Thank you, Senior CBL Interns!

Senior CBL Interns

The Donelan Office thanks our senior CBL Interns for their service to our office, to the Holy Cross campus, Worcester, and beyond. Our senior Interns are: Mattie Carroll ’19, Maya Collins ’19, Kara Cuzzone ’19, Caroline O’Connor ’19, and Jerome Siangco ’19. Their efforts and engagement have expanded and deepened the work of our office greatly. Each of the seniors has facilitated reflection sessions, planned Donelan Office events, collaborated with community partners, advised and supported CBL students, served as role models to their fellow CBL Interns and peers, and served as inspiration to us and to so many throughout their years at Holy Cross. It has been an honor and a privilege to work with these students. We will miss them greatly but are also excited to see them take their next steps and continue to enact change. Continue reading for reflections from the seniors on what they are taking away from their time as CBL Interns.

Mattie: The CBL Intern Program has led me to grow as a person and leader. Being an Intern has helped me to realize my own leadership capacities and has pushed me to develop my understanding of the issues I am passionate about in Worcester and beyond. CBL Interns have become a community of people that I look to in times of struggle and in times of great joy throughout these past years. We have pushed each other and supported each other (and eaten many delicious cookies together) in the CBL Office. I could not be more grateful for all that the CBL program has given me and I know that going forward I desire to build community with those around me, no matter where I find myself. 

Maya: As I enter the real world into a clinical research coordinator role, I hope to take with me from the CBL Intern Program the sense of community and support I was so lucky to have in my time at Holy Cross. I don’t think that the Donelan staff and other Interns realize how much they inspire me and how much their work means to the Holy Cross and Worcester communities. Ending my time with this program and cohort of Interns is one of the hardest things to leave behind at Holy Cross, so I hope to create a similar support system in my new job. That being said, the knowledge I have gained from the role will last always, so I hope to take a critical, social justice lens to all that I do and be with others, not just for them. 

Kara: During my time as a CBL Intern, I have grown more than I could have ever imagined. Initially, I sought out the program in the hope of connecting with other students who were passionate about social justice. What I didn’t realize, however, was how much this community would help me hone my leadership skills. Their support and guidance has allowed me to take ownership of who I am and become a strong, confident leader in the process.

Caroline: Through my involvement with the CBL Intern Program, I have learned more than I would have ever thought possible. I have been afforded the opportunity to build transformative relationships with other Interns, community partners, and faculty and staff. These relationships have prompted me to develop a more critical consciousness about our world, our structures, and the way that I exist within them. I have been encouraged and supported in finding my voice, and using it to question the perpetuation of problematic policies and systems. Most importantly, I have found a home among some of the most compassionate, intelligent, loving, and supportive individuals I have ever met. As I move into the real world, I carry with me all that I have learned from each person that I have met through my experience with CBL. For all of this, I will be eternally grateful. 

Jerome: From the CBL Intern program, I will take with me the humility to lead. Thinking of the process to become an Intern, I talked about my achievements and how I would be a good CBL Intern. As an Intern, I had opportunities to speak on panels, and with the Board of Trustees and other College guests. What I take away is not my persuasiveness, but rather the unease I felt during each experience. The unease came from me wanting to listen to what others had to say, rather than share my own experience. I realize now that this unease I felt was me wanting to be humble. As a CBL Intern, I grew an awareness of my own humility and how being humble is an important leadership trait. I am humbled and thankful for how the CBL Intern program has shaped me into the graduating senior I am today.

“Why I Left Investment Banking to Pursue Social Entrepreneurship” – Jake Medina ’16 (alumni blogger; reposted from

In Medium, Jake Medina ’16 writes about his experience leaving investment banking to pursue social entrepreneurship. Jake discusses his experience as a CBL Intern and his work with Ascentria Care Alliance as being foundational to his education and factors for his recent career change. Read Jake’s entire post on

An excerpt from Jake’s post:

While my pursuit of an investment banking internship took up some time, it was only a small part of my liberal arts education. My days were spent studying, hanging out with friends, and volunteering in the Worcester, MA community. I was originally drawn to Holy Cross for its mission of educating “men and women for and with others” and this mantra permeated every facet of life at Holy Cross. From day one, it was ingrained in students that an education is not meant to only serve you — you are also meant to use it as a tool to serve the world.

In a sense, Holy Cross was a little gated utopia of academic rigor. Nestled on a hill, there was a constant flow of vans coming to and from campus, whisking students off to volunteer in various parts of the city — food banks, middle schools, immigration centers, and more. As a young civic minded individual, this was captivating and I wanted to know where I could make my mark.

