The U.S. Presidency & The Call of Service

These remarks were made by Michelle Sterk Barrett at the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) friendraiser on November 30, 2017.

I’m delighted that we are gathered here at the U.S. Presidential Museum in Worcester because I think the U.S. Presidency, at its best, is intertwined with the concept of service and service is at the heart of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps.

I believe our finest U.S. Presidents (and any elected representative for that matter) are those who approach their leadership as a form of service.  As Herbert Hoover said, “Being a politician is a poor profession. Being a public servant is a noble one.” Our ideal Presidents are people who have chosen to offer their skills and talents in service to our nation and our global society.  They are people who have heard a call to a greater good and are willing to sacrifice their own personal needs or inclinations to follow that call. This, of course, is not so different from what every IVC member has chosen to do. The IVC member similarly follows a call to sacrifice their own individual needs or preferences for the sake of a greater good.

Along with modeling a form of servant leadership through their own actions, our Presidents are often remembered for the ways they inspire us as citizens to think of the common good and offer our own resources, talents, and gifts in service.  Just think of John F. Kennedy’s well known line, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

In more recent days, we have similarly seen our Presidents highlight the importance of service to our nation.

Jimmy Carter, who devoted his life to service through organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Carter Center said, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something… My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

President George H.W. Bush laid the groundwork for Americorps in his presidency and focused our attention on the bright lights of selflessness in communities around our nation. During his inaugural address he stated, “We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a Thousand Points of Light…We all have something to give.”

Bill Clinton played a significant role in spreading both Americorps and service learning on college campuses (which is what my office at Holy Cross does) and said, “Citizen service is the very American idea that we meet our challenges not as isolated individuals but as members of a true community, with all of us working together.  Our mission is nothing less than to spark a renewed sense of obligation, a new sense of duty, a new season of service.”

George W. Bush stated, “We are given power not to advance our own purposes nor to make a great show in the world, nor a name. There is but one just use of power and it is to serve people.”

Finally, Barack Obama began his career through serving as a community organizer.  As President he stated, “That’s when America soars, when we look out for one another and we take care of each other, when we root for one another’s success, when we strive to do better and to be better than the generation that came before us and try to build something better for generations to come, that’s why we do what we do. That’s the whole point of public service.”

I believe we are at our best as citizens and as a nation when we think beyond our own interests and seek to be in solidarity with and in service to the suffering of our brothers and sisters.  While our Presidents ideally model this for us and call us towards such greatness, it is through organizations like the Ignatian Volunteer Corps that everyday citizens can put this calling into action.

So, again, welcome to our Friendraiser at the U.S. Presidential Museum in Worcester. I hope you leave inspired by the greatness that can exist in our nation when our leaders and citizens follow the call to serve.

Burncoat High School National Honor Society Address

The Donelan Office’s Director, Michelle Sterk Barrett, offered the following remarks at Burncoat High School’s National Honor Society induction on March 30th.

Thank you for the very kind introduction, Stephanie, and thank you to Ms. Suprenant and Mr. Foley for the opportunity to be here with you tonight.  Congratulations to each of you for achieving at the level that has enabled you to be inducted into the National Honor Society on this very special evening.   Your induction into NHS is a testament to your hard work, perseverance, and strong character.  It’s also a testament to the fact that you are fortunate to have been graced with noteworthy talents and skills that have gotten you to this moment. Whether you are naturally brilliant or simply a hard worker who perseveres through academic challenges until you succeed, you have something remarkable to offer our world.  I hope you will view your gifts and talents in exactly that way—as something remarkable to be generously shared with the world.

In looking at the National Honor Society’s  website it describes itself as “the nation’s premier organization established to recognize outstanding high school students. More than just an honor roll, NHS serves to recognize those students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, service, leadership, and character.” While all four of the NHS goals are important, I would like to focus on one particular aspect of the NHS vision: service.

As  someone who has worked over 20 years in the field of service-learning, I’ve spent much time thinking about the questions that surround service.  Questions such as: What motivates one to serve?  What exactly is service? How can one serve well?  I’d like to spend the next few minutes sharing my thoughts and reflections related to those questions.

