As a second semester senior, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect back on my community-based learning experience since my first year on the hill. I became involved with the CBL community through my Montserrat course, “Identity, Diversity and Community,” taught by the wonderful Prof. Virginia Ryan. This CBL course required a two hour per week service commitment, and based purely on my class schedule and convenience, I began volunteering at the Marie Anne Center. At first, I was nervous about the time commitment each week, going off campus, and driving a van. However, unbeknownst to me at the time, this experience would become one of my favorite parts of the week.
The Marie Anne Center is an after-school program run out of St. Bernadette’s Church and as a volunteer, I was responsible for tutoring children in the after-school program. Two memories that stick out most in my mind from my time volunteering at the Marie Anne Center are working with a large family who immigrated to the United States from Central Africa, and being asked to facilitate a girls-only group called Girl’s Circle. First, working with the family of brothers and sisters from Central Africa, I was able to utilize the French I was learning at Holy Cross to help them with their homework. Seeing the light bulb go off when I was able to explain something in French and then English was fulfilling. Being able to communicate with them in two languages also taught be much about these kids, their stories, and what they had to contribute. All of the siblings loved to dance, which is a shared passion of mine, so we always had a lot of fun together.
Girl’s Circle was initiated by Sister Michele, the director of the Marie Anne Center, and she asked me to be its first facilitator. Those sessions with girls ages ten through twelve were extremely eye opening. As females, all of us shared similar obstacles, but these young girls were also forced to think about their race on a daily basis, something that I, as a white woman, do not think about as often. Their stories and experiences were sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting, and other times their stories were hilarious and fun.
Through my growing passion for service, Professor Ryan’s engaging class discussions, and the biweekly reflection sessions lead by Isabelle Jenkins and some past CBL interns, Mary Angevine ‘17 and Elaines Peña ‘18, I was inspired to join this community and do more. Discussions with the interns and my classmates illuminated important topics such as toxic charity, the two feet of service (charity and social justice) and the danger of a single story. Now, as an intern in the Donelan Office, I am lucky enough to have these interesting discussions often with other interns as well as through facilitation in other CBL courses. I am so grateful to be a part of this community of giving, thoughtful people and am doing everything I can to cherish these last few months of CBL on the hill.
If I could give one piece of advice to new CBL students, it would be to go into the experience with an open mind. It’s easy to get frustrated with the time commitment, but going into service learning with a positive attitude and a willingness to open yourself up to learn from those in the Worcester community is an invaluable experience.