“Returning to In-Person Engagement” – Sarah Ayers ’23

Welcome back to the CBL Intern Blog for 2021-2022! I am currently experiencing two overwhelming emotions as I write this post: gratitude and excitement. Both of these feelings stem from the fact that this year many CBL students have the chance to return to in-person community engagement. It has been well over a year since I last sat in one of the Holy Cross vans silently reflecting on the time I spent at Ascentria Care Alliance and eagerly imagining the next time I would get to go back. I still remember the anxiety I felt walking into the English-speaking class at Ascentria for the first time during my second semester at Holy Cross, and the immediate relief I felt when one of the participants waved me over to sit next to him. Now I am finally able to say that after a year of Zoom calls, internet connection issues, and beginning to talk while I’m still muted, I will be returning to in-person engagement.

I think many can agree that forming new, meaningful connections has not been easy in the time of COVID-19. I felt disconnected from my fellow Holy Cross students and faculty, and I felt almost as if my relationships with the Worcester community were entirely severed. This semester, CBL students at the college have the privilege to build new relationships and strengthen old ones with our community partners, many of whom surely missed our presence as well. I am excited to begin my time at Brookdale Eddy Pond, an assisted living community about ten minutes away from campus. While I have not spent much time in nursing homes in the past, I recognize that the elderly are one of the most vulnerable communities due to the pandemic. Many residents have been separated from family members, friends, and at times other residents for prolonged periods of time. I am looking forward to the opportunity to provide any sense of relief or comfort in a time that has proven to be unprecedented for the residents at Brookdale.

Although all my typical first day of engagement worries still linger, I am going into this semester of service with a greater sense of gratitude than I have in the past. I am grateful for the chance to sit in a room with another person who does not attend or work at the college. I am grateful that I will once again have a reason to leave the hill and our Holy Cross bubble every week to learn more about the people in the Worcester community. Finally, I am grateful that I will soon experience the mutualistic relationships that are born from community engagement. So, whether you are beginning community engagement at Holy Cross for the first time this semester or returning to it, I implore you to recognize your own gratitude for the opportunity that lies ahead.

“Reflecting on my time as a CBL Intern” – Paige Cohen ’21

I’m sitting down to write this blog post right before I head out to Fitton Field for the 2021 Baccalaureate Mass. This Mass strikes me as the perfect bookend to my Holy Cross — and especially Community-Based Learning (CBL) — experience. I began my time at Holy Cross at another Mass on Fitton Field, all the way back in 2017. I remember my parents sitting next to me crying, being surrounded by hundreds of unknown faces, and being a little overwhelmed by all the new that was around me. But the rhythm of the Mass gave me a sense of comfort, and the homily’s focus on Jesuit spirituality gave me my first glimpse into the foundation in service, prayer, and reflection that my Holy Cross education would have.

Since that Mass of the Holy Spirit, CBL has been a constant reminder of that same foundation throughout my time at Holy Cross. My first CBL experience came in my first-year Montserrat course, called “Death and Society”. All of us trained as hospice volunteers, visiting for a couple hours each week with nursing home residents around Worcester, as part of their hospice care team. It was intimidating and hard at times to walk into the room of a complete stranger, but as I met with different residents throughout the year, I began to learn their stories and to look forward to my times with them.

Finding this Montserrat CBL experience so powerful, I applied to be a CBL intern for my sophomore year. I had so looked up to the two CBL interns who had visited my Montserrat to lead reflection sessions — Jerome Siangco‘19 and Will McAvoy ‘20 — and hoped to pass on the gift of CBL to new students by becoming a CBL intern myself.

I count my sophomore year as my most difficult at Holy Cross, as I struggled to get my bearings and sometimes felt isolated. But during that sophomore year, through CBL, I also had the privilege of visiting and forming a close relationship with a hospice resident who treated me as one of his own grandchildren. I would bring him my political science papers, listen as he told stories about his time in the military, and got to meet his family. We happened to have the same birthday and got to go to his nursing home’s birthday celebration together. I never would have met this man if it hadn’t been for CBL, but his constant joy during our visits together were a bright spot in a year full of challenging growth for me.

Junior year, during the fall, I continued to work as a CBL intern, planning dialogue sessions, leading reflections, and visiting with hospice residents. I felt much more settled than I had during sophomore year and felt that I was hitting my stride. But then, just a few days before I was due back on campus for the spring semester, I was injured in the Women’s Rowing team van accident. Although of course the accident is a painful memory, I will always remember the love that the CBL community showed me during that time. I was welcomed back on campus by the van drivers whom I had come to know in checking out Holy Cross vans for weekly visits. I received letters from hospice residents’ families who had heard what happened. And the Donelan Office staff and my fellow interns sent me a beautiful care package in the mail. I felt so loved and cared for in those days, as I hope all who encounter the Donelan Office feel.

