Thank you to our Community Partners! – Funmi Anifowoshe ’17

On Wednesday, April 13th, CBL Intern, Funmi Anifowoshe’ acknowledged and thanked our community partners for all that they do to serve as co-educators of Holy Cross students. Thank you, Community Partners! Read Funmi’s speech below.

Community engagement and Community-Based Learning has been, and continues to be, very important during my time at Holy Cross. I have been faced with some tough questions in the classroom – for example, how social and economic inequality plays a role in education, how individuals acquire and make use of a new language, and how food and hunger affect the daily lives of individuals and families. Questions that, theoretically I could answer, I could write a paper about, and that I could even personally conceptualize in my life.

However, through my community-based learning experiences, I was forced to do more than just that. I was tasked with taking all the theoretical applications we learn in the classroom, and applying it to or observing it in the Worcester Community. Through these courses and my community engagement, I have developed a greater sense of self. I have learned humility, empathy, and passion. But more importantly, I have learned to individualize people. It is very easy to allow abstract problems to transform themselves into stereotypes and prejudices. My experiences have allowed me to see beyond these stereotypes, and put names and faces to the wonderful people that live and work in Worcester.

These lessons are ones that I bring back to the Holy Cross campus and regularly share with my classmates and others. My passion for community based learning and community engagement never wanes. And it never ceases to amaze me how hard the community partners work to make Holy Cross students feel involved and valued at their sites. We do not face easy challenges nor ones that can be quickly fixed, otherwise the Community Sites and the Community Partners would have no need to exist. They make us work hard, they make us tackle our fears and implicit biases, and they make us see the true value of the greater Worcester community. Every individual that I have met through my engagement in Worcester, whether it was the community partners, the site coordinators, or the people of Worcester themselves, have had such a positive impact on my life.

The lessons learned are lessons that I cherish and will take with me. These lessons remind me that my goal in life should be a woman that stands in solidarity with others; whether in Worcester, Massachusetts, or on a global scale. I, and many others students as well, hope to be positive extensions of the community partners – who through their role at their sites, embody the Holy Cross motto of “men and women for and with others.”

The effect of community based learning may not always seem large nor significant, but without a doubt, community partners have fostered the growth and development of so many Holy Cross students; students that all cannot be here today, but wish to thank you for allowing them into your lives…for allowing them to discern the true meaning of service; for allowing them to discover a multifaceted understanding of social justice; for allowing them to advocate for and stand as part of the Worcester community.  

And so today, I do more than just say thank you on behalf of all the Holy Cross students that are engaged in the Worcester community. I want to acknowledge and affirm the meaningful impact you have had on so many of our lives. Personally, I am grateful to you all for allowing me to see Worcester beyond the view from the Athletic Center or my room; from beyond the view of the restaurants on Shrewsbury street, namely InHouse Coffee…but, for allowing me to also see Worcester through the eyes of a Brazilian immigrant trying to learn English so that she can help her son with his homework, from the eyes of a rambunctious and funny middle school student working to improve his grades, and from the eyes of a site volunteer that is passionate about giving back. Today, I stand here to thank you all for enabling me to see through their eyes. Thank you for all that you do.

What my CBL at Dismas House has Taught Me – Zhenxi Qi ’16

The CBL intern selection for the next academic year brought me one step closer to college graduation. Seeing how passionate the prospective interns are, I was reminded of the same enthusiasm I wished to bring to the work I do, and I asked myself if I have fulfilled my commitment in serving other students and the Worcester community at large. As I look back and reflect upon how much I have grown as a person through my encounters and engagement with Community-Based Learning, I have nothing but gratitude towards those who encouraged me, touched me, and inspired me both intellectually and spiritually.

I took two CBL courses in my senior year. An interdisciplinary course in Community Engagement and Social Justice with Dr. Sterk-Barret and Liberation Theology with Professor Eggemeier, which gave me the perfect opportunity to participate in direct service and channel my learning into deeper understanding.

