify that, just like me, she needed some guidance. Her behavior was a reaction to the uncertainty that she was feeling about the future, which I recognized very easily, as I often felt this uncertainty myself. 

From this interaction, I realized how valuable my time at Woodland had been. My experience was greatly beneficial to my own life, in that it brought new perspectives and it helped me identify new skills in leadership, guidance, and emotional support, as I was simultaneously supporting these students, and helping them gain the confidence they needed to take control of their futures. As I entered the CBL Intern cohort, and explored new community partners, I kept this mindset and the lessons I learned from these experiences close. I am looking forward to returning to campus in the Spring, and continuing to grow these relationships.

“Rebuilding Our Partnership with WPS Transition Program”- Catherine Cannamela ’24

In the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure to volunteer with young adults with intellectual disabilities in the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program as a CBL Intern. After taking a Montserrat course on exploring difference and disability theology, it was so powerful to be able to bridge differences with the Transition students and practice building relationships with them in person. This semester, I’ve been taking a course called Seeking Justice, and I’m working on a CBL project with my partner, Meghan Stravin, to create an orientation video for future WPS Transition volunteers. Holy Cross and WPS Transition are rebuilding our partnership since the pandemic and it would be helpful for our CBL office to explain the unique schedule and style of our partnership to volunteers in efforts to better our communication and create a shared understanding of our goals. My fellow WPS Transition Coordinator interns, Assistant Director of the Donelan Office, Kathryn Hauver, and I have been focusing on revamping our schedule as WPS Transition comes to campus every Monday by planning our activities based on different themes and areas of Holy Cross. So far, we’ve done a scavenger hunt in the Science building, practiced handshakes and interview skills while visiting the Center for Career Development, practiced yoga and made self-care goodie bags in Ciampi, visited the green house and painted pots for planting, and more! All the while, I’ve been taking video footage of our activities and interviewing Holy Cross volunteers, CBL Interns and Donelan Office staff, and WPS teachers including our main partner, Kim, to contribute to our orientation video. I’ve also been filming some spotlights on certain WPS students who are allowed to be in media, in which they demonstrate their unique communication styles as they engage in activities, and my talented partner Meghan has put the whole video together! It’s been a very powerful experience to work on a project that implements justice, educates others about ableism, and improves our partnership in the future. 

In my project, I am particularly passionate about conveying the dangers of toxic charity and emphasizing engaging in service with the WPS Transition Program that is with them and is mutually beneficial.  I am especially invested in making sure that WPS students are not painted in the video as people to be pitied, which is often an ableist assumption, and that they are illustrated with the full humanity that they embody. I hope to show that as CBL volunteers, we are not there to do anything for the WPS students, but are rather there to accompany and build friendships while promoting their independence and gifts. Throughout the journey of making this video, I’ve strived to continue working on the balance of paying attention to the people and demands in front of me as a Coordinator while keeping a wider perspective of social change and hope. I’ve especially learned the importance of being flexible, as rarely anything we plan with WPS Transition goes perfectly, but each work we learn from our mistakes, gain patience, and grow by leaning on each other for support. Along these lines, I’ve learned how essential it is to listen to our partner’s needs and make changes as we go, and the positive feedback we’ve received tells me that we are headed in the right direction of rebuilding our programming to be more beneficial to WPS and Holy Cross. As a senior whose time with CBL is ending, I’m hoping to pave the way for our partnership to thrive in the future, since I am now working towards organizing and mentoring other volunteers and planning programming. It’s been especially exciting to talk with Kim about potentially organizing an expansion of our partnership, since she hopes for WPS to start coming to campus for two days a week next year! 

CBL with WPS Transition has had a profound impact on the person I am. Primarily, the relationships I’ve formed with WPS students and staff have been so fundamental to my Holy Cross experience, and these friendships have grown to become so meaningful after spending so much time together. It’s also made me so much more aware of my own ableist biases and ableism on campus, as we are constantly dealing with physical accessibility challenges and social judgment from surrounding people. This year, I’ve been really passionate about implementing and improving this partnership to increase visibility of people with disabilities on our dominantly able-bodied campus and advocate for better physical accessibility. Ultimately, my time with CBL has affirmed that I enjoy spending my time bridging differences and forming connections with people with disabilities, and I’m happy to continue this journey through sharing life with adults with intellectual disabilities at L’Arche after graduation before pursuing a degree in occupational therapy. 