Senior year has been different, of course. COVID has made it difficult to continue volunteering in hospice and made it more challenging to fully engage with other CBL students (though I am still always impressed by the insights that come out of Zoom CBL reflection sessions!). I have really, really missed my hospice visits in this past year, and this underscores for me that, as I step forward into post-graduate life, I need to prioritize integrating service into my routine. CBL has introduced me to new people, allowed me to hear the powerful reflections of so many Holy Cross students, and encouraged me to live a life of service after graduation. I will always be grateful for my time with the Donelan Office and for the chance to serve as a CBL intern.

“Learning the Mission: How I Found Purpose in My Academic Work Through The CBL Intern Program” – Patrick McQuillen ’23

When I woke up on the morning of April 3, 2020, I had no idea how much one message would change the rest of my college career. As I started my day during the height of the lockdown, I anxiously checked my email to see if I had heard back from the CBL intern program to find out if I had been accepted after my in-person interview a few weeks prior. Though I understood that it was an incredibly difficult time for people to meet and discuss the intern selection process, I was very nervous about my future at the time due to the incredible amount of uncertainty caused by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, when I gained the confidence to check the final decision, I was relieved and ecstatic to find out that I had been accepted into the CBL intern program for the 2020-2021 academic year. As I read through the acceptance letter, I realized that my acceptance into this program would provide me with various opportunities that could deepen my understanding of social justice. One specific opportunity, which I immediately took advantage of, was enrolling in Professor Michelle Sterk Barrett’s course “Community Engagement and Social Responsibility.” Although this class is generally taken by seniors at the College, myself and one other sophomore CBL intern (Jocelyn Hernandez) had the privilege to take the class after our acceptance into the CBL program. At first, I was intimidated by the prospects of participating in a class with a majority of upperclass students. However, these nerves were soon put to ease on the first day of class as I realized how the very small class size (of about eight students) could inspire vulnerable discourse regarding prevalent social justice issues like immigration and income inequality. Throughout the course of the semester, Prof. Sterk Barrett provided intriguing material from notable authors which helped me recognize how interconnected the causes of various social justice issues are. One specific piece which sparked great conversation amongst my classmates, and my fellow Interns as well, was a book by Ijeoma Oluo titled, So You Want to Talk About Race. The incorporation of this book into the curriculum of my class with Prof. Sterk Barrett, along with its addition to the CBL Intern book club, significantly impacted my understanding of race and its diverse impact on contemporary American society. As I continued to learn about these various social justice topics, I also enrolled in the Civitas Leadership Institute with hopes to apply some of the information I had learned in class. The institute provided me with a space to discuss social justice issues regarding community engagement with other like minded individuals.  Overall, my experience with the academic opportunities provided by the CBL program have certainly deepened my compassion for service because I better understand the positive impact that individuals can make on others through effective community engagement.

Senior CBL Intern Spotlights – Spring ’21

Get to know our senior CBL Interns as they prepare to graduate on May 21, 2021. Congratulations to Gabi, Jeremiah, Paige, Emma, Caitlin, Yesenia, Anh, and Jack on all of their achievements! (Note: these spotlights were originally written for the Donelan Office newsletter and are re-posted here.)

Gabi Beaulieu

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? The area of social justice work that I am most passionate about is food injustice. I strongly believe that most Americans are not aware of the food insecurity that is present in our country and how much our current food system is destroying both communities and the environment. This area of social justice is particularly important to me because our country has enough food to feed everyone, yet so many people are hungry and do not have access to proper food. The inequalities of our current food system are unjust and change needs to be made.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? The best part of my CBL experience has been the relationships I have formed both in the Worcester community and the Holy Cross community. I was so fortunate to form such a strong bond with Sr. Marie, my resident at St. Mary Health Care Center, and I will cherish our friendship for the rest of my life. I learned so much from her and I miss our visits dearly. The relationships I formed on campus with other students and faculty members have been so transformative for me as well. I truly found my home away from home within the CBL community.
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? After graduation, I will carry with me the value and importance of relationships. CBL has taught me that at the core of service is relationships, for it is only when we enter into relationship with those around us that we can truly be people for and with others. A major part of what drove me to physical therapy was the relationship nature of the career. I want to form bonds with patients and continue to build community wherever I go.

