Being introduced to Community-Based Learning when I was a first-year student became one of my greatest experiences at Holy Cross. My Montserrat, Exploring Differences with Prof. Ryan first introduced me to CBL. Soon enough, I began my journey with Ascentria Unaccompanied Refugees Minors Program. It has now been four years since I started tutoring at Ascentria and three years as a CBL intern with one of my roles as Ascentria’s program coordinator. Each semester, I have gotten to know a different set of students eager to volunteer and participate. From previous years, I have gotten the chance to tutor in person and develop a genuine relationship with some of the students.
Volunteering at Ascentria has been a rollercoaster with part of my experience over Zoom. At first, it was difficult to adjust to tutoring the students online and even getting the technical aspects of Zoom, however, nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Through my CBL office hours with Isabelle Jenkins, I was able to converse and reflect with her on the challenges over Zoom. Zoom impeded engagement with the students because there were times that the internet would cut off or their audio would not work in the middle of tutoring. I was able to overcome some challenges by reminding them to log out and log back in. If they were able to log back in, I would stay overtime to ensure the student was having as much of the tutoring experience. I tried to connect my Zoom college experiences with the students and express understanding for how hard it must be to be remote. Through this volunteering experience over Zoom, I gained patience. I have been able to work through the difficulties and become a better mentor for the Holy Cross students. I have also reflected on why my role is needed in the first place. I began to wonder why our educational system is failing my Ascentria students, who are exceptionally intelligent and eager to learn, however, depriving them from the opportunity to grow because of their linguistic status. Ascentria is one of the community partners that Holy Cross has that brings awareness to some of the social justice issues occurring in Worcester, MA.
Engaging my time and energy at Ascentria was a rewarding experience for me as I was able to learn about the city of Worcester and have a community at Holy Cross. The Donalen Office has been a safe place for me, and I am so grateful for having Isabelle and Mattie. I am also grateful to have gotten the opportunity to know the Holy Cross and Ascentria students, as well as the staff at Ascentria. As a first-generation student with an immigrant background, I see my Latinx role interconnecting with my future career. Being an educated Latinx and a voice for those whose voices are not heard or listened to, it is our duty and responsibility to do everything we can to help students with long-term social justice issues find solutions that are not only on a community level but also on a national level.