Thoughts on Getting Started with CBL – Katie Trymbulak ‘18

At the end of my first year as a CBL student at Holy Cross, I wrote a reflection on my experience for my Montserrat class. I believe it is fitting to revisit some of the thoughts I had as we begin working with new sites and people this semester.

I began my reflection, “Each week at CBL, I have been pushed out of my comfort zone.” Although this adage is often overused when it comes to community engagement, there is value in placing this feeling at the foundation of your CBL experience. It is only when we embrace and recognize the discomfort injustice brings that we will be inclined to act upon it. So, relish in this feeling, and even look for it week to week at your CBL site.

Another piece of my reflection that is important to keep in mind is that your experience as a student at Holy Cross and as a CBL student are only small pieces of a larger, more dynamic puzzle. However, no matter how small the pieces, both are an integral part of your self-discovery and your understanding of the community. I learned not to be defeated by any challenges, because eventually they will be overcome and become part of your story. I came to this conclusion after my challenging adjustment as a first-year college student and the experiences I had at Ascentria Care Alliance, where I tutored unaccompanied refugee minors in Spanish.

The closing of my reflection included the following statement, “I will continue on at Holy Cross becoming a woman for others, taking CBL classes and facilitating my own learning experiences through service.” My hope is that this holds true for all of you as well as you embark on your CBL journey this semester, whether this is your first or eighth time working with a community partner.

Who I am and Who I Want to Become For Others – Jacqueline Galvinhill ’18

NPCC Participant, Jacqueline Galvinhill ’18 guest blogs to share about her experience at the 2016 conference. 

My expectation for the Non-Profit Careers Conference was a week of workshops and lectures designed to present as much information to me as possible in the limited time available. I expected to leave the conference with a list of possible careers and resources to help me pursue my interests. What I actually experienced was so much more! The conference taught me important skills that I am sure I will use in my professional life, but more importantly, the conference created a space for me to question who I am and what motivates me. The sessions devoted to reflection and discernment forced me to examine how I was responding to new information by providing a structured avenue for asking myself questions that never would have otherwise occurred to me. In being asked to select adjectives for myself, I discovered how I view myself in a few words. In being asked about my childhood talents and my current talents, I realized that my love for public speaking was an interest that I could not ignore. In reflecting on failure, I was motivated to explore more opportunities even in the face of possible rejection. In reflecting on the whole week I felt somewhat liberated in knowing that there are a multitude of options available to me and that part of the fun is trying many of them. I went to the Non-Profit Careers Conference hoping to learn about job opportunities. I left the conference having discovered more about who I am and who I want to become for others.

How CBL Changed my Perspective – Elaines Peña ’18

Growing up in the inner city of Boston all that I ever heard was the college was the only way to “get out of the hood”, to get a job, and to be happy. I realized that I was not coming to college just for me but for my whole family. Everyone depended on my success. With that in mind I came to Holy Cross hoping to be an Economics major, because that is what I thought would secure me a job after college. At that point, getting a job and wealth was the only picture of living a good life that I had. I was not interested in the topic and that was clear to me my freshman year when I struggled in my Principles to Microeconomics class. Instead I found myself thriving in my Montserrat class, Exploring Differences, which is where I was introduced to CBL.

Personally I have realized that Economics does not fulfill me. With that class I did not have time to focus on justice, but I only had time to focus on myself. CBL helped me choose what was really important to me. With CBL I was able to direct my attention to God and justice for the marginalized. Justice is something that I want to focus on now, and that is what I see CBL doing for me and for those around me. CBL is more than just about community service to me, it is about the conversations of justice that CBL initiates in class. With discussions of CBL in my past classes, the injustices in the world become reality. As students we are able to put faces on the marginalized people we read about in class, which inspires us to get to the root of the problems in society.

Recently in my Liberation Theology course we discussed how some see religion as an opiate because it teaches us to endure the pain of the world and wait for the suffering to go away in heaven. Before I took any CBL courses, I was enduring the pain of the world by accepting the injustices that I saw. Instead of being idle to the injustices of the world, I have chosen to be active, and play a role in one day easing the injustices of the world.

 

Reflecting on my first semester as a CBL Intern – Funmi Anifowoshe ’17

As the semester comes to a close, and we all start panicking and stressing over midterms and final papers, the one place that I have been able to find solace has been in the CBL Office. Looking back, I was a little sad that I would be unable to take a CBL course this year, due to course requirements, but I think my role as an intern has certainly made up for that.

Some of my most memorable experiences this semester involved being one of the interns assigned to Professor Borghini’s Montserrat course, I am, Therefore I eat, assisting Ms. Isabelle in leading a reflection session in Sister Jeanne’s course, Social Ethics, and working with fellow intern, Lauren Suprenant during office hours.