Jeremiah Bialkowski

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? During my time as an Intern, I have been introduced to a wide variety of social justice issues, including youth poverty and disability rights. One issue that I have recently become passionate about is food injustice. My first-year at HC, I attended a spring break immersion in Wheeling, WV, where I learned more about food injustice and spent time farming. I love to cook and eat, so I have found this issue to be pertinent in my life and hope in the next coming years to engage in work to address this important issue in my community.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? There have been so many different aspects of the CBL Intern program that have been influential. I most enjoy meeting and engaging in discussion with individuals who are passionate about justice-oriented issues and community engagement. I also have noticed that it has allowed me to appreciate Worcester more, and develop a sense of curiosity to explore the city and value its diversity and uniqueness.
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? After graduation, I hope to continue my engagement with the communities I live in and do more to promote justice. I not only want to be involved in direct service with others but also advocate against injustices. Although I am not exactly sure what the future holds for me, I do know that I want to continue building community with others, to work to create a more just and equitable world.

Paige Cohen

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? I am most passionate about hospice and elder care ministry. I grew up bringing Communion to area nursing homes with my mom on Sundays, and I became a trained hospice volunteer through my CBL Montserrat at Holy Cross. It has been so meaningful to get to meet and spend time with so many at home in Atlanta and now in Worcester.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? The best part of my CBL Intern experience has been the opportunity to lead reflection sessions in CBL classes. I love getting to introduce new HC students to the CBL experience. I always feel like I’m learning and growing by listening to students’ reflections, too.
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? After graduation, I am moving to Boston to begin working for a consulting firm. Although my work is not ministry in itself, I want to be very intentional from the start to be involved in my community. I am looking forward to joining a Catholic parish in Boston and getting involved in their senior ministry — maybe even becoming a Eucharistic minister to the homebound as my mom has been for years. I will also be committed to learning about my new community and being open to opportunities to serve in any way I can.

Emma Davison

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? I am most interested in environmental protection. Ensuring continued, equitable access to critical resources like water on a global scale advances responsible agricultural practices and promotes public health. Natural resource scarcity is increasing rapidly due to the effects of climate change without the restoration programming or corporate regulation efforts necessary to mitigate such decline. This environmental degradation challenges civil society and places stress on previously-sound diplomatic relations. As a result, I think natural resource scarcity, is an increasing threat to national security and international stability. To prevent conflict, protect the global commons, and promote public health, new programming and policies must be created.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? The best part has been learning from and alongside the other interns. Each of us chose to join the intern cohort because of our unique experiences, and each of us brings a different perspective to the program. It is energizing to work collaboratively peers who have a shared love for engaging with the Worcester community and discussing local and global issues through a critical, hopeful lens. The plurality of CBL partners makes it so that I will never personally be able to experience the many programs taking place at every site, but I have the next-best-thing of getting to hear my peers speak so passionately about their CBL experiences.
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? One of the greatest lessons I will take with me following graduation is the ever-present opportunity to engage deeply and responsibly with the communities I reside in and benefit from. Though I will be leaving Worcester, this city and its people have welcomed me so consistently and I hope to be an equally active member of every community I am a part of in the future. To prioritize being a responsible community member, I will be intentional in learning about the history, culture, and intricacies of the places I call home. My time in Worcester has taught me that the more you learn about a place, the more you discover there is to do in that place, and the more you love that place.

Caitlin Grant

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? My experience as a CBL Intern completely ignited my interest in rights for the undocumented migrant population, my initial interest flourished into an interest in education for English Language Learners.  As a first year I engaged with Ascentria Care Alliance where I met weekly with an undocumented migrant who was learning English.  The bond we created, facing new challenges each week in our attempt to communicate with each other, grew immensely as the weeks went on.  As I continued as an intern I began to engage with the WPS Transition Program where I have made the best friendships with the WPS students, who are also in a situation of attempting to maintain a bilingual and multicultural identity in a society where citizens are truly encouraged to assimilate to an American identity and English language.  My identity has grown as a Spanish speaker as I have connected with so many whose perspectives are so different from my own.  Further, my experiences with these groups of English Language Learners grew my desire for the education system to respect the identities and work more cohesively and symbiotically with these students.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? I am not exaggerating when I say that being a CBL Intern has been one of the most incredible aspects of my experience at Holy Cross.  This group has brought me the most fulfilling sense of community both on campus and in the Worcester community.  I am incredibly grateful for all of the large and small moments I have had with all of my fellow interns and Isabelle and Michelle, in addition to the conversations that have challenged me and enlightened me during these past 4 years.  There is truly something special about being a part of a group that shares my passion for social justice and I am never not learning from each and every member of this group.  The people are what makes a place meaningful and current and past members of this community have done that for me I cannot wait to continue to grow as a passionate citizen seeking justice alongside the graduating and graduated interns.
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? I have found so much meaning and purpose during my time engaging with English Language Learners that I know my future will involve this passion to some degree.  Yet, CBL has been about more than my engagement, although the connections I have forged in the community have truly emphasized what it means to be with others, I will continue to be for others in my pursuit of knowledge and education.  CBL has reminded me to always think about why things exist in the manner that they do and how we can identify and challenge structural injustices.  Further, to not only educate myself but to engage as well, to have difficult conversations and to not stray away from hearing a different perspective.  It has also gifted me with reflection, something I know I will continue to rely on as I continue in my journey.  Ultimately, I hope to never stop making connections with those who I share time with, especially those who are less privileged than myself, and to never stop learning.

