“Woodland Academy and Building Relationships: Connecting Life Experiences”- Anna Kerns ’26

As I am finishing up my first year as a CBL Intern and as we begin welcoming new Interns to the cohort, I have been more active in my reflections on my CBL experiences. Just two years ago, I enrolled in a Montserrat course with a Community-Based Learning component, intrigued to learn more. I began the class, expecting a few class-trips into Worcester, some guest speakers, and services similar to those I participated in during high school.

When Professor Jenkins explained the CBL component to my class of first-year students, invited us to the enrollment session, and took us through orientation, I became much more curious. Truthfully, none of it seemed new to me. I had previous experiences volunteering, and assumed it would not be different to those. Entering my first year of College, I was very confident in my identity. I knew what I came to Holy Cross to study, I knew exactly what I planned on accomplishing, and I felt that I knew exactly how to do it. The CBL component, in my mind, would be another activity that I engaged in during my time. 

Little did I know that this was not the case. My academic interests shifted drastically, my priorities changed, and I often found myself feeling lost, stranded, and uncertain. The one consistency was the time I spent weekly at Woodland Academy. I always knew that regardless of what my plan for my future career was developing into, what I was going to do during the upcoming summer, and what my next four years would be like, there would be a classroom of Kindergarteners waiting for me, eager to tell me about their week. I began to look forward to my two hours in Worcester every Friday morning, and I got to know each of these students personally. I could identify when they were feeling stressed, overwhelmed, excited, nervous, or scared without them telling me. I knew how to help them perfect their counting, adding/subtracting, and multiplying skills without losing their interest or pushing them too hard. I found it so inspiring to be a leader in this environment because, for much of my day-to-day life, I was searching for my own guidance- for grounding in my own emotions, assistance in my own academic pursuits, and identifying my own emotions. One specific experience that has stuck with me, was when a new student joined our class. The other students, excited to get to know her, were shocked when she met them with tension, irritation, and unfriendliness. The cheerful classroom environment was disrupted as teachers and administrators attempted to understand this new student’s behavior, and she responded with cursing, screaming, and being mean to the other students. 

During a group reading time, all the students were sitting on the carpet and listening to a teacher read them a book. This new student, talking and interrupting the teacher, was told to sit at her desk, away from the other students. Angrily, she obeyed, and sat alone at her desk. In an attempt to calm her down, I started asking her questions and getting to know her. From this five minute interaction, I learned that she had just moved to Worcester from a shelter in Grafton, and she had an older brother, and her Mom was expecting a baby soon. She was nervous about starting over in a new town, and she seemed very hesitant on what changes a new sibling would bring. I could identify that, just like me, she needed some guidance. Her behavior was a reaction to the uncertainty that she was feeling about the future, which I recognized very easily, as I often felt this uncertainty myself. 

From this interaction, I realized how valuable my time at Woodland had been. My experience was greatly beneficial to my own life, in that it brought new perspectives and it helped me identify new skills in leadership, guidance, and emotional support, as I was simultaneously supporting these students, and helping them gain the confidence they needed to take control of their futures. As I entered the CBL Intern cohort, and explored new community partners, I kept this mindset and the lessons I learned from these experiences close. I am looking forward to returning to campus in the Spring, and continuing to grow these relationships.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *