“How Lucky I Am” – Patrick McQuillen ’23

My senior year blog post has been a moment that I have looked forward to ever since I was a sophomore, reading the thoughts of my fellow senior interns as they each prepared for their time after Holy Cross. However, now that it is my turn to write a reflective blog post about my time at Holy Cross, I just couldn’t find a way to properly express my gratitude for my past three years in Worcester, Massachusetts. That was, until I found this picture that I saved in my phone as I left for college in the fall of 2019. The picture comes from the book series, Winnie the Pooh, a childhood favorite of mine. Though I have many favorite quotes from the adventures of Winnie and all of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, no quote has been more impactful than, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” This quote has been especially impactful to me during moments of change because it reminds me to be grateful for painful goodbyes. As I sit at my desk wiping tears away from my eyes to complete this blog post, I am once again reminded about just how grateful I am to be able to volunteer in the city of Worcester and work with some of the brightest minds on campus as a part of the CBL intern Program. 

As a first-year student, I had little to no idea about what I wanted to do, and how I would spend my next four years at the college. So, when I was told that my class had a mandatory service requirement, I willingly welcomed the opportunity to serve at Ascentria Care Alliance. With an open and vulnerable mindset, I jumped at the opportunity to lead “conversation classes” during my two hours at Ascentria. On a weekly basis, myself and about ten individuals of various linguistic backgrounds would practice basic conversation skills by talking about our interests. At first, conversation was very simple, discussing topics like favorite movies, dishes and music. However, as weeks went on, conversations between students and myself deepened as discussion turned to the feelings of uncertainty that many students felt regarding the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, these discussions were abruptly interrupted as students from around the nation were sent home due to the spike in COVID-19 cases in the spring of 2020. It was during this time that I realized how much these students, and my time at Ascentria, meant to me. It was also during this time that I decided to apply to the CBL Intern Program. Oh how lucky I am that I made such a decision. 

What followed my decision to apply to the CBL Intern Program has been the most impactful three years of my life. As a sophomore, attending school online in the fall, the CBL Intern Program provided me with community during a time when so many felt alone. From weekly “office hour” conversations with Prof. Jenkins, to monthly intern meetings where I got to meet new people from the safety of home, the 2021 intern cohort was a group of people that provided me with a sense of consistency in an uncertain time. 

Once it was safe enough to return back to fully in person classes and service, I was reminded about my passion for service and justice during my year at the St. John’s food pantry. As a resident of the Vernon Hill community during my junior year, I would walk myself down to the parish in the morning and help work the kitchen for two hours a week. Although this was a drastically different experience in comparison to my time at Ascentria, I greatly appreciated the relationships that I was able to build with other volunteers who were on the same mission as myself. Getting the opportunity to work with like minded individuals on a weekly basis is an experience I will never forget, how lucky I am to have worked with such awesome people. On the topic of awesome people, promotions within the J.D. Power Center gave the 2022 intern cohort the opportunity to meet a new intern coordinator, Mattie Carroll. Mattie’s positive impact to the Donelan Office and intern cohort was immediately felt, and it was clear how grateful that each individual was to have her join the group in an administrative capacity. The senior celebration for the class of 2022, was a reminder about the gratitude that everyone felt for each other  and helped me process my transition into my final year at Holy Cross. How lucky I am to have known every member of the 2022 intern cohort. 

And last but not least, I am especially grateful for my last year at Holy Cross. My weekly service at the WPS Adult Learning Center in the fall provided me with great support from coordinators like Kristin Barfaro during a difficult time when I suffered a broken hand in the fall of 2022. Additionally, I am especially grateful for my time at the City View Elementary school during this spring. The relationships I have been able to build with younger kids who attend an extra hours program have been especially meaningful to me because I am able to escape from the daily stresses of life for two hours a week through their creativity and humor. Obviously, I am especially grateful for the 2023 intern cohort, but I fear that I cannot find the words to describe just how lucky I am to have met such a great group of people. So, I will save it for the last intern meeting of the year 🙂 .  Oh how lucky I am that finishing this blog post is so hard.