I’ve seen many motivations for service.  Often it begins as a requirement expected by one’s high school, one’s church, or one’s parents.  It may sometimes continue because of the benefits it can provide in the college admissions process or by the experience it can add to a newly developing resume.  While the initial motives may not be entirely selfless, I’ve witnessed people powerfully impacted by service—regardless of their initial motivation.
One of the many reasons why I think service can be so powerful is because of the way in which it has the potential to restore humanity to all involved—both the person who might have initially been thought of as the “client” to be served and the person who might have initially been thought of as the volunteer doing the service.

In a world that can be so isolating and individualistic…one in which we often interact with people via screens as much as we do in person… service can heal and can show us a more authentic and meaningful path through life.  It can show us how interconnected we all our to one another as human beings.  It can help us learn how to give love and receive love better.

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, wrote a book entitled The Gifts of Imperfection, in which she discusses how recent research in biology and neuroscience demonstrates that we are hardwired for connection and that we have an innate need for this.  She points out, however, that the messages we are sent about what it means to be successful in our society often do not reinforce this importance of connectedness.  On the contrary, these messages regularly emphasize the importance of individual self-sufficiency and this can eventually lead all of us to increased separation and isolation from one another.

I think these messages about what it means to be successful have become particularly warped in the way they have been conveyed to your generation.  At the time Ms. Suprenant was taking my class, I was reading a book by William Deresiewicz called Excellent Sheep.   He’s a former professor at Yale who writes a thought-provoking cultural critique of the way in which young adults are being raised to believe that their value is in their accomplishments: grades, test scores, trophies, and other measurable outcomes or credentials. He says that from this vantage point, “The purpose of life becomes the accumulation of gold stars.” (p. 16).

Both of these authors point out how the culture in which young adults are currently being raised contrasts sharply with what researchers point out we innately desire as human beings.  It leads us to see others as the competition and our individual success as primary.
Service, on the other hand, is all about recognizing our interdependence and interconnectedness as humans.   Service suggests that we should not think individualistically about what is in our own best interest on a path to success, but consider the needs of others as equal to our own.  Service asks us to give ourselves away by loving and valuing others in the same way that we want to be valued and loved.  The great irony of service is that in choosing to put others first, in choosing to love openly, we often find a path to greater fulfillment, meaning, and purpose for ourselves.

Ultimately, service stops being something that we go out and do elsewhere, but becomes a habit, a way of life, something that is so central to one’s being that it is integrated with every action and every choice one makes.  This way in which service can be integrated into everyday life is illustrated so clearly by parents and guardians as they do not go somewhere else to do service, but do it consistently through preparing meals, changing diapers, assisting with homework, driving to activities, etc.

One of the most beautiful examples I’ve seen of a person who has integrated service into his whole way of being is Fr. Greg Boyle. He’s a Jesuit priest who lives in the Los Angeles area and runs a non-profit called Homeboy Industries that provides job training to young men and women who have formerly been involved in gangs.  He does not frame the work he does as service, but as kinship.  He says that kinship is standing with others as equals; not serving the other, but being with the other. Remembering that we belong to each other… Finding room for those who have been left out rather than judging them as unworthy of being let in.  He counters the shame that is so prevalent in the young men and women he works with.  Shame that results from believing that they are not worthy of love because of feeling rejected by their parents, their neighborhoods, or their society.  A shame that he says, “permeates to the marrow of the soul.” He seeks to love unconditionally in order to restore people’s belief in their own worth and help them to recognize they are valued as human beings.

Please allow me a moment to share a story from his book, Tattoos on the Heart, that illustrates the beautiful way in which he serves.  He tells the story of an urgent phone call he received at 3 a.m. from one of the youth he worked with: Cesar.  Cesar says, “I gotta ask  you a question. You know how I’ve always seen you as my father-ever since I was a little kid.  Well I hafta ask you a question.”  Now Cesar pauses, and the gravity of it all makes his voice waver and crumble as he asks, “Have I…been…your son?”  Oh, yes, Fr. Boyle explains.  Cesar exhales with a deep sigh of relief as he says, “I thought so.”  “Now his voice becomes enmeshed in a cadence of gentle sobbing” (p. 31).  Fr. Boyle explains that, “in this early morning call Cesar did not discover that he has a father.  He discovered that he is a son worth having…and he felt himself beloved” (p. 31).

