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.

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