“St. John’s and Reflection Sessions: The Power of Stories” – Seneca Baldi ’26

As my first year being a CBL Intern comes (shockingly fast) to a close, and as we prepare to welcome the new interns for next year, I have increasingly been reflecting on my new CBL experiences. Choosing a Montserrat that engaged with Community-Based Learning last year introduced me to the Worcester community that I had just joined while also adding a deeper level of learning to my course material. Talking and playing games with the residents of St. Mary Health Care Center during my first-year brought me many new relationships. The women loved to share pieces of their lives with me, offering advice in any area. But, the experience also made obvious the social justice issues that exist for elderly people. For many who are suffering from dementia, they transition from being respected as ‘wise’ for being older to being ignored. Without my experience at CBL, I would not have heard or seen first-hand the challenges faced by older Americans. 

Inspired by this connection and the passion I felt to engage with my new community in Worcester, I became a CBL Intern. This year, I have been fortunate enough to engage with some of the best people I have met at the Saint Frances Xavier Center at St. John’s Parish, which offers food to people from the Worcester area. Like another CBL Intern, Courtney, I spend one morning a week learning from the people who visit and those who volunteer. As we prepare food, we chat with each other and the people that come in about life and faith because many of the volunteers are members of the parish or are connected through their Catholic faith. St. John’s has taught me a lot about service, how I want my own service to look, and how to approach my life from a lens of being a person for and with others. Particularly, one of the regular volunteers, Pat, reminds me of the importance of being patient, understanding, and seeing the world in a more positive light. These values are also reinforced by the CBL program. 

One of the most meaningful CBL experiences I have had outside of St. John’s this year has been facilitating discussions in Montserrats about the TedTalk “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. We have reflected on not only the importance of attempting to expand upon the stories we have about each group of people, but also to amplify the first-person accounts we hear to help share multiple stories with others, too. One first-year from a Montserrat course told our group that he appreciated CBL so much because of the ability to hear about their classmates’ experiences. Although I might interact with people facing homelessness and poverty, other CBL students talk to students who are at risk of dropping out of high school or people earning their GEDs. It is easy to have a single story about a group of people without ever interacting with them, and when your classmates share the stories they are hearing, it helps you fight these single perspectives about groups of people you do not get to directly hear from. As I work to share the stories of the people at St. John’s to share the many faces of homelessness and the humanity of the issues, others tell me about the students they work with who are not actively at risk of dropping out of school, but trying harder than most to make sure that never happens. The implications of amplifying and understanding the multiple perspectives become especially significant when they translate into policy decisions. If we are able to share the stories that we hear, we can all have more humanity and willingness to help. 

“The Untold Stories of African Americans in Charleston: A Reflection on My Week with the International African American Museum” – Delaney Walch ’24

The Untold Stories of African Americans in Charleston: A Reflection on My Week with the International African American Museum

My spring break trip ruined the city of Charleston, South Carolina for me; by the end of the week, the beautiful architecture had lost its wonder as I reckoned with the painful history that the charming atmosphere covers. I am grateful for the ways in which the program broke my heart open to witness the complex history of African Americans in South Carolina, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be introduced to the city in any other way. 

My classmates and I had the opportunity to participate in the inaugural Alternative Spring Break Program with the International African American Museum (IAAM), which is located on Gadsden’s Wharf, where 40% of African people who were brought to America for slavery arrived. As a CBL Intern, I was drawn by the opportunity to immerse myself in a new community and connect my previous understandings of African American history to the experience of witnessing historical locations and hearing first-hand accounts from those in Charleston. Our trip was graciously funded by Tom Maher ‘84 and Nancy Maher of Pisgah Investments Foundation, who “feel fortunate to help create and sustain this program” and “hope this will be an impactful and transformative experience for students.” Tom shares that “the IAAM invites students to witness the tragedies and triumphs of African American people, honoring and respecting the past and providing hope for the future.” IAAM’s commitment to honoring the past, present and future of African Americans is demonstrated through their intentional architecture, as the museum was built on pillars to preserve the sacred site of the wharf line, which is surrounded by “tides” of human outlines.