Yesenia Gutierrez

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? The area of social justice that I am most passionate about is immigration. I am passionate about immigration because of my personal experiences in seeing some of my family members go through their immigration process. Seeing the challenges in immigration such as language and financial barriers motivates me to work and advocate towards a society where resources are more accessible for undocumented immigrant communities.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? The best part of my CBL experience is being part of a community… una familia. Being part of the CBL Intern cohort provided me the space to meet other students and individuals who have similar passions as me. What I hold close and dear to my heart are the CBL Intern meetings in which I had the space to reflect on the work that I was doing and what I was learning from the community I was serving. 
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? Being part of CBL has taught me the importance and meaning of service. Before coming to Holy Cross, I enjoyed engaging in volunteer opportunities, but I never took the time to truly reflect on what my actions meant in addition to the lessons that I take away. After graduation, I hope to work in immigration law, where I hope to carry out my values and be a person for and with others when working with immigrant communities. I hope to handle immigration cases with empathy and understanding while acknowledging the lessons that I will learn from these experiences. 

Anh Nguyet Phan

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? I am most passionate about the social justice issues surrounding healthcare. The U.S. spends more on healthcare for individuals than any other country, yet this increase in expenditure has not translated to more accessibility, quality healthcare, and higher life expectancy for American lives. This past year, the pandemic has really highlighted how vital access to healthcare is as many struggle to access tests and treatments. I want to learn and get involved in this to help individuals and communities get the care that they so desperately need.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? The best part of my CBL Intern experience is getting highly involved in my Worcester community through my work at the Worcester Public Library and at Woodland Academy. I have met so many incredible individuals who have shared with me their passions and dreams, as well as their worries and concerns. My first year, I was fortunate enough to work with a group of adults of various ages to help them study for their citizenship exam. Being an immigrant to the U.S. and having gone through what they are currently going through, this opportunity really hit home for me. My sophomore, junior and senior years, I was able to work in my elementary school, Woodland, with my 6th grade teacher. These experiences made me feel purposeful, grateful, and pure bliss.
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? My experiences through CBL have taught me to be a better listener and a more reflective person. These skills are crucial in my everyday life, and will become extremely important down the line as I navigate through dental school and work as a dentist. Being able to actively listen to the patients and reflect on their concerns is a vital asset that I will always carry with me. Equally as important, CBL has really taught me the value of being a person for and with others. Service has been a cornerstone in my life. Worcester has given my family and I endless support and resources to help us flourish when we first arrived here. Now, I am trying to give back a fraction of what they have given me and my family. However, for me, becoming a person for and with others goes beyond acts of giving and charitable service. Instead, it means finding a central love, understanding, and acceptance for all people. As a future dentist this means seeing beyond my patients’ illnesses, and seeking to understand how their beliefs, culture, and other external factors contribute to who they are.

Jack Slania

  1. What area of social justice work are you most passionate about? My largest fascination with social justice and social change has easily been surrounding education. My family is full of educators, from professors to middle school teachers to special education aides. In our lives, education is often taken for granted, especially when we consider the stark disparities in the quality of education received by children of different backgrounds. I’ve spent a lot of time grappling with questions of education during my time as a volunteer in the Worcester Public Schools and with the Nativity School of Worcester, and I look forward to working more closely on education reform as I pursue a career in government and public policy.
  2. What has been the best part of your CBL Intern experience? The best part of my time as a CBL intern has been facilitating and participating in the language circle through the Worcester Public Library. It’s been fantastic to keep up with my Italian skills while also getting to know different Italian speakers in the area, whether they be other college students or natives of the Italian country and language.
  3. After graduation, how will you carry the lessons and values of CBL with you? I am in fact in a course this semester with Prof. Sterk Barrett of the CBL office dedicated to precisely the question of how to be “for and with others” after we leave the Hill. My experiences in CBL and with questions of service, justice, and faith will be absolutely central to my identity as a professional. At this point, I’m remaining patient about what my next steps might be. Above all, I want to be certain that who I work for and what I’m doing is making the world a better place, regardless of how long it might take to find the right fit.