Now, we won’t all serve in the exact same way with the exact same population as Fr. Boyle does. But, he does offer us a model worth following in many ways. The way he treats all people as equally worthy of dignity.  The way in which he restores connectedness to those who feel disconnected.  The way in which he uses his particular unique talents and gifts to live authentically.  These are things that each of us can do no matter where we work or where we live.

One of the most important things for you to consider as you look towards the future is how can I serve in my everyday life? It is important that you not think of service as something you do only when you can fit in a planned visit to a non-profit. Service should not be a separate activity done elsewhere, but should be how you choose to live your life in each moment.  You serve when you love those around you.  You serve when you think of the needs of others as equal to your own.  You serve by authentically and confidently sharing who you are with the world rather than trying to be who you think others want you to be.  You serve by developing your gifts, talents, and academic abilities to their fullest so they can contribute to making our world a better place.

I leave you tonight with two very important questions to ponder: First, how will you continue to live the ideals of the National Honor Society for a lifetime by integrating excellence in scholarship, service, leadership and character in all that you do?  Second, how will you become the best possible version of yourself by fully developing and utilizing your unique talents and gifts in service to your family, your neighborhood, and our world?

Boyle, Gregory. (2011). Tatoos on the heart: The power of boundless compassion.
New York, NY: Free Press.

Brown, Brené. The gifts of imperfection. Center City, MN: Hazelton.

Deresiewicz, William. Excellent sheep. New York, NY: Free Press.


Reflections on the Poverty Simulation

Reflections on the Poverty Simulation by Lillie Reder

The main reason I applied to be a CBL Intern was to express to my classmates and friends how crucial it is to incorporate yourself into the larger community when trying to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of our society, and how they influence the day-to-day functions of our lives. Working closely with the Donelan Office provided many opportunities that I would not have known about otherwise.

The first opportunity that I was able to take advantage of was an intensive poverty simulation brought to Holy Cross by the Office of Multicultural Education and the Missouri Association for Community Action. At first I thought it would be a fun exercise that would shed some light on the daily struggles people in poverty suffer, but after an hour of training I realized it was no game or minor exercise!

During training I learned the breakdown of the hour long simulation, which went, in a very simplified manner, as follows:

♦Everyone is assigned a persona, with detailed descriptions including age, gender, other family members, recent employment standings, current financial standings, weekly responsibilities, and whether or not they are affiliated with another family in some way (ie: one teenager was carrying the child of another family member in the simulation).

♦Families sat down together to debrief and figure out all the payments that needed to be made during a regular week and who needed to be where at what times in terms of school or work.

♦After a ten minute period of getting familiarized with your family, the first week began.  “Weeks” consisted of 15 minute time slots where families had to run around the room to different stations that represented a variety of facilities like a pawn Shop, the bank, a mortgage collector, social services, etc. At each facility participants had to give bus passes, and if they didn’t they would have to go to the Quick Mart to buy one before they could complete their necessary errands.

♦The families would have two minutes, which represented the weekend, to rest before the next week would start and they would have to complete all of their tasks again. Sometimes if they were not able to complete tasks on time, the volunteers, or workers would go around and fine them, or on some occasions evict them from their homes.

♦Not only did the families have to worry about the list of tasks they were assigned to accomplish, but they also had to be weary of the “Luck of the Draw” cards that were randomly handed out and brought either good or bad news, which in the end would always add stress to the busy “weeks.”

Overall the simulation was very powerful to watch, I personified the mortgage banker and collected everyone who rented homes, monthly rent or mortgage payments. When families did not pay within the first two weeks of the month, I was forced to give them notices, and if they still were unable to pay by the third week I had the power to evict them from their homes. Although I was obviously reluctant to do this, I wouldn’t have a job if I didn’t and would then have been in the same position they were in.

