Thank you, J.D. Power III ’53! – Christian Realbuto ’20

This past Wednesday, 4/18, was known as “J.D. Power Day” in dedication to J.D. Power III (‘53)’s $3 million gift to the newly named J.D. Power Center for Liberal Arts in the World. A primary goal of this Center has been to engage students with experiential learning opportunities throughout their time at Holy Cross. After reading more about J.D. Power, I have learned that he “championed the voice of the customer,” and provided company executives insight into what their consumer market truly sought in a product. For example, J.D. Power went before McCulloch Motors executives in 1965 urging them to redesign their heavy, industrial-grade chainsaws into something lighter and more accessible for the everyday consumer. Power’s ability to place himself in the shoes of the consumer, and value the consumer’s opinion in designing a product has provided him an edge throughout his career. His attributes of listening and challenging the status quo have been molded into the new Center, with its opportunities for student-driven entrepreneurship projects, and academic internships across disciplines.
I have had the privilege of engaging with the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, a program that, to borrow from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps motto, allows students to “prepare to change for good” (and a program that is now a part of the J.D. Power Center).  With each visit to a community partner, each encounter with a newfound friend at Woodland Academy or Worcester East, each story heard at Ascentria Care Alliance, each reflection session, Holy Cross students are given a springboard into a social justice-driven mindset. Just as J.D. Power cultivates ideas with the consumer in mind, so too has CBL allowed students to enter into their future work environment with the underserved in mind.
This form of experiential learning cannot be “unlearned,” or forgotten after students leave Mount St. James. It is my opinion that in their time with CBL, students are shaped by the people they meet, the stories they receive and the experiences they encounter. The sheer multitude of transcending classroom experiences stays with students long after their graduation from Holy Cross, and informs the decision they make in the workforce as alumni.
Through CBL’s own format of experiential learning, I have become shaped by the Worcester community around me—something I never envisioned for myself heading into my first-year Montserrat seminar. I am so grateful for the CBL office, and I know that I speak on behalf of the CBL interns when I say how grateful I am for J.D. Power’s generous gift to the CBL office, and the other programs in the new Center.

Mr. Joe Donelan ’72 Visits with CBL Interns – Jack Chaffee ’20

As an intern for the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, getting the chance to meet Mr. Joe Donelan ’72, the founder of our office, was an opportunity that I and many of the other interns felt we couldn’t pass up. During the time that I met with Mr. Donelan, he asked what has been most meaningful to me about my involvement in both CBL and the Intern Program and if I had any idea of what I want to do after graduating Holy Cross. He told stories of his passion for involvement in the community and shared guidance on how to continue this engagement in the future. Many of the interns can agree that the CBL Intern Program has greatly impacted not only our involvements on campus but also what we want to pursue post-graduation. This is demonstrated by some of our senior interns, who shared with Mr. Donelan that they recently have been accepted to positions in Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest, Peace Corps in Rwanda, and City Year in Boston. Because I am only a sophomore, plans for after graduation seem very distant, but I know they will be here before I know it. As our conversation continued, I told Mr. Donelan that I have been considering sharing life with a L’Arche Community post-graduation. Talking with and listening to Mr. Donelan was a refreshing reminder of some of the goals of our office, and was greatly appreciated by all of the interns. Furthermore, on behalf of the entire CBL office, I would like to thank Mr. Donelan for his extremely generous donation that has allowed for our office to exist! We are incredibly grateful for his dedication to Holy Cross, our student body, and the city of Worcester.

Community Partner Reception Speech, Clare Orie ’18

On Wednesday, April 18th, we had the opportunity to bring community partners to campus for a reception to thank them for all that they do to welcome, support, and co-educate Holy Cross students engaging in experiential learning. This event was co-hosted by the Teacher Education Program, Government and Community Relations, and SPUD. CBL Intern, Clare Orie ’19 had the opportunity to share words of gratitude with the folks in attendance. Below is her speech. Thank you to all of our community partners for making CBL not only possible, but a meaningful and engaging experience.

I’d like to first thank all of our community partners, who have kindly and generously opened their arms to Holy Cross students everyday. I believe I speak for many when I say that I have grown immensely – spiritually, academically, and personally – through engaging with your organizations.  Mornings spent in Ascentria’s ESL Classrooms and in AVID classes in Worcester public schools and evenings at the Marie Anne Center have unwaveringly led me to build more meaningful relationships with so many in the Worcester community, year after year, and this has entirely to do with your welcoming spirit and encouragement. Thank you.

Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, reminds us: “That’s the big question, the one the world throws at us every morning: “Here you are, alive. Would you like to make a comment?”” .  I’d like to say that my community engagement experiences, notably through Community-Based Learning, have helped me learn how to answer that question. CBL has encouraged me to thoughtfully and critically reflect on how to engage in our community and our world.  It has taught me that genuine cultural exchange is not an extractive engagement: it is an opening of heart to the entirety of another’s reality and way of life, and a vowing to never close it.

My experience with Ascentria provides an example of how this opening of heart can occur through community engagement. Through Ascentria’s Services for New Americans program, I had the privilege to serve as an English teacher’s aide in a classroom of recently arrived refugees. As the room was filled with adults from around the world, all speaking many different languages, communication in the conventional meaning was rather difficult. Yet, every Monday morning, community happened away. The hugs given, the hands on backs, and the laughs ensuing from trying to explain words in different languages all taught me that in a room where barely any words are comprehensibly exchanged and understood, mutual vulnerability and togetherness fundamentally connect us all. I leave my four years here smiling at the pieces of ripped paper with addresses in Cameroon, Somalia, and Vietnam, from students who tell me I have another family with their families, and feel very grateful.

Through opening your doors to Holy Cross students, myself included, you have invited me to put faces and names to complex global realities. The many mornings, afternoons, and evenings spent at your organizations have taught me that community-identified needs and meaningful engagement are reciprocal in value and benefit. These experiences have truly lead to me recognize the legitimacy and necessity of contributing thoughtfully to the future of others.  I have been truly touched by the power of love and connectedness, and I will continue to pursue the works of such to confront that which denies human wellbeing and solidarity to so many in our world.

Father Greg Boyle, S.J. tells us that “The strategy of Jesus is not centered in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in standing in the right place” – in, perhaps, kindergarten classrooms, with residents in health care facilities, in sharing a community meal, or in ESL classrooms. On behalf of all Holy Cross students that participate in community engagement with your organizations, I want to thank you for welcoming us to stand alongside you in the right place. Thank you.