Share your Magis

The “Share your Magis” talks is an end-of-year public speaking competition where select seniors are invited to give 3-minute talks describing what they learned during their time at Holy Cross. This year, senior CBL Interns, Gabi Beaulieu ’21 and Jack Slania ’21 were two of the selected speakers. Their talks focused on how community engagement was central to their Holy Cross experiences. This post contains transcripts of their talks. Watch all of the talks on Holy Cross’ YouTube channel. 

Gabi Beaulieu

When I reflect back on my time at Holy Cross, the opportunity to serve as a CBL Intern has been the most meaningful aspect of my college experience, as it has influenced my personal growth, my understanding of a Jesuit education and service, and my career path. I was first exposed to CBL through my Montserrat course, where I began volunteering at St. Mary Health Care Center. I was introduced to Sr. Marie, the resident I would visit with weekly, and at first, I viewed her as an elderly-women who was often lonely and isolated. With this mindset, I believed my purpose was to visit with her and brighten her day. However, through my continued visits and reflection sessions with the Donelan Office, I came to realize that my perspective on service was all wrong. The true purpose of CBL is to form relationships with members of the Worcester community and learn about their lives and experiences. When we do this, we bring to light a person’s humanity and can recognize the mutuality that exists between us all, despite our different backgrounds and where we come from. With this adjustment in my mindset, my time with Sr. Marie became more meaningful than ever before. She became one of my closest friends and when I reflect on our relationship, I realize that she has done more for me than I have for her; she truly has been the one to brighten my days. My relationship with Sr. Marie built a desire in me to become more involved in the Worcester community and apply to be a CBL Intern.

CBL has shown me that there is always more I can learn and always something I can be doing to serve the community. CBL opened my eyes to the social injustices that exist in our community and has challenged me to think about service in ways I never did before. I learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable, as it is through our discomfort that we grow and enter into true solidarity with others. I have learned that a crucial aspect of service is critical reflection and being a CBL Intern has provided me with countless opportunities to reflect on my experiences. I’ve had conversations with both faculty members and students that have enabled me to more deeply unpack and understand my experiences, as well as hear about the experiences of others. These conversations have challenged my perspectives and enhanced my personal, spiritual, and academic growth. CBL has unified my education and service experiences and taught me the importance of continuing both. I have come to understand how a Jesuit education encourages students to excel in scholarship and make a commitment to improve society by means of service to others. I have learned that at the core of service is relationships, for it is only when we enter into relationship with those around us that we can truly be men and women for and with others. Lastly, if it had not been for CBL or my relationship with Sr. Marie, I never would have realized that a career in physical therapy is what I would want to pursue. I want to work as a PT in a nursing home where I can continue to enter into relationships with others and build the community that my time on the hill has taught me to cherish.

Jack Slania

If I had to describe my time at Holy Cross very briefly, I could do it in two words – music and community. When I entered the College, I was definitely way more focused on the former, even arriving on campus early to participate in band camp with the marching band. It was during band camp that I met some of the most amazing musicians and people and some of my best friends to this day. We started playing music together and formed our band “SCONE” which has remained a cornerstone of my time here. In addition to playing with the marching band and SCONE, I played the trumpet in the jazz ensemble, concert band, concert orchestra – basically finding every capacity to get involved with music during that first semester. 

It wasn’t until my second semester on the Hill that I got involved with the second core piece of my time here – community engagement. I signed up for the Spring Break Immersion Program and was assigned to Newport, VA. Newport was a small Appalachian community dealing with a crisis. There was a pipeline set to cut right through the heart of the historic town center, disrupting the tight-knit community. This reality rattled me. Before this trip, I had never been pressed to seriously engage with questions of social justice, service, and faith, but I can truly say that I returned from the trip a changed person. I was way more open and willing to get involved in settings of community engagement, signing up for SPUD, CBL, Working for Worcester, and additional Spring Break Immersion Programs. I am involved in many of these to this day, serving as a CBL Intern and as a member of the leadership team for both Working for Worcester and Spring Break Immersion.