I spend on average three hours a week immersing myself at Dismas House, a halfway house that assists former inmates to rejoin the Worcester community. Apart from interacting with the residents occasionally, I have been given a variety of tasks in being able to understand the work of Dismas from within. Everything from filing paperwork to soliciting donations through phone calls, budgeting office supplies to grant writing, the skills I acquired and the stories I collected from CBL are not replicable in a classroom setting. The welcoming staffs at Dismas have given me enormous trust and opportunities for growth by teaching me new things in all aspects of the organization (budgeting, lobbying, farm operation, etc.). Their kindness pressures me to be at my best at all times, and I constantly ask myself, what can I bring to the community that is distinct from their own employees? What are the urgent issues facing the organizations that we, as college students can help address and resolve?

Of course the answer is not easy, but CBL is an avenue to explore the open-ended questions with humility, diligence and innovation.

First, we learn about the marginalized section of the society by humanizing the population we would not have had contact with otherwise. Recalling a presentation I did about homelessness, I focused heavily on unsheltered homelessness over sheltered homelessness. Our tendency to portray homelessness as sign-holding males on the street limits our capacity in imagining the rest of sheltered homeless population and their struggles. Through “hanging out with” the residents at Dismas, I came to realize that providing a shelter is not an end goal but only a beginning of the mission; a full integration requires a network of long-term support to provide people with a dignified environment for possible self-development. What is missing from the numbers and charts in textbooks is the human aspect of “social problems”, the understanding that it is not only the time and money that these residents have lost during their sentences, but also the social safety net, confidence, and in many occasions, love and trust from their surroundings. Our education rarely addresses poverty in such non-economic terms, yet it is one of the most urgent appeals I have come to witness through CBL.

Second, sometimes the seemingly trivial and repetitive tasks in service yield great importance to organizations, but the back-scene is often dismissed because they are not as obvious to be linked to a cause. I remember the days when I spent hours going over historical files to identify the needed documents to sort them into alphabetical order. I must admit, it was not the most pleasant job of all, but someone would have had to do it for administrative and assessment purposes. If I could be the one to alleviate the burden of the other staff, why not treat it as a rewarding process? At the beginning, I often resented writing proposals for a small grant, but later when I heard that the executive director and the resident fellow spend the majority of their time writing grant proposals, I felt it was naïve for me to cherry-pick the tasks I enjoyed doing without looking at the bigger picture. The reality of a non-profit organization is not as glorified as the front-stage service to the population being served, and we should not overlook the fundamental building blocks of a well-operated organization.

Third, I believe that there is something about us as young college students that allows us to contribute to our community partners in a unique way. One day when I was chatting with a long-time resident at Dismas House, he commented on the inconvenience of job-hunting since the shelter did not have a computer even though they had Wi-Fi, and the transportation to the public library is also quite limited. Most residents do not have a personal laptop to write their resume, not to mention the barriers they face when searching for employment. This reminded me of the recent upgrade of our computers in the library, and I visited ITS on campus after work that day. Within a couple e-mails, an old computer was being donated along with a keyboard and a mouse! Today, a corner of the living room is set up as the work-station for the residents to browse the Internet at any time.

There are many other instances that remind me of how privileged I am to enjoy the education I have today: No matter what we leave off at our sites during the CBL hours today, we are the ones who come home with knowledge and experience, step on the next phase in our journey, and carry on with our own lives. However, I believe the impact CBL’s experience leaves on us is not ephemeral. The justice-seeking lens we acquired and the promise we made to the communities shall transcend time and space to the next chapter in our lives, to the other communities we care about. And that is one promise I would like to keep from this point on in my life.

Reflecting on Service – Dung Nguyen ’16


Come the end of May, I will not be spending the summer in anticipation of another September. Instead, I will begin a new chapter of my life that I have been preparing for throughout my academic career. And so, in this time of transition, I have a seemingly endless list of questions.

Some are small: Should I get a new bag for work? What sort of utensils should I bring to a new apartment?

Some dauntingly large: Where am I going to take my career? How will I get there?

Also, Where will I take my passion for social justice and community work?