The museum’s impressively intentional design and curation extends indoors. One exhibit that stood out to me was African Roots/African Routes, specifically a section that highlighted the changing of Africans’ names upon arrival to America. The “departure” side of the hallway showcased a log with “one person one being” surrounded by individuals’s names and ages, while the log on the “arrival” side read “one sorrow one revolution” which showcased the common practice of changing names and erasing ages of Africans as they were forced into slavery. This powerful piece called me to reflect on the stark loss of humanity during the international human trafficking trade, especially of those who died overseas and were forgotten, as one’s name carries significant history and personal meaning.

On our second day, we had the special opportunity to work in the archives with the Center for Family History, where we scanned historical documents including books, personal photos, and news articles. One of my classmates, Patrick Grudberg ‘24, shared that this day gave him the “perfect opportunity to put my skills as a history major into practice” as he could “work in the museum setting in archives” while also seeing history in action through the Charleston community. Additionally, we had the chance to collect metadata from a collection of U.S. Colored Troops pension records, which provided incredible insights into the lives and families of African American soldiers in the Civil War.

My favorite day of the spring break experience was Wednesday, where we received a tour of the historic Sol Legare community from President William Wilder and Curator Ernest Parks of the Seashore Farmer’s Lodge. The lodge members highlighted how the founding members of Sol Legare built their community to be self-sufficient and spoke about their work to restore the lodge, which is a museum highlighting the Civil War and larger history of the island. I was inspired by Mr. Parks’s love for his community and his hopes to restore Mosquito Beach, a once energetic community space for African Americans to celebrate in dance and socialization since they were not allowed to go to Folly Beach during the Jim Crow era. While not replicative of the typical image of a “beach,” I was energized through witnessing the site of the stories told by Mr. Parks about the joy and relationships that were cultivated during times of significant trials for African Americans in Charleston. 

The remainder of our trip focused on unmarked or at-risk African American burial grounds. Through our collaboration with the Anson Street African Burial Ground Project and the Preservation Society of Charleston, we received training on mapping cemeteries using ArcGis123 and a tour of at risk burial grounds throughout Charleston. Witnessing the state of African burial grounds was sobering; we heard stories of headstones being used as yard decor and visited the  football stadium of the Citadel, where the end zone is referred to as “the bone yard” since it was built over a burial area. The stories and state of the burial grounds we visited emphasized the importance of recovering the untold stories of African Americans, as their history and dignity has been historically diminished through gentrification efforts. 

On Friday, we had the special opportunity to collaborate as a group and complete an online map of the Brotherly Association Cemetery. One of the most eye-opening aspects of this experience was getting to meet some of the descendants of those who were buried in the cemetery. Another classmate, Ned Coursey ‘24, shared that the experience “really showed how important it is in academics to go out and talk to members of their communities, not just for more accurate footnotes, but also to build a sense of solidarity and respect between both groups.” I am grateful to the descendants for welcoming us into the final resting place of their ancestors and their willingness to share their stories. Additionally, I am thankful for the opportunity to help create a map of the cemetery that can be used to help others find their ancestors and ensure that the existence of those buried is not forgotten.

My week in Charleston far exceeded my expectations on all accounts; the stories I heard, the often forgotten parts of history that I learned, and the relationships I built have helped me develop a more critical lens and question whose stories are not being told or forgotten. I fondly remember the refreshing conversations that I was able to have with fellow participants and the bonds we were able to build over our shared passions for learning more about African American history in just one week. As my last weeks as a CBL Intern and student at Holy Cross rapidly approach, I am excited to implement the new perspectives I gained in Charleston to recognize how our community partners uplift the untold stories of the marginalized and what stories have yet to be highlighted in the Worcester community. The IAAM staff was incredibly supportive and knowledgeable, and I highly recommend a visit to the museum if you are seeking to receive the true, inclusive history of historical Charleston.

“Strengthening Community through the CBL Intern Retreat” – Megan Yee ’25

Earlier this month, the CBL interns gathered for our annual CBL Intern Retreat: an opportunity to reflect on the CBL community, our roles as Interns, and the CBL program. This year’s retreat was especially exciting because we gathered at the Joyce Contemplative Center (my first time there!).

A big focus of the day was centered on gaining insight into ourselves as well as the interpersonal dynamics within the CBL community. Therefore, to learn more about our personalities, we all took a version of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a test aimed to help people understand their strengths as well as areas for improvement based on their personalities. After taking the test, we had the opportunity to discuss our personality types as a group. This conversation highlighted the diversity of our group as demonstrated by a balance of different strengths and weaknesses. We discovered a refined sense of connectedness through understanding what makes us unique as well as similar.

