CBL in our “New Normal” – Morgan Vacca ’23

Life at Holy Cross is busy. This semester especially, I’ve noticed that people’s schedules are crazier than ever. Successfully planning something with others is becoming an accomplishment, and having time to yourself is becoming rare. Seeing the campus revert back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic has been exciting. However, the stress that process has brought on students is extremely taxing, and, dare I say, “unprecedented.”

As a CBL Intern, I was worried about the impact that this unexpected stress would have on students going to their CBL sites (myself included). Having what seems like a million things to do is distracting. This kind of distraction seemed like it would take away from students’ experiences at their sites, and their desire to connect with others. 

At the beginning of October, I helped facilitate a reflection session in a Montserrat seminar. As I prepared myself for this session, my fears about students and CBL were heightened. At that point, most of the students had started going to their respective sites, and I was so worried about what they would say. However, the second I sat down, I was pleasantly surprised. I barely had time to introduce myself before students started telling me what site they were going to, who they met there, and what had happened. Whereas most conversations I had on campus always seemed like everyone was just trying to get to the next place they had to go, this one was different. Everyone was engaged. Everyone was fully present. Most importantly, it seemed like everyone was truly passionate about what they were doing.

After four years here at Holy Cross, I never realized the real power of connecting with one’s community until that day. This semester has been hectic for everyone. However, instead of adding to that stress, it became clear to me that our community is one of the few things that can relieve it. Forming connections with others, reflecting, and learning about oneself is something that it seems like no one has time for anymore. However, being present in the community gives people the opportunity to do exactly that.

Four Years Filled with Lessons and Change – Valentina Maza ’23

Almost four years later, I have yet to believe my college experience is coming to an end. As I was thinking about what I should write, I realized that my time as a CBL intern is also falling short. This would mean that I have a single blog post left to write. It’s crazy how time flies, isn’t it? I know it sounds cliche, but it truly amazes me. I recall who I used to be during my first year, and sometimes, I have difficulty recognizing my old self. Some might say that’s also crazy, but I firmly believe college is about ongoing change and figuring out who we are. Multiple experiences have driven my personal growth throughout my time at Holy Cross. My time as an intern and working alongside the Donelan Office have influenced me since my first year in Worcester. Because of that, I would like to reflect on my time with the CBL office.

During my first year, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Marie Anne Center as a part of my “Social Ethics” class. It served the primary purpose of CBL; I could apply the concepts I learned in class to real-life situations. However, I discovered more about myself there than anywhere else, so I joined CBL. My role as an English tutor truly shifted my perspective on life and helped me understand the need to remove presumptions. I assumed I would meet
Spanish-speaking students, but most spoke Portuguese. I was outside of my comfort zone for the semester but learned so much from each of them. Due to my lack of Portuguese, I was always nervous about not giving my best self. But even then, each of them welcomed me with a smile. Until this day, I cherish the Brazilian woman who invited me to share dinner because she had passed her citizenship exam. They taught me the importance of gratitude. Amid my discomfort, I felt at home with all of them.

After that year, I knew I wanted to continue working with the CBL office, so I became an Intern. I volunteered with the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program during my junior year. I met some of the most remarkable and determined people who also taught me many lessons about life and myself. They showed me how finding joy and appreciation in everything could change how we view life. Lastly, this year I am an Ignite Fellow tutoring third graders. I
work with them online since they are in Texas. Like all my other experiences, I have learned to work with my students individually, not as a homogenous group. They show me that we all have different needs, but even then, the least we can do every day is treat others with kindness and never forget about a smile.

Following my three volunteering experiences, I reflect on my old self during the first year. I have learned so much about others, and I have learned about myself through them. As my CBL experience begins to wrap up, I am forever grateful for the lasting influence it continues to have in my life.