It was during my new involvement with these community engagement programs that I began to see in the inherent connection between the music I had already loved and the community engagement that I was beginning to fall in love with. I noticed this connection during performances with SCONE, particularly at fundraisers. The power of performance, I noticed, was a tool for community building between members of our campus and leaders in Worcester. 

I noticed this connection again during my time abroad in Florence, Italy. I joined a refugee assistance program called “Anelli Mancanti”, serving as an English teacher. It was through this program that I met some Florence natives and we began playing music together, eventually forming a band. Through my time with Anelli Mancanti and through the universal language of music, I made some of my strongest connections during that semester abroad. 

I again have noticed the connection between music and community through a project I am completing this semester at the Nativity Middle School here in Worcester. The initiative is to supplement and advocate for the creation of a music program at the school, since the students do not currently have access to one. 

I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have been able to take advantage of the community engagement programs that are so central to the Holy Cross experience. But, what I am even more grateful for is the fact that I was able to fuse my love for music that I had before Holy Cross with the components of community that are at the core of our Jesuit education.

If I had to summarize, I’d say that I entered Holy Cross as a musician, but am leaving as a man for and with others.

“Four Years of Community Engagement: What Does Building Community Mean?” – Caitlin Grant ’21

“In this universe we are given two gifts: the ability to love, and the ability to ask questions. Which are, at the same time, the fires that warm us and the fires that scorch us.”

 — Mary Oliver

As a first year, I had little idea of what my four years at Holy Cross would look like and I honestly struggled to see a future for myself on Mount St. James.  I found it difficult to foster a sense of “home” in this uncharted territory that is college.  Amidst the confusion I felt, I found comfort in my time with Community-Based Learning and my weekly visits to Ascentria Care Alliance.  Every week gave me something to look forward to; I felt a sense of anticipation as each week brought new challenges and learning opportunities.  Further, the weeks allowed me to grow in my connection to the young woman I was engaging with; as an unaccompanied refugee minor from Guatemala she was struggling to learn the English language and our time usually consisted of conversational and vocabulary English language exercises.  I felt as though I connected to her in some ways, although to an entirely different extent, we shared a common humanity of navigating a new sense of belonging in foreign territory.  I knew this experience was more than solely a learning experience for my class.  I found myself in a situation where I felt genuine human connection alongside a fervent desire to learn more about the English Language Learner experience in the United States as I questioned why our education system allowed for bright, intelligent students to fall behind because of their linguistic status.  My time engaging with Ascentria was a small and individual experience of community and lit a desire to further grow my community at Holy Cross.

These unparalleled feelings and the encouragement from my Montserrat Professor, Ginny Ryan, led me to apply to be a CBL Intern.  I knew I wanted to be a part of a cohort that engaged in questions regarding social justice.  However it was not until I was immersed in this group that I truly grasped the meaning and value of community, especially one that embodies the Jesuit mantra of being individuals “for and with others.”  The Donelan Office provides a safe space for these questions to be asked, discussion to occur, and friendships to flourish.  There is something undeniably powerful that occurs when a small group of students, fostering countless perspectives, all passionate about social justice and dedicated to change, come together as one unit in a space dedicated to preserving and growing these ideals.  Each year as an intern I found myself creating more friendships in the CBL office and in the Worcester community with the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program than I could have imagined.  My young first-year-self did not grasp the impact that having a community would have on my college experience until I found myself in the depths of it.  When friendships are forged with a shared belief in something greater than oneself, in this case the passion for social justice, there is no limit to the growth that the relationship will experience.

My original perception that the CBL office was a necessary component of the harmony of the CBL community was proved wrong during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The values of our community were too strong for the pandemic to corrode, we continued to meet over ZOOM and strengthened our individual connections with one another turning to creative virtual measures to connect and to continue our discourse.  There is truly no obstacle that can impede a dedicated group of people with a shared bond and united purpose.

Ultimately, being invited to join the CBL community and then opening myself to the experience gave me sense of personal purpose as I discovered a passion that has influenced my educational, career, and life aspirations.  It is rare to find a place that as Mary Oliver describes it nurtures “the ability to love” and “the ability to ask questions” simultaneously. Yet, this feels almost effortless in the CBL community, surrounded by people who through their love for one another create a space where there is always more to ask.  I am forever grateful to Isabelle, Michelle, and the past & present CBL Interns for providing me with the most beautiful sense of community I could have imagined these past four years.

Community is shared purpose. Community is love.  Community is asking more of yourself, each other and the world.