Every participant that I encountered by the end of the third week was run down and frustrated because things did not always go their way; they would miscount their money, not have enough, and get even so stressed about obtaining more money they would at times resort to stealing from other families or properties. Although it was only an hour long simulation, by the end everyone was beat and really feeling an emotional and physical toll on their bodies. The stress and frustration that permeated the room eventually diffused after the last whistle was blown signifying the end of the simulation. We all knew, however, that in real life a whistle doesn’t just blow and everything turns right again. The last hour we had all just spent together, feeling at times defeated is how many people feel every day. It is hard to truly express how much the simulation affected me—everyone should take advantage of this opportunity and discover their own reaction to poverty!

Everyone took away something different from the simulation because all of our experiences were different. We weren’t all the same families with the same handicaps or advantages which made for a more versatile and at times overwhelming experience. I am more than excited to partake in the next Poverty Simulation in November and hope for a larger turnout than our first one. The understanding you walk away with, especially being a student at Holy Cross, opens your eyes to what is happening outside our gates and provokes a desire to do something to change it for the better.

Lastly, I just wanted to note the amount of student volunteers that had their own encounters with poverty. I learned a lot about different organizations that helped them when their families were in tough situations or instances where they had to use the same facilities we had represented in the simulation. A lot of the associations prevalent today really help families in need, and hearing how my classmates were affected by these groups really brought a new perspective to them. I think a lot of times people, myself included, recognize that certain organizations or groups do good for society and our communities, but neglect to further understand why or how they provide such positive outcomes. If more people understood how these organizations work to alleviate poverty we may be able to better capitalize on what they are doing right, and in the long run, find a solution to these problems.


Reflections on my first year

Reflections on my first year
by Isabelle Jenkins ’10, Assistant Director of the Donelan Office

Six years ago, I had my very first interaction with the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning. I was a junior at Holy Cross, and taking my first elective, Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies (as a pre-med student, I had very little room in my course schedule). I elected to do an on-campus project to raise awareness about breast cancer and to fundraise for the cause. What I never would have predicted at the start of that project was that my project not only would turn into the Holy Cross student group, HC for a Cure, but that my project would be one of several things to cause me to forgo applying to medical school, attend Divinity School, and return to Holy Cross as the Assistant Director of the Donelan Office.

Not only did my CBL experience in my Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies course deepen my engagement with the course material and enhance my learning of the theory, but it also sparked in me for the first time the idea of possibility. For so long, I really only thought I was going to do one thing, and that I would work my hardest to do that very one thing very well. It never crossed my mind that there were other things I might enjoy, might be good at, might learn from. But when I ended up in my first elective course, which also happened to be a CBL course, I was forced out of this mindset, as I had to learn new skills and build strong relationships to be successful in my CBL project. I had to reach out to community partners who were working to raise awareness for breast cancer, I had to connect deeply with people in the Holy Cross community who had been affected in some way by breast cancer, I had to work with a group of Holy Cross students to put on a successful event, and I had to reflect on my experience, looking critically at the ways in which the theory was being put into practice (and at the ways that my identity as a woman affected my ability to be successful due to the (mostly) unconscious marginalization of women in everyday life). Discovering and developing these new skills enabled me to do so much more than I thought I could do, to see the possibilities that lay ahead for me.

The relationships I created though CBL only further enhanced the opening up of possibility in my life, as the people I had conversations with and the stories I heard inspired me to get out of the science lab and engage with the life surrounding me. This is not to say that the analytical skills I gained in my science courses were not worthwhile. Rather, this is to say that my community engagement experience allowed me to further hone my analytical skills because I was now able to pair them with deep relational skills. The stories that I heard from breast cancer survivors, the conversations I had with non-profits regarding the challenges they face in their work, and the hope that I witnessed in the nurses and doctors working with breast cancer patients exponentially increased what I learned in the classroom. The possibilities that these relationships and my learning experience opened up for me became so much brighter than the one I had tethered myself to at a young age. They became so bright in fact that my path changed, my goals expanded, and my desire to go to medical school became a memory instead of my dream.