Perhaps because my father is a Cuban immigrant who came to the United States as a child, I was drawn towards working with Spanish-speaking immigrants. While my childhood was sheltered, filled with rigorous academic study and a splattering of extra-curricular activities, I always knew that I had it good. Whether from a story told by my father, speaking with my grandparents through a mix of broken Spanglish, or watching my parents’ relentless work ethic, I knew that my opportunities were built upon generations of sacrifice. I threw myself into my studies accordingly.

Now at Holy Cross, watching those vans travel to and from campus, I finally felt like it was my chance to give back. All the studying, generations of sacrifice, and relentless work ethic would finally be put to use solving the world’s problems. When I was presented with the option to tutor refugee children who came to the United States by themselves, I jumped at the opportunity.

I remember pulling up to a tucked-away parking lot, walking up two flights of stairs, and seeing a number of nervous students there to meet us. I felt stupid and out of place in my Vineyard Vines pullover, but was quickly paired with a student who needed help with math as he studied for his GED (high school equivalency) test. Over the coming months, I would work with a number of students, teaching everything from algebra to the alphabet.

Needless to say, I quickly learned that I couldn’t change the world in one day. Back at Holy Cross, once the vans returned, students would huddle up and discuss our experiences while asking hard questions. How did it come about that a 15-year-old has only a 1st grade education? Why are so many former prisoners struggling to adapt to life outside the prison walls? Why are the local food pantries so busy?

Our college professors encouraged us to engage with the gritty reality of the world, to constantly question and search for answers, even if the answers were unsatisfactory. We learned that, while we weren’t changing the world, we were changing ourselves — challenging our world views, checking our assumptions, and growing in the process.


“Forming Friendships through CBL” – Jack Chaffee ’20, Caitlin Grant ’21, and Caroline O’Connor ’19

This month’s blog post is a collaborative effort by three CBL interns of varying class years who share time with young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program (Caroline O’Connor ‘19, Jack Chaffee ‘20, & Caitlin Grant ‘21).

In light of recent political events and proposed budget plans, we believe that the community engagement and relationships formed in programs such as the WPS Transition program are of the utmost importance. These relationships defy the culture of exclusion that is perpetuated through proposals to cut funding to the Special Olympics and special education programs. Our experiences have exemplified the importance of inclusive and mutually transformative relationships, as well as highlighted the reality that no budget plan or monetary value can be placed on them. Through funding cuts and the diminishment of the value of programs that support individuals with disabilities, we all suffer. Further, enacting such cuts diminishes the worth of these programs.

As outlined in their mission statement, the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program aims to “prepare students with disabilities for adult life, as lifelong learners and productive community members. Students are provided the opportunity to learn and grow through community learning experiences, travel training, internships, and functional academics based on their needs, interests and vision for their future.” Each of us has been able to share time with young adults in the WPS Transition Program in different ways. Holy Cross students and WPS Transition students partner through various avenues. Throughout the week, Holy Cross CBL students travel throughout the city to meet with WPS Transition students, and on Wednesday mornings the WPS Transition students visit Holy Cross through a Spanish-speaking collaboration.

Jack: Through the WPS Transition Program, I have been able to form relationships with young adults and explore their academic interests during our time together. One of the students recently expressed an interest in science and animals, so we decided to visit the Science Complex at Holy Cross. My academic interests lie in economics and international studies, so it was rewarding and interesting to explore some of the laboratories for the first time together. Together, all of us came across a laboratory with huge stuffed, taxidermist animals and plenty of animal skeletons. While some of the other CBL students were not overly interested, and even possibly grossed-out, it was a lot of fun for all of us, and important to express support for the academic interests of the young adults. I found this to be a meaningful experience because the CBL students were able to learn more about a department none of us had extensive experience in and the WPS Transition students were able to dive more deeply into a subject they love. We all enjoyed the time we shared together.

Caroline: In the time that I have been able to share with the students at WPS Transition program, I have had the opportunity to build meaningful relationships that defy socially constructed norms of friendship. Unfortunately, these inter-ability friendships are uncommon within our contemporary society. Through being in relation with students, we have been able to push each other out of our comfort zones. Last semester, along with many of the WPS Transition students, and a cohort of students from Worcester State University, I had the opportunity to participate in an inclusive theater program. While theater is definitely not one of my strong suits, this diverse community proved to be very supportive and encouraging as I stumbled over lines and very often made a fool out of myself. In allowing myself to be vulnerable among the group of individuals with whom I was working, the relationships formed proved to be very meaningful. This semester, as I continue to work with many of the same students, I am able to continue to strengthen the bonds that I began to form last semester, and which were formed out of shared experience and vulnerability.

