Over the past four years I have had a lot of time to reflect on the realities of my surroundings. Being a part of the Holy Cross community and the Worcester community has taught me many things. It is heartwarming and easy to name an endless amount of memories that ground me in my love for Worcester. Things that were once so new and a bit scary, are now things that feel familiar and comfortable four years later. As you may have guessed, community-based learning has contributed to my love for Worcester, and has given me numerous opportunities to not only explore my passions, but has also fostered my personal growth as a student and a Worcester community member. Although I am thankful to look back at these sweet moments, my reality at Holy Cross and in Worcester are not the realities of everyone. Participating in CBL has taught me that. It has been genuinely eye-opening to reflect on three CBL experiences of mine that have awakened new passions in me and have inspired new beginnings.
It seems all too recently that I was volunteering at Worcester East Middle School as my CBL placement for Spanish 301. Having previously volunteered at different school programs before, I had an interest in further exploring education-based service experiences. At Worcester East I tutored native Spanish speaking students, most of whom were recent immigrants to the United States. I was stunned when I came to find that besides the two hour weekly block that I volunteered, the students had no other resources to assist them with the language barrier. No language programs, no Spanish speaking teachers, no assistance. I couldn’t possibly imagine going to school for eight hours a day not understanding anything that was being said or taught to me, let alone at the young age of nine or ten. Wake up call number one: the reality is that there are deep educational inequities in the world. Although this reality was hard to see, I found it to be a pivotal point in sparking my passion for education. Academically and service-wise, I found myself reflecting on my own education realities and feeling eager to somehow pursue this social justice issue further. I soon declared the education minor, and found myself looking forward to other CBL courses that offered placement sites at schools or with kids. And now, a senior heading into my last month of college, I am finding myself exploring careers in education policy, and education based nonprofit work.
As overwhelming as this last semester of college has been, it was hard not to take on every unique opportunity that came my way. In a combination of fear that I didn’t know what I was going to pursue post-grad, and a budding love for education and non-profit work, I applied to participate in the Non-profit Careers Conference, taking place the last week of winter break. I had been involved with non-profit organizations before, through volunteer experiences in high school, CBL courses at Holy Cross, and academic curriculum, but this was my first time engaging with non-profit work as an exploration of potential career paths. It was exciting for me to have the opportunity to work in collaboration with a local Worcester non-profit (The Mustard Seed), and equally exciting for me to also use this conference as a way to enhance the plethora of learning experiences I had been gaining during my first semester of being a part of the Donelan Office as a CBL intern. NPCC introduced me to my second wake up call: food insecurity. I am extremely fortunate to live in a reality where food insecurity is not something I have to think about. But it is the reality for many in Worcester. NPCC opened my eyes to a second social justice issue I am passionate about, and taught me the importance of commitment, the power of deep seeded care for others, reflection, and confidence in oneself.
After these experiences, I had to ask myself, what do I do now? My passions were clear, my career goals were getting clearer, and I had one last semester to make the most of my Holy Cross education. Taking a course called “Seeking Justice” sounded like the right way to go. This course has provided me with the space to turn my passions into new realities and reflect on my academic and personal growth over the past four years. To see this come to fruition through my CBL project for the course, has given me confidence in my abilities to lay the course of my next couple of years. On April 20, 2022 my fellow “Seeking Justice” classmate, Molly and I put on a panel discussion on food security in Worcester and beyond. After months of planning and organizing we were both proud and excited to share with the Holy Cross and Worcester community our devotion to educating people on the issue of food insecurity and how we can all be active and intentional in navigating the best ways to target this issue through both charity and justice. I was able to collaborate again with familiar organizations such as the Mustard Seed (with whom I had worked with during NPCC) and new organizations like Project Bread and the Worcester County Food Bank. The panel was a success, and was an amazing close to cementing my identities as a Holy Cross student and a Worcester community member. I am excited to use these experiences as the foundation for a new beginning following graduation and am forever grateful for the Donelan office of Community-Based Learning for being a light of guidance along the way.