Coming back to Holy Cross and to the Donelan Office six years later has further proved to me that participation in CBL (for all parties involved – students, faculty, community partners) opens up possibilities that didn’t seem possible before, most especially due to the relationships formed throughout the CBL experience. From the student who wants to be a teacher because of her experience tutoring math to eighth graders, to the community partner who can recruit more broadly because of a marketing video made by a group of CBL volunteers, to the faculty member who is inspired to reflect more with her students because of the deep connections they make in their CBL journals, the possibilities that the CBL experience brings about, and the relationships that are formed through the experience, seem endless. My greatest hope as an educator in this field is that students come to know that which brings great meaning to them through this hands-on relational work, as well as critically analyze the structures that marginalize so many. This combination of meaning-making and critical analysis can come together to light a fire in students to explore not only all that is possible to them and to the world, but also all that they thought was once impossible.

Thus, my greatest learning from my first year working in the Donelan Office is that CBL, and the relationships formed through the experience, inspires participants to make the impossible possible. I’ve experienced it myself, and I’ve witnessed it over and over again in my past ten months being back on the hill. It’s challenging work, it’s frustrating work, and it’s rewarding work. There is no greater joy for me in my work then to see a relationship created through the CBL experience bring about so much momentum to keep going, to keep trying, to keep tackling the world as it is. The possibilities that CBL creates, and the willingness to go after those possibilities from students, faculty, and community partners alike are what is going to begin to help turn this world into the world that it should be. There is much more work to be done, structures to analyze and dismantle, and many more to engage, but CBL helps to turn this overwhelming and impossible work into that which is achievable and that which is possible.

What a Week!

By Michelle Sterk Barrett, Director of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning

There have been so many exciting events for the Donelan Office in the past week including: a welcome dinner where our new CBL Interns met the current Interns; the Vanicelli lecture by CBL Intern Jake Medina ’16;  the second Hidden Worcester Tour for faculty and staff led by Dr. Tony Cashman; a CBL faculty lunch where three CBL Interns (Cindy Nguyen ’15, Jenny Sipiora ’15, and Sarah Paletta ’15) shared their reflections about how community engagement impacted their intellectual and personal growth at Holy Cross; a fishbowl reflecting upon Volunteerism and Social Problems moderated by CBL Intern, Cindy Nguyen ’15 and SPUD Intern, Nick Cormier ’15; the Community Partner Reception sponsored by the College’s Community Engagement Committee; an evening reflection session led by three CBL Interns (Lauren Suprenant ’16, Jenny Sipiora ’15, and Kristen Kelly ’15) in conjunction with Bridget Cass and Isabelle Jenkins; an in-class reflection session led by Isabelle Jenkins and two of our CBL Interns (Shea Kennedy ’17 and Bridget Cullen ’17); and an article entitled “What is the point of service, really?” by Kathleen Hirsch on the Crux website that highlights my dissertation research.  Thank you to all who participated in making this a very successful and inspiring week!

While there were numerous remarkable moments within these events, I would like to highlight a few public comments made during the week that I thought were worth repeating in this forum.

Monday’s fishbowl, Volunteerism and Social Problems: Making Things Better or Worse?, included a critical look at  community service by the panelists (myself, Emily Breakell ’17, Sr. Michele Jacques from Marie Anne Center, and Nancy O’Coin from Quinsigamond Elementary School).  We considered the way in which service may perpetuate systemic injustice, strip dignity from those being “served,” or be burdensome to the organizations that host volunteers in an effort to ensure that we serve with greater intentionality, thoughtfulness, and understanding of community partner perspectives.  During the event I was asked what I consider to be “success” in our office’s work with students.  I responded, “At a minimum, I hope students will gain a deeper understanding of their course content through integrating theory and concepts with real world experience. Beyond this, I hope that students’ prolonged community engagement experiences (through CBL, SPUD, community work study, immersion trips, etc.) will lead to questions—questions around who society tends to blame for poverty and the related assumptions many hold about those living in poverty; questions around fairness and how systemic inequality perpetuates itself across generations; questions about what responsibility each of us has towards the common good. Ultimately, my hope is that through community engagement experiences and reflection upon those experiences, students will learn to think more critically about societal structures, act more compassionately towards those facing inequity, take greater responsibility for recognizing the role that all of us (often unintentionally) play in perpetuating injustice , and develop a commitment to staying engaged with the ‘gritty reality of the world’ for a lifetime.”

