“In the end, there is always joy” – Valentina Maza ’23

As the semester comes to an end, the Holy Cross atmosphere is filled with many things. A predominant one is stress for finals and upcoming assignments. But I am a firm believer that there’s beauty and joy in the midst of our student chaos. I found that joy as a freshman when my Social Ethics class introduced me to CBL. When I first came into Holy Cross, I was afraid I wouldn’t connect with my community and who I am; little did I know! I had the fortunate opportunity to volunteer at the Marie Anne Center and work with English Learners. I met people from all over Latin America, mainly from Brazil, who aspired to become fluent in English to achieve the dreams they shared with us.. But beyond the learning portion, it was a moment to reflect and share about who we are and where we come from. We used to always go back to food as one of our main topics of conversation. The students shared about the delicious dishes they have at home and family gatherings. I then understood the deep meaning of our roots and how we can always go back to something as a reminder of our identity, whether that be food, music, language, etc. CBL allowed me to return to a part of mine. Being with the students felt like we were creating our sense of community, a family. 

Almost two years and a pandemic later, I built upon that same sense of community through CBL. This year I am working with the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program twice a week. Our students come from a variety of different backgrounds, from Worcester to the Dominican Republic. While WPS might be a different site from my previous one, there are some essential similarities. For instance, we had an activity led by Professors from the Spanish department to talk about our culture. Some students brought their Puerto Rican flag and others an ingredient from their favorite dish. Other days, students pick songs by their favorite artists and teach us how to dance. Just like at the Marie Anne Center, we continue to learn about each other by sharing our roots and how they have shaped us.

So, what does my Holy Cross atmosphere look like? Certainly stress and nervousness for finals, but it is filled with immeasurable joy. I have had the privilege of learning about the lives of students from Marie Anne Center and WPS. But as I said, this has been different from the usual way we learn in the classroom. Our identities have shined through all of our conversations and activities. I also have to say that gratitude fuels my atmosphere. After COVID, I wasn’t sure what college and life would be like, and I admit that I was afraid about how different CBL would be this time. Although life is not back to normal, I am endlessly grateful that I had the opportunity to do it again, to regain what I thought was a lost sense of community.

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