“Building and Strengthening Community” – Kat Hauver ’22

There is no doubt this past year has been challenging for many reasons. For Community Based Learning, one of my concerns was not feeling connected to the Holy Cross and Worcester communities and our own Intern community. Of course, I had faith that this group of wonderful people would rise to the occasion, but I knew the community would look and feel different. This year, I had the privilege of being one of the Community Development Coordinators. I had the opportunity to help plan our Intern meetings that were focused on building and strengthening our Intern community. The first semester, we read Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk about Race? and had very lively book club meetings. The passion for social justice and engagement with important topics was as intense as ever. It gave me hope that I could still talk with other people who wanted to be part of these discussions and make meaningful contributions and changes to our community. During the spring semester, we focused on community building. We played games over Zoom, such as Scatttegories and Skribblio, and also had purposeful discussions about our goals for the semester and how we wanted to achieve them. We learned more about each other and made new connections. Reflecting on this past year has helped me realize that the Intern community is one that does not shy away from challenges, but rather chooses to engage with them and come out even stronger. I am thankful to be part of such an incredible community that is dedicated, supportive, and extremely welcoming.

“Why I serve” – Jeremiah Bialkowski ’21

Preparing for my upcoming graduation is a bittersweet experience. I find myself reminiscing on the many opportunities I have had during my four years at Holy Cross. One of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had is engaging in service through CBL. It not only has allowed me to see all that Worcester offers but also taught me why service is so beneficial, and in particular what it means to me. This year I have begun to focus on the discernment of my life path and how I can continue serving others in the future. Leading me to ask myself the question, why do I serve? 

According to Fr. Michael Himes, when discerning our life path, we must reflect on what brings us joy. For me, since I was young, I have found joy in cooking. For as long as I can remember, I have loved to cook. My parents tell me stories of how I used to watch them over them as they prepared dinner, and how for my first Halloween at school, I decided I wanted to dress up as a chef.  This love for cooking has been passed down for generations on both sides of my family. It was a way to connect and engage in conversations through a communal meal. It also allowed me to learn about new cultures through different recipes I found. I can remember spending hours reading my Emeril cookbook that showcased a recipe from each country. I loved learning what customs people around the world had and how they too came together as a family to enjoy a meal. Today, I still find so much meaning in developing connections with others and learning about their unique perspectives on the world. Which I believe attributed to my passion for cooking. 

As I began service at Holy Cross, I found that this passion for learning about others and making connections motivates me to continue serving others. My first CBL experience at Catholic Charities Mercy Centre, an organization that served individuals with developmental disabilities, allowed me to understand what service truly means. After my first day, I wanted to change my site. I felt like I was not contributing anything. During the time I spent there, I was not actively doing anything other than conversing with others. Through reflection sessions in my Montserrat course “Exploring Differences,” I began to realize how beneficial this type of service was and how much I enjoyed it. I was there in community with others who are often looked down upon by society. I learned about their passions and built great connections with them each week. This is what has motivated me to keep serving others. Through these experiences, I learn about the world through conversation and build connections with people whose lives are different than my own. Although, service can sometimes seem difficult, as the problems we try and ease are often intractable.  I find hope and stay motivated through the power of others. When I feel discouraged, I gain strength by listening to others and hearing their passion surrounding issues they care about. The power of coming together is so important to me as division only worsens these issues. 

I serve because I find joy in learning about others and building meaningful relationships. I desire to serve in ways that will positively have an impact on others and work towards real change in the world. Finally, I serve because through the power of hope, I feel we can create a world that is more just and equitable for all, where all people can succeed and share their unique gifts. After I graduate, I hope to continue serving others and learn about the world through community. I will forever be grateful to Holy Cross and the CBL office for allowing me to explore new opportunities that led to me finding a true passion within serving others.

“Why I decided to apply to become a CBL Intern” – Anh Nguyet Phan ’21

Conflicted on whether or not to apply to the Community-Based Learning Intern program? 

Well let me tell you how I got involved and how thankful I currently am four years later as a senior at Holy Cross! Three years ago, I was a freshman who had my eyes set on doing well in my science classes to achieve my long term goal of becoming a dentist. I was a very ambitious student, taking the three STEM classes that everyone advised not to take together: chemistry, biology, and calculus. My fourth class, my Montserrat class, was a class that my naive freshman self thought would not be useful and enjoyable because it was not related to the field of science. However, to this day, my Montserrat class ended up being one my favorite classes I have taken at Holy Cross, and a class that I will always be thankful for because it introduced me to CBL.