Wednesday’s community partner reception included a presentation from CBL Intern, Rachel Greenberg ’15 expressing gratitude to community partners for the ways in which she has been impacted by community engagement and CBL during her time at Holy Cross.  Within her speech Rachel made the following particularly powerful comments, “I’ve learned that academic and personal growth often develop in positive feedback loops. As my academic objectives pushed me into the community, the community’s willingness to not just receive me but to teach me changed my personal perspective on social justice and community engagement. This new perspective then inspired a sense of urgency in my academic pursuits that continues to motivate me in questioning the ways inequality is constructed in society.  So, if I can speak for my fellow Community-Based Learning students and Interns…I’d like to say thank you to the community partners who warmly and generously open up their doors for us. Thank you for taking the time to engage with us in such deep and inspiring ways. The impact you have on our lives stretches far beyond the four-year window of our time here at Holy Cross.”

At that same event, we honored Professor Mary Hobgood for her many years of teaching CBL courses and challenging students to think more critically about the ways in which our world marginalizes so many of our fellow human beings.  Isabelle Jenkins offered her reflections on how taking Mary’s class impacted her life trajectory in making the following remarks:  “Professor Hobgood reminded us, and continues to remind us through her scholarship, that the why is a critical component in addressing the systemic issues that we all tirelessly work to address. We all do this work because we desperately want to see the world as it should be. But Professor Hobgood, and her powerful voice, teaches us that in order to actually see our dream world come to be, we must also get at the root causes of why the world is the way it is right at this very moment. Why the world marginalizes more people than it brings to the center. Why the world shuts out the majority of its citizens. Why the world silences the voices that we most desperately need to hear…Professor Hobgood’s course was probably the hardest course I took here at Holy Cross, even harder than Organic Chemistry. This is because Professor Hobgood wasn’t afraid to make me and my fellow students uncomfortable. She wasn’t afraid to push the boundaries, to name the unnameable, to unveil the elephant in the room and force it to cry out. Professor Hobgood made me want to work harder, to read more, to write more, to use my voice in ways I had never used it before. She encouraged me to take on the world in an entirely new way: not only with my hands and my heart, but also with my head. She lit a fire under me that has yet to go out, that only yearns for oxygen to spread and to grow…I am positive that Professor Hobgood and her work has not only been an incredible gift to me, but to this campus, to the students who go out into the Worcester community week after week ripe with not only fantastic energy to serve, but also armed with that tiny but great question of ‘Why?'”




Marshall Memorial Fund Recipients

Congratulations to our Fall 2014 Marshall Memorial Fund Grant Recipients:

• Sarah Curran and Alexander Pagan-Mejia were awarded funds to purchase supplies in order to create Thanksgiving baskets for families of the Nativity School of Worcester.

• Naomi-Ann Gaspard and Jessica Rodriguez were awarded funds to coordinate a college visit for the members of Girl’s CHOICE.

• Anthony Criscitiello and Mary Patrice Hamilton were awarded funds to establish a honeybee hive on campus for educational and research purposes.

• Rebecca Sewell was awarded funds to purchase supplies for the Girls, Inc. “College Shower.” The “College Shower” is an event that celebrates the life transition of students beginning college.

• Kristen Paadre and Abbey Wilkman were awarded funds to purchase thank you gifts from the Holy Cross bookstore for eight middle school girls participating in an educational research project at St. Peter Central Catholic School.

• Professor Bridget Franco was awarded funds to support the purchase of supplies and refreshments for her Spanish 305 CBL site visits with the Latino Elders Program and the “Third Day” Program at St. Peter’s Assumption Center.

• Andrea Gendron was awarded funds to purchase supplies for activities with the WPS Transition Program and the WPS Deafblind/Low Vision/Blind Department.

A CBL Intern’s Advice on Mindfulness

Wow! I cannot believe I am typing this blog post as a senior CBL Intern. Where has the time gone? Even as an experienced CBL student, I still feel as though there are always things that I could use a refresher on, or at least an opportunity to examine things in a new light. Do you sometimes feel this way?