Not only did learning about our personalities help us better understand the dynamics within our CBL community, but it also allowed us to recognize how we can better engage with our community partners. In order to lead well and be able to participate in reciprocal relationships with our partners, we need to know ourselves. With a new foundation for how to apply our unique personalities to modes of growth and development, we gained a stronger understanding of how to best excel in interpersonal relationships. We learned where our strengths lie and gained confidence in putting those forward, as well as acknowledging where our weaknesses are and how we can improve upon them.

During the retreat, we also engaged in other fun activities like making Valentine’s Day cards for each other. We had fun bringing out our artistic abilities into fun-loving and motivational cards for each other. Simple moments of appreciation like this bring us closer as a group, and it constantly reminds me how incredibly grateful I am for this community of Interns. As we closed out the day, we took a moment to reflect on what we learned from the experience. One of the prominent themes of the day was being present in the moment. We read “Invitation” by Mary Oliver who asks us to “linger” for a little while to listen to the “goldfinches”. Taking moments to stop and focus on our surroundings allows us to hold active awareness. It is with this active awareness that we can better recognize areas for growth within ourselves and our communities.

“Planting the Seed”- Luke Letizia ’25

When beginning my studies at Holy Cross, I knew I wanted to have a strong connection with the Worcester community; it is something I took pride in when working in the New Haven community in high school. So, when choosing a Montserrat, I chose one with a CBL component. The class worked with the Mustard Seed, where we volunteered to serve food and build an updated website. It was gratifying and brought me to pursue more CBL-incorporated courses. CBL incorporates my values of community and helping others into the exciting course material, allowing valuable learning to occur in and outside the classroom. 

As a hands-on individual with a love of learning, I was most excited to be a CBL intern to increase my knowledge of social problems, local non-profits, and the city of Worcester, as outlined in the CBL Program. In addition, I have built my communication and leadership skills through working with local partners, students, faculty, and staff. I have enjoyed jumping in with both feet and learning as much as possible. The CBL Program offers students many ways to make significant contributions through direct community involvement and continued service opportunities on campus, and I have enjoyed my time in it this semester. 

During my time at the Mustard Seed this past semester, I have gained experience doing manual labor such as yard work, trash duty, and serving others with food and necessities. However, the most impactful experience at the Mustard Seed has been conversing with and getting to know the people there. Mustard Seed co-founder and Holy Cross Alum Frank Kartheiser once told me that when I am at Mustard Seed, I am not giving or doing charity but standing in solidarity with my fellow person. My fellow person could so easily be in my shoes as I could be in theirs. Since Frank explained that idea and philosophy to me, my experience at the Mustard Seed has been life-changing. 

I have connected with individuals and shared life experiences close to the Holy Cross.  Going into this next semester, I look forward to spending time with a new community partner through the WPS transition program. Although I am a bit nervous about starting a new program, I am excited to find another CBL avenue to learn and grow at Holy Cross.

“Pursuing a Life of Justice: Personal Reflections from the Non-Profit Careers Conference” -Delaney Walch ’24

The greater Worcester area is home to over 5,000 nonprofits employed by passionate individuals who devote their careers to pursuing social justice. My experience with a few of these non-profits, including Worcester Public Schools Transition Program and Summit Campus, has exposed me to the supportive communities that nonprofits build. While I hold these organizations close to my heart, I can’t help but reflect on why there are so many nonprofits in Worcester, and how this informs us about the lack of justice in our surrounding community. My experience participating in the Non-Profit Careers Conference these past two years has helped inform my awareness of structural barriers that nonprofits face in the pursuit of fulfilling their missions, such as lack of funding or increasing demand for social services. Although these barriers are daunting and the path towards justice is uncertain, these are some experiences during the conference that affirmed that the nonprofit sector is the right fit for me:

