As the semester comes to a close, and we all start panicking and stressing over midterms and final papers, the one place that I have been able to find solace has been in the CBL Office. Looking back, I was a little sad that I would be unable to take a CBL course this year, due to course requirements, but I think my role as an intern has certainly made up for that.
Some of my most memorable experiences this semester involved being one of the interns assigned to Professor Borghini’s Montserrat course, I am, Therefore I eat, assisting Ms. Isabelle in leading a reflection session in Sister Jeanne’s course, Social Ethics, and working with fellow intern, Lauren Suprenant during office hours.
Last semester, when I was applying to the CBL intern role, my drive for wanting this position was the desire to promote Community-Based Learning within the Holy Cross community. I have had such wonderful experiences with both of my CBL courses, and I wanted to share that with other students and allow them the opportunity to think of CBL as more than just an arduous burden in their busy Holy Cross schedules. Being able to work with a group of first-year students for Montserrat made me feel as if I was able to share those positive experiences. As part of the Montserrat course, each student in Prof. Borghini’s class visited Community Harvest Project, a CBL site that subsidizes the cost of growing fruits and vegetables and provides them to low income families and other members of the Worcester community. Community Harvest Project relies tremendously on volunteer work, and the students that I accompanied to the site really knew that their efforts were appreciated and played a large role in feeding Worcester families. During my last visit to the site with four students, Alex, Hanna, Christina and Julia, we were able to pick apples and tomatoes that were to be provided to families in the upcoming week. On the way back, we were able to discuss how difficult it was for families to feed their families quality food on a constrained budget, the system of food production in the U.S., and what food really means to people. Overall it was a productive experience, and getting to know the students, making sure they got the most out of their CBL experience, and standing as a woman for and with others in the Worcester and Holy Cross community was truly rewarding.
My other memorable experience was helping to lead an in-class reflection session for a religion course. I had never met a nun before, so meeting Sister Jeanne was very exciting for me. As part of the in-class reflection session, students had to tie in their CBL experience to an excerpt from Toxic Charity. I had a group of about 10-12 students, and it was really nice to hear about their positive, and sometimes negative, experiences from their CBL sites. Students spoke about their experiences and interactions with the Worcester community, and most of their reflections were positive. However, I think it is also important to acknowledge that some students had less than stellar experiences, which included feeling like their work was not beneficial or that their time and efforts at their sites were not organized or were wasted. This led to us being able to discuss how to better our CBL experiences, improve sites, and how to prevent people from needing the services of whichever site students were working in. In these reflections, each student was able to tie some aspect of their CBL experience to the real world, reminding me that the goal of CBL is to incorporate learning in and out of the classroom in a nonconventional manner. I had substantial and good quality conversations and reflections with my group, and it was nice to hear students talk freely about their CBL experience. Most said that they’d be willing to go out of their comfort zone and take another CBL course – so I have to say, the Donelan Office is clearly doing something right.
A couple days after helping lead Sister Jeanne’s in-class reflection, she sent me a little care package via the CBL Office. Not only did I feel tremendously appreciated, but many of the items she gave me were Halloween related, and receiving them from a Nun just made it all the better.
Finally, an amazing perk of being a CBL intern is getting to call Fenwick 321 your office for one hour, once a week. Every Monday from 11am to 12pm, I have my designated office hours with fellow intern, Lauren Suprenant. Office hours are almost always fun, insightful, and occasionally involve a multitude of tasks and interactions. Overall, office hours include helping Ms. Isabelle with tasks related to CBL, for example, organizing binders for the collection of sites, or printing and making copies for CBL students; during that one hour, we are also given treats and goodies that Ms. Isabelle so kindly prepares for us over the weekend; and my personal favorite, getting a visit from political science professor, Professor Fleury, and his nine-month old baby Charlie.
Thanks to the Office of Community Based Learning for making my semester so memorable and worthwhile.