For this post, I am going to discuss the topic of mental presence and engagement during CBL site visits. As the semester becomes hectic, it becomes more difficult to really appreciate the time I put into my CBL site, because even when I am physically engaged at the site, my mind can be elsewhere. I think it is safe to say that other CBL students may feel this way as well, especially now that we are fully immersed in papers, exams, and various on-campus activities.

“When is that paper due? What am I even writing that paper about? What time are office hours? Did I remind my roommate that I am not going to be back until late tonight?” The crazy stream of consciousness that is constantly churning in a Holy Cross student’s mind can be hard to suppress or even fully appreciate.

After years of participating in CBL opportunities, I still sometimes struggle to be mentally engaged at all times. So, what is a busy student to do? My recommendation is to practice mindfulness at your CBL site.

What does this mean? It means allowing yourself to focus specifically on each task as it happens, instead of worrying about upcoming tasks, whether they are a product of your site or of your impending work schedule. Focus on the math problem that you are helping a high school student to solve, or the donation collection that you are in the midst of organizing. Once you break down the experience into smaller pieces, you are able to more fully absorb events as they occur and you will ultimately learn how to fully appreciate them.

Community Harvest Project Awards Holy Cross the “Higher Education Partner of the Year” Award

Higher Education Partner of the Year:  College of Holy Cross

The College of the Holy Cross was recognized for their multi-faceted partnership with Community Harvest Project.  Over the course of 2013 they supported us with interns that assisted with our summer operations and completed special projects furthering our mission.  A group of students from their Non-Profits Career Conference formatted a survey to be implemented this summer which will allow us to capture feedback from our partner organizations that we have never had before.  They also were a key supporter of our “Teaching Garden” through the Working for Worcester Program.

CBL Project highlighted in the Telegram & Gazette

Cristal Steuer wrote the following about a CBL project conducted in Amy Wolfson and Pat Bizzell’s Liberal Arts, Leadership, and Social Change class:

In a column for the “Business Matters” section in the Telegram & Gazette, Aaron Nicodemus writes about eight seniors at the College of Holy Cross who  interviewed local business and community leaders four years ago as freshmen, then recently re-interviewed them as college seniors. “The students learned bits of wisdom and advice that, hopefully, will help them build successful careers. They also learned about some incredible life stories and accomplishments of ordinary people living and working here in Worcester,” he wrote.

Michelle Sterk Barrett,  director of the Donelan Office of Community Based Learning at Holy Cross, told the Telegram & Gazette, “In this particular class, the students asked their first-year Montserrat professors, Amy Wolfson and Patricia Bizzell, if they could reconvene again as seniors,” she said “They were seeking the opportunity to collectively reflect upon their experience of attending a rigorous, Jesuit, liberal arts college and what it taught them about leadership, diversity and social change. … In particular, the assignment required that they learn more about the path this person followed to success, the qualities he/she sees in an effective leader, and the extent to which she/he sees gender and diversity playing into leadership functions.”

Interviews ranged from Tim Garvin, the president and CEO of United Way of Central Massachusetts, to Ann Lisi, CEO of The Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

Students in the class include Kelly Burke, Lauren Chin, Henry Callegary, David Odell, Carmen Ana Alvarez, Jonathan Casseus, Stephanie Okpoebo, and Jeffrey Reppucci.

This “Holy Cross in the News” item by Cristal Steuer.

CBL at the Academic Conference

Last week’s CBL presentations at the academic conference were fantastic! Students from Bridget Franco’s Aspects of Spanish American Culture class presented about what they learned from discussing Dominican merengue, Mexican music, and Latin American sports with the Latino Elders Program at Centro los Americas.  Students from Denis Kennedy’s Humanitarianism class presented their country conditions research on Syria, El Salvador, and Sudan/South Sudan that will be utilized in legal cases for asylees.  Two students from my Community Engagement and Social Responsibility class presented on what they learned about refugees and immigration through the Unaccompanied Minor Refugee Program run by Lutheran Social Services.