  1. In the session titled “Vocation and Discernment,” associate chaplain Emily Rauer Davis asked us to reflect on our childhood passions to help us discern what gifts we have and how we can utilize these in our careers. At first, I couldn’t see how my childhood dreams of becoming a veterinarian, biologist, or FBI agent could highlight how I hope to live my life. Once I reflected on the skills and passions required for these jobs, I realized that throughout my life, I’ve held the desire to care for others, constantly learn, and seek justice through problem solving. Through working with nonprofits, I would have the opportunity to constantly learn and connect with different communities to understand how to help minimize societal barriers to success. 
  2. A primary component of the conference is the case study, where teams work with a local nonprofit to offer recommendations for an issue they are facing in their work. The community partner my team was assigned to was Summit Campus, which is a nonprofit that provides a living and learning dormitory experience for neurodiverse adults ages 18-26. My team was tasked with designing curriculum, program length and cost, and marketing techniques for a pre-college preparation program named “Summit Summer.” Throughout my case study experiences, I struggled with feeling unqualified and nervous to offer my advice to a nonprofit that holds extensive experience in working with neurodiverse young adults seeking career opportunities. However, my team’s conversations with the Summit team reminded me of the value of outside perspectives for small nonprofits who may not have enough staff or time to develop new programming. The suggestions we offered included enhancing summer programming by offering competitive pricing, providing preparatory services such as self-advocacy and college essay workshops, and collaborating with Holy Cross to utilize campus resources. The chance to brainstorm tangible recommendations to Summit’s program idea affirmed that I enjoy pursuing the goals and challenges that nonprofits take on in their efforts to support social causes.
  3. To wrap up the week, Frank Karthesier, the founder of the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker Community, visited to lead a session titled “From Charity to Justice.” Frank intended for the Mustard Seed to be a place for sharing and community, and quickly recognized the urgent need for food and social services in the Worcester community. Frank emphasized that charity cannot exist without efforts to seek justice, since “having a soup kitchen in the wealthiest country is an embarrassment.” While nonprofits and charities are essential for providing immediate services to meet community needs, increasing awareness about the lives of those on the societal margins and  advocating for policy change will enact long-term change and ideally eliminate the need for nonprofits. I was motivated by Frank’s stories about the importance of organizing to gain power in numbers, since “when it comes to accountability, counting matters”. In the nonprofit sector, I hope to help enact change on a charity-level through providing needed services, but also a justice-level, through uplifting the voices of the marginalized and gathering community support to advocate for justice.

 

The Non-Profit Careers Conference continues to be one of my favorite Holy Cross experiences, as it provided me with the hands-on opportunity to experience what nonprofit work entails. As a result, I feel ready to begin my career journey in 4 short months knowing that I’m following the path that will allow me to live out my passions for standing with others, building community, and advocating for equitable access to resources to help individuals live their best lives.

“Things are Sunny Side Up at St. John’s” – Courtney Yockel ’25

Every Tuesday morning my alarm goes off at 5:55 am. I stumble out of bed, get dressed, brush my teeth, and wash a pale, tired-looking face. By 6:15, I am out the door, braving the cold air as I make my way up to Hogan 3 to catch an Uber to St. John’s Parish. Although getting up before the sun is not ideal, I instantly forget about how tired I look, the fact that I have class less than an hour after I get back to campus, and that my stomach is grumbling from not having breakfast. The warmth of the volunteers, the heat reverberating off the grill, and the smell of buttermilk biscuits ground me.

St. John’s Parish provides free meals to members of the greater Worcester area Monday through Friday, 7:30 – 10:30 am, and operates a food pantry Saturday mornings 8:00 – 10:00 am. When I first began volunteering at St. John’s, I was largely in charge of helping assemble breakfast sandwiches, scooping oatmeal, and buttering bagels. The interactions I had were subject to the patrons asking me for more whipped cream. This was a stark contrast to last semester when I volunteered at the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker. I was used to interacting directly with visitors by bringing their meals directly to their tables. I began to miss this interaction. I found myself surrounded by volunteers, separated from the people I was supposed to be serving. 

One day Pat, one of the head chefs, brought me over to the grill and taught me how to make omelets. While I continue to struggle with flipping them, often landing a folded, half-cooked egg, making omelets has surprisingly provided me with the opportunity for the interactions I had been missing. Every time a client comes up to the counter and asks Pat for an omelet, he directs them to me. As instructed by Pat, I ask them their name and what they would like in their omelet. Sometimes the encounters are brief, it’s simply a matter of agreeing to make the client an omelet. On occasion, I learn about the individual’s story. For example, one Tuesday a gentleman expressed his gratitude for finally being able to enjoy a meal that was not made in a prison kitchen. Other times, I overhear clients expressing to Pat their excitement for finally moving into their first home. For most, being able to order a custom-made meal offers a sense of dignity and acknowledgment of being cared for. I would imagine that for most of the patrons who come through the doors of the Xavier Center, few of them are being supported by their families. For these individuals, St. John’s offers not only a warm meal and a safe place to sit down but also a chance to connect with others, with the knowledge and security that at least some of one’s needs are being met.