Caitlin: The WPS Transition Program has granted me with the opportunity to form friendships with students who I typically would not have had the ability to meet and spend meaningful time with if it were not for my participation with CBL. I began to engage with WPS Transition last semester and have continued to build and strengthen my friendships with the students into this semester.  Each week both the Holy Cross and the WPS students participate in different activities during our time together. One of my favorite activities that we all had a lot fun with was when we made empanadas! We met in the Brooks-Mulledy Residence Hall kitchen, turned up some fun reggaeton music, and everyone was given a different task. Some cleaned the food, others cut and prepared the meat and vegetables, and a group began to heat up the oil that the empanadas would cook in. Until this activity, I never realized how cooking can provide a group with such an effortless opportunity to bond.  There was a task for everyone and it allowed for each individual to contribute to the final product in some way, we all could share in the end goal (the empanadas) equally. Many of the WPS students shared that empanadas were something they ate commonly at home, and having never tried them before it was a great experience to try someone else’s version of “comfort food.” Through working together to make the food and then sharing in a meal together we became a closer group. I believe that Holy Cross students, who are “for and with others,” can share in the WPS Transition mission as “lifelong learners and productive community members.” As cooking highlighted, we all have the opportunity to engage in an activity that may seem unfamiliar to us but that will ultimately lead us to learning something about ourselves and others.  These friendships and bonds that we create enhance our community; we all have something special that we contribute to the community and vital programs like WPS Transition facilitate the ability to share in this.

CBL students and WPS Transition Students visit the Science Complex at Holy Cross.

“Bilingualism and CBL” – Mattie Carroll ’19

Last semester I took a course titled “Bilingualism in the Spanish Speaking World” through the Spanish department with Professor Alba-Salas. This class opened my eyes to the encompassing and expansive nature of the concept of bilingualism. I think I found it to be particularly fascinating after studying abroad and more fully understanding what it means to use two languages on a daily basis and to encounter errors and challenges that come with transferring between the two languages in my brain. In class we discussed many of the cognitive benefits that can come with being bilingual, but also about the negative outlook that so many people have toward bilingualism in the United States and how that can contribute to a deficit-based lens among bilingual people and the wider community.

I am currently taking “Seeking Justice” with Professor Michelle Sterk Barrett, in which we are to complete a CBL justice-based project to be accomplished throughout the semester. I have worked with Spanish-speaking populations in Worcester since my first semester at Holy Cross and became eager to share the knowledge I had gained through the “Bilingualism” course with all those I knew as bilingual (or multilingual) in the Worcester community. My goal was to promote bilingualism among the youth I have come to know at Ascentria Care Alliance and the New Citizens Center Young Adults Program. My first step in achieving this CBL project was to meet with Professor Alba-Salas to craft a workshop around the theme of bilingualism to be presented at Ascentria during one of our mentoring workshop sessions. Professor Alba-Salas came to the session with us and helped me to explain the myths of bilingualism and how we can work to promote asset-based views of bilingualism for ourselves and society.

“The Joining of Charity/Mercy and Justice” – Courtney Esteves ’19 (Guest Blogger)

Courtney Esteves ’19 is taking a new CBL class for second semester seniors entitled, “Seeking Justice.”  The class recently read excerpts from Robert Lupton’s “Toxic Charity” as well as Rabbi Sacks’ “To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility.” In response to this week’s class readings, Courtney wrote the following reflection:

There are many different directions in which I could take this reflection, because I so appreciate much of what these readings had to offer! That said, one meaningful connection I drew between Sacks and Lupton is the critical importance of the “joining” or “marriage” of interrelated concepts. For example, Sacks writes that the untranslatable word “tzedakah” “joins together two concepts that in other languages are opposites, namely charity and justice” (32). Lupton offers a similar assessment, but in his case, about justice and mercy. More specifically, Lupton highlights the frequently quoted verse from Micah with his own spin on it — he writes that “Twinned together, these commands (act justly and love mercy) lead us to holistic involvement. Divorced, they become deformed” (41).

I believe both of these points to be at the core of the authors’ arguments. In my own experience, I have come to understand that charity/mercy and justice must be intertwined, reinforcing, and mutually informing for progress to happen. Furthermore, not only must they be intertwined, but their separation may very well cause more harm than good, as Lupton points out. Additionally, another connection I made was in the way Lupton describes mercy as “a door, an opening, an invitation to touch a life, to make a difference. But it is not a destination” (42). This immediately reminded me of Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ’s image of service as the “hallway to the ballroom” and “exquisite mutuality” as the ballroom itself. In justice-oriented efforts, I believe it is critically important to not throw out service or mercy altogether. Rather, it is important to continue service-oriented and mercy-driven initiatives with a critical awareness that these are merely steps along the way to a greater good (justice and exquisite mutuality, for example). And yet, to only vie for justice or exquisite mutuality without participating in the work of service/mercy can also lend itself to issues.

Quite literally, how can we reach the “destination” or the “ballroom” if we do not open the “door” and walk through the “hallway”?