SPUD leader, Daisy Fanter ’23 and CBL Intern, Valentina Maza ’23 were selected by the Community Engagement Steering Committee to offer speeches at the annual Community Partner Appreciation Reception (on 3/3/23). Daisy and Valentina’s touching remarks were the highlight of the reception. Read their speeches here!
Hi, my name is Daisy Fanter. I am a junior here at the college studying Biology and Religious Studies. Being from Nevada, my connections here in Worcester were slim to nothing before coming to Holy Cross. Us west coasters are few and far between! However, thanks to some of your organizations and the programs offered here at Holy Cross, I have been able to build connections throughout the past three years through both my academic life and my personal life. With that, I have come to realize Worcester is truly a special community
My freshman year, I decided to move to Worcester on my own. It was in the peak of COVID, and the campus was closed, but I still wanted to experience this city and what it had to offer, so I decided to rent an apartment in downtown Worcester. It was quite a unique and scary experience, being 3,000 miles from home knowing no one. But I had the opportunity to explore Worcester on my own. From riding the WRTA to working out at YMCA on Main St., I learned just how amazing Worcester is by getting a sense of the people during this unique time.
Once I arrived on campus, I realized I wanted to continue to get to know Worcester and its people. So, I began working in the SPUD program my freshman year as a tutor for the ANSAAR of Worcester program. Here I tutored one student in Chemistry every week. While everything was virtual, it was such an awesome way to step out of the isolation of COVID and begin making my very first Worcester connection. Flash forward to this year, I am a Program Director for our SPUD program at the Nativity School of Worcester, and my time there has totally changed my life and who I am striving to become. We learn, grow, and become who we are through relationships and the people we meet. Working at Nativity has impacted who I am today,
The staff and students at Nativity have given me so much more than I have given them. I remember my first day there and feeling so nervous and afraid of not remembering how to do long division or helping with Spanish homework. Yet somehow, when I arrived all that fear instantly left me, and I was just happy to be a part of this community. On my very first day of working with my student, we spoke extensively about his love for music. I remember being in awe when an eighth grader began telling me his favorite artists were groups like Coldplay, Nirvana, and Van Morrison. A few visits later, something happened that reminded me that these relationships are, at their best, mutually transformative. We were speaking about music, like we usually did, and he was telling me about how he wanted to learn how to read sheet music. I had told him it wasn’t as scary to learn as it may look. I remember him almost immediately questioning if I could play an instrument. Almost dismissively I had said that I played the piano growing up. He almost leaped out of his chair with both curiosity and excitement to ask me all about it; however, his biggest question was why I hadn’t told him sooner about my old hobby. I gave him an honest answer and told him it wasn’t ever something I was proud of that I almost was embarrassed that I was always practicing and playing the piano when I was younger. His demeanor changed and he said, “Daisy, I think that being able to play the piano is so cool. I’m sorry that you were embarrassed to play, but I think it’s something to be proud of.” We went back and forth for a few moments and got back to work, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what he had said.
It’s moments such as these that make community engagement so important for me and for so many students . Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is measured by the compassion of its members.” It’s the compassion we all see in the Worcester community that makes it so special. I would like to thank you all for your compassion. For opening your doors to all of us students and giving us the opportunity to learn and love the community of Worcester just as much as you all do.
Good morning everyone, my name is Valentina Maza and I’m a current senior at Holy Cross. As my journey as a Holy Cross student comes to an end, I can confidently say that I was able to find a home away from home here because of community engagement. By the end of my sophomore year, I became an intern for the Community-Based Learning Office. Our work as a group continues to be one of my greatest joys at Holy Cross. Indeed, through CBL, I have learned that in the end, there’s always joy.
Four years ago as a first-year student, I constantly tried to fit somewhere and failed time after time. It was not until I volunteered at the Marie Anne Center during my freshman year through CBL that I finally grabbed onto a missing side of who I am.
At the Marie Anne Center, I was lucky to work with English Learners. I was once an ESL student, still am, who had migrated from Venezuela. Therefore, it made sense to join this center for my CBL. To my surprise, I met people from all over Latin America, mainly from Brazil, which means they spoke Portuguese, and I did not. I spoke Spanish. So, it seemed that my initial logic no longer made sense.
Nevertheless, we did share something; just like them, I also aspired to become fluent in English to achieve the dreams we all got to share with one another. We all shared who we are and where we come from. As a common denominator, we used to always go back to food as one of our main topics of conversation. The students shared their delicious dishes at home and at 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 food, music, or language. 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. Through this experience at the Marie Anne Center, I learned that it wasn’t me who had something to give them, partially because I didn’t speak Portuguese, but also because I was the one who walked away from the experience with endless lessons.
In addition to my experience at the Marie Anne Center, I have been blessed to see Worcester outside of Holy Cross, which would not be possible without any of you. For instance, during the CBL Intern training, we had the opportunity to visit El Buen Samaritano. The missions and goals Mari, the Director of EBS, shared with us inspired me. Following our visit, I knew I had to contribute to El Buen Samaritano’s amazing work. I then applied to our Holy Cross Marshall Grant and brought items to their winter drive. Once again, I felt at home within El Buen Samaritano space. It is people like Marim and people like each and every one of you here today, that allow students like me to feel that way.
So, what does community engagement mean to me? Endless learning experiences and challenges, as well as immeasurable joy. I also have to say that gratitude fuels my understanding of community engagement. Throughout my soon-to-be four years at Holy Cross, I wasn’t sure what college and life would be like. Although my time here is ending, I am endlessly grateful that I had the opportunity to create my own sense of community because all of you allow students like me to be part of your work. On behalf of the Holy Cross community, thank you, our community partners, for all that you do.