“The Power of Gratitude” – Cate Pfau ’25

This semester is truly flying by as there is less than one month left! My first semester being a CBL Intern has been nothing but a positive experience. I feel an immense amount of pride while surrounded by an Intern team that is passionate about community-based learning, social justice, and engaging with the Worcester community. 

As my Junior year is well underway, I can say I feel very grateful for the friends I have met, the experiences I have had, and the future endeavors I have in front of me. This semester I have been fortunate to be with the community partner WPS Transition, while also taking on the program coordinator role. With the addition of the CBL Intern Program and volunteering with WPS Transition, I have gained a greater insight into the importance of community at Holy Cross. 

The WPS Transition Program is designed for 18-22 year old young adults who have intellectual disabilities. The young adults are preparing for their adult-life through community learning experiences. Every Monday the young adults come to campus for their day program. Interacting with the young adults, their paraprofessional, and their teachers quickly became the highlight of my week! As Coordinators for WPS Transition, we have put an emphasis on creating a social, welcoming, and fun environment at the program. We have spent our weeks touring different parts of campus to show the young adults a part of our lives, while learning more about them as well. The past few Mondays have consisted of blanket making and crafts in preparation for the Holy Cross Holiday Craft Fair!

I have found a lot of gratitude and enjoyment in working alongside the young adults while making tie blankets for the craft fair. Rather than getting wrapped up in my busy schedule and looking at my volunteering hours as yet another commitment, I have learned to lean into it and be grateful for the two hours I get to spend with the WPS Transition students. I have found a lot of joy in prepping the holiday crafts, listening to Christmas music, and hearing about the young adults’ weekends while working on the tie blankets. It is a wonderful feeling to be content in the company of others, and that is what I have gained through my CBL experience! By being able to create crafts and tie blankets for the past few weeks, it feels like we are all working as a team towards a common goal. 

While working with the Transition Program, I have felt emotions that align with happiness, but I have also felt confusion or anxiety about certain situations. Yet, I have learned to find gratitude for all the emotions I endure while at CBL. Every interaction or instance can be a learning experience. The main lessons I have learned from the young adults is to find happiness in the simple things, trust those around you, and create meaningful and lasting relationships. 

“Empowering Change: My Journey with Community-Based Learning at Holy Cross” – Diana Chavez Cruz ’24

My experiences with Community-Based Learning (CBL) at Holy Cross have been among the most enriching aspects of my time as a first-generation Latina college student. Working with one of the CBL community partners, El Buen Samaritano (EBS), has been an enriching experience. It broadened my knowledge and allowed me to collaborate with remarkable individuals. 

I had the privilege of engaging with El Buen Samaritano as part of my Filmmaking in Spanish course, led by Professor Franco. This hands-on course introduces students to the art of filmmaking, encouraging us to explore and experiment with the fundamental aspects of cinematographic production. Additionally, it aims to familiarize us with the artistic and technical terminology specific to Spanish and Latin American film production. 

Throughout the course, I collaborated with three fellow students, each of us taking on different roles, to create a ten-minute documentary for El Buen Samaritano. To produce this documentary, we delved into the mission and operations of EBS, and I had the opportunity to volunteer with the organization. During this time, I met Mari Gonzalez, whose dedication to combating food insecurity resonated with me as someone who grew up in a low-income community and experienced food insecurity personally. 

My time at EBS gave me a behind-the-scenes look at how Mari and her team manage the organization’s operations. Seeing their efforts in preparing and distributing hundreds of food boxes for the Worcester community was truly extraordinary. Inspired by Mari and her team’s commitment to community service, I developed a proposal to submit to the Marshall Memorial Fund committee to support EBS’s coat drive initiative. Fortunately, my proposal was accepted, allowing me to purchase and distribute winter coats for EBS’s drive. 

This CBL experience has been truly transformative, strengthening my dedication to supporting the community. As I look ahead to the opportunities and responsibilities as a CBL intern, I am eager to bring my passion for social justice and advocacy to the forefront, continuing to make a positive impact on the world.