Freshman year, I was given the great opportunity to volunteer at the Worcester Public Library to help adults of varying ages study for the citizenship exam. To some, this experience might be another service opportunity; however, to me, it meant a lot more that I was able to help with something so close to my heart. Being an immigrant myself and having to go through the citizenship exam to get my citizenship, I know how much pressure and work the whole process is. Being able to help these folks take a step closer at achieving their dreams meant everything to me- and it still does. Seeing not only the positive impact that I had, but also the impact that the opportunity had on me, I knew that I wanted to apply to the CBL Intern Program. 

In addition, through CBL, I was able to reconnect with my 6th grade teacher at my elementary school, Worcester Academy, as I volunteered in her classroom during my sophomore and junior year. Just over ten years ago, I was a kid that was struggling to read, write, and speak the English language. Who I am today is largely because of the amount of work, time, and effort that Woodland Academy put into me during my time there. To be able to give back a little of what my elementary school and teachers had given me is an absolute privilege, and I cannot be thankful enough to CBL for allowing me to do so. This experience revealed to me just how much I love the Worcester community, how much I want to learn more about it, and how much I want to give back to it. Through CBL, I am able to do all of this, and this realization also pushed me to apply for the CBL Intern Program at the end of my freshman year. 

In addition to this, other aspects of the program also intrigued and excited me. I was most looking forward to building my communication and leadership skills through working with community partners, students, and staff. From being a CBL Intern for the last three years, I can confidently say that I have accomplished this and much more. CBL not only helped me become a more well-rounded student, but also a well-rounded Worcester resident and individual. Ever since freshman year, CBL has become my family, and I feel so thankful and fortunate to be a part of this program. If you share the same excitement for Worcester and CBL, I highly encourage you to consider applying!

“Why I Applied to the CBL Intern Program and Advice for Applicants” – Gabi Beaulieu ’21

My Montserrat course had a huge impact on my time at Holy Cross, and specifically, its CBL component greatly influenced my experience here on the hill. For my CBL, I chose to volunteer at St. Mary Health Care Center, and three years later, I’m still there. The relationship I formed with my resident, Sr. Marie, was so special to me. I loved learning about her life and how much she had done for Worcester. My week wasn’t complete unless I got to spend time chatting, laughing, and playing games with Sr. Marie. What was most unexpected to me about my relationship with Sr. Marie was how much it taught me about service. I learned that service isn’t about doing things for other people, it’s about mutual relationships. Over the three years I spent with Sr. Marie, she became one of my closest friends here in Worcester. I loved our time together and our visits meant just as much to me, if not more, as they did to her. Service is about getting to know the people in our community and recognizing that each of us has so much to gain from the relationships we can form.

I became a CBL intern because I wanted to share the experience I had with other students. I want to help other students see how much they can gain by becoming a part of the Worcester community, and I want to share these experiences together. I became a CBL intern because I wanted to find more ways to be involved in the Worcester community and learn more about the social justice issues that surround us. The CBL community has allowed me to reflect on my experiences, join in on important conversations, and grow into the person I wanted to become.

When I applied to be a CBL intern, I focused a lot on my essay. As I thought about how to answer the questions, I realized how influential my CBL experience had been. I focused on my time at St. Mary and my relationship with Sr. Marie. I wrote about the friendship we had formed and how special my time with her was. As I wrote my essay, I reflected on how much my relationship with Sr. Marie had taught me. It was in writing my essay that I began to realize how much Sr. Marie taught me about service and how much I had grown in my understanding of what it means to be men and women for and with others. When writing my essay, I had a whole new appreciation for CBL and how it had influenced my time at Holy Cross. As I went about the application process it became even more clear to me how much I wanted to be a part of the CBL intern community. I remember being very nervous for my interview, my heart racing and hands shaking as I sat outside the Donelan Office and waited for Isabelle to call my name. However, I also remember how comfortable Isabelle, Michelle, and the interns made me feel. The interview felt more like a conversation, and I loved learning more about the CBL intern program and experiences the interns had. Although there were moments when the application process felt stressful, overall it made me realize how wonderful CBL is and how much I wanted to continue my experience with CBL as an intern.

My advice for students who want to apply to be a CBL intern is to be honest and reflective in the application process. How has CBL influenced your time at Holy Cross? What have you learned about service, Worcester, and yourself throughout your CBL experiences? How would becoming an intern enhance your CBL experience? Use the essay and the interview as a way to look back on all the positive experiences you’ve had with CBL. Also, if you’re at all like me and the interview seems to be a nerve-wracking experience, take a deep breath and remember that we just want to hear about your experiences with CBL. Lastly, ask questions! It shows your interest and desire to become a part of the CBL intern community.