Though my CBL course and my time as a CBL Intern, my passion for social justice has grown and developed. I will miss the times when I come into the Donelan office to share the stories from volunteering at places like the Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC). Anticipating the end of my time at Holy Cross, I relish the remaining opportunities to sit among a group of my friends and have important conversations on social justice. Will I lose this commitment if I can no longer work with my peers or the people at my site?

One day at RIAC, I represented a client at the Department of Transitional Assistance in downtown Worcester. The DTA is a game of perseverance and this was not my first go-around. I knew I would be spending the entirety of my time, 3 or so hours, at this office. So my clients, a young man, his wife, and their child, and I anchored ourselves in.

The silver lining to this situation was I had plenty of time to acquaint myself with this family. I love this part the most. Learning about the unique lives of other people has always been what I enjoyed about volunteering with the community. Talking with them, they shared the same joy that reminded me of my own family. In that crowded, stuffy office, I learned about their lives before they became refugees and what they hoped to achieve now that they were here. It was amazing to hear what they had to share.

The next day, I arrived to my CBL class and shared my story with the class. It was great to hear reactions from my classmates and eventually, the discussion led to something more in-depth. We explored the events that led this family here: the conflict that pushed them to the United States and the, ultimately, inefficient system we had in place to assist them. Now, these kind of conversations are something that I have internally and often.

For me, the path to learning about social justice originated in a desire to help other people. Through many experiences, it allowed me an understanding of myself and our society. It has caused me to consider places and people beyond my first impressions, past what I can get by a simple description. As I move forward, it may be entirely possible that service will fall by the wayside, drowned by all the big and little tasks ahead of me. But, the lessons of CBL will always stay with me, enriching my life, and, I hope, allow me to enrich the lives of others.

Reflections on my Time as a CBL Intern – Sarah Curran ’16

A year ago I anxiously waited to hear back from the Donelan Office regarding my CBL intern decision. I was wracking my brain trying to remember my answers to each interview question, rereading my application, and checking my email every 5 minutes. At that point, all I could think about was how I wanted to help promote Community Based Learning on campus by sharing my positive experiences in a CBL seminar with other Holy Cross students. I knew that I would enjoy the role and that I would have fun interacting with CBL students; what I didn’t anticipate was how much I would grow throughout the year with the support and encouragement of the Donelan office staff and my fellow interns.

As a senior, I have engaged in a lot of self-reflection as graduation quickly approaches. What I have realized is that my favorite classes do not fall neatly into an academic discipline but that they span across nearly every department on campus. The common thread: they were all related to social justice. One of my favorite classes was Professor Susan Crawford Sullivan’s class, Sociology 361: Leadership, Religion, and Social Justice. It was this class that introduced me to CBL by enabling me to take on a leadership project in the community. It was also this class that inspired me to become an intern and eventually encouraged me to apply for a post-grad year of service in order to learn more about issues related to social justice. Therefore, upon reflecting on the past 3 ½ years at Holy Cross, I can honestly say that applying to be a CBL intern was one of the best decisions that I have made during my time on the Hill.  I have grown as a leader by organizing and leading the Nonprofit Careers Conference as well as by working as the marketing intern for the office. Similarly, I have also learned how to be a better team player by being afforded opportunities to work with my fellow interns in order to continue to promote CBL on campus. However, the biggest reward that I have gained is without a doubt the incredible support network of the Donelan Office. Over the past year, Isabelle, Michelle, and the CBL interns have been both my biggest cheerleaders as well as my shoulder to cry on. Whether I am stressed and running on 2 hours of sleep because I have a paper due the next day or celebrating a job offer, the Donelan Office is always my first stop for support (after a call to my mother).

My biggest regret is that I did not apply to the position sooner. As a senior, I only had a year to get to know all of the incredible people in the Donelan Office and to make an impact in the Worcester community by engaging in CBL. Therefore, I encourage everyone to consider applying to become a CBL intern as a way to meet some of the most incredible and supportive people at Holy Cross. The Donelan Office not only shaped my time at Holy Cross but also my future plans. Therefore, if you need another thing to add to your Holy Cross bucket list before you graduate, applying to be a CBL intern should definitely be on your list.