Last semester, when I was applying to the CBL intern role, my drive for wanting this position was the desire to promote Community-Based Learning within the Holy Cross community. I have had such wonderful experiences with both of my CBL courses, and I wanted to share that with other students and allow them the opportunity to think of CBL as more than just an arduous burden in their busy Holy Cross schedules. Being able to work with a group of first-year students for Montserrat made me feel as if I was able to share those positive experiences. As part of the Montserrat course, each student in Prof. Borghini’s class visited Community Harvest Project, a CBL site that subsidizes the cost of growing fruits and vegetables and provides them to low income families and other members of the Worcester community. Community Harvest Project relies tremendously on volunteer work, and the students that I accompanied to the site really knew that their efforts were appreciated and played a large role in feeding Worcester families. During my last visit to the site with four students, Alex, Hanna, Christina and Julia, we were able to pick apples and tomatoes that were to be provided to families in the upcoming week. On the way back, we were able to discuss how difficult it was for families to feed their families quality food on a constrained budget, the system of food production in the U.S., and what food really means to people. Overall it was a productive experience, and getting to know the students, making sure they got the most out of their CBL experience, and standing as a woman for and with others in the Worcester and Holy Cross community was truly rewarding.

CHP

My other memorable experience was helping to lead an in-class reflection session for a religion course. I had never met a nun before, so meeting Sister Jeanne was very exciting for me. As part of the in-class reflection session, students had to tie in their CBL experience to an excerpt from Toxic Charity. I had a group of about 10-12 students, and it was really nice to hear about their positive, and sometimes negative, experiences from their CBL sites. Students spoke about their experiences and interactions with the Worcester community, and most of their reflections were positive. However, I think it is also important to acknowledge that some students had less than stellar experiences, which included feeling like their work was not beneficial or that their time and efforts at their sites were not organized or were wasted. This led to us being able to discuss how to better our CBL experiences, improve sites, and how to prevent people from needing the services of whichever site students were working in. In these reflections, each student was able to tie some aspect of their CBL experience to the real world, reminding me that the goal of CBL is to incorporate learning in and out of the classroom in a nonconventional manner. I had substantial and good quality conversations and reflections with my group, and it was nice to hear students talk freely about their CBL experience. Most said that they’d be willing to go out of their comfort zone and take another CBL course – so I have to say, the Donelan Office is clearly doing something right.

A couple days after helping lead Sister Jeanne’s in-class reflection, she sent me a little care package via the CBL Office. Not only did I feel tremendously appreciated, but many of the items she gave me were Halloween related, and receiving them from a Nun just made it all the better.

Sr.Jeanne

Finally, an amazing perk of being a CBL intern is getting to call Fenwick 321 your office for one hour, once a week. Every Monday from 11am to 12pm, I have my designated office hours with fellow intern, Lauren Suprenant. Office hours are almost always fun, insightful, and occasionally involve a multitude of tasks and interactions. Overall, office hours include helping Ms. Isabelle with tasks related to CBL, for example, organizing binders for the collection of sites, or printing and making copies for CBL students; during that one hour, we are also given treats and goodies that Ms. Isabelle so kindly prepares for us over the weekend; and my personal favorite, getting a visit from political science professor, Professor Fleury, and his nine-month old baby Charlie.

Thanks to the Office of Community Based Learning for making my semester so memorable and worthwhile.

A Senior CBL Intern’s Reflections

A few weeks ago, I had my first true realization that my time at Holy Cross is quickly coming to an end. For me, this is my last semester of classes at Holy Cross, since I will be spending the upcoming Spring semester student teaching at Burncoat Middle School. So as I was writing down everything I had to do before the last day of classes, it hit me: this is the last time I’ll have to write papers, complete projects, and study for exams until I go to grad school. As many (if not all) Holy Cross students know, this time of the year is filled with long stints in Dinand, to-do lists as long as that 5-page paper I have to write, and an increase in coffee intake in order to make up for the decrease in sleep. These things can be undoubtedly overwhelming, as this crunch time is filled with things we have to do in order to get that good grade we are striving for. However, as I was looking through that long, daunting list of papers, homework assignments, and meetings, one thing on my list that I technically have to do is also something that I look forward to doing every week, something that brings me so much joy and fulfills me with a great sense of purpose: CBL.

During my time at Holy Cross, I have taken more CBL classes than I can count (I think about 1/4th of the classes I have taken here have had a CBL component). I have had the opportunities to tutor middle school students, observe fantastic teachers in their classrooms, and work with African refugees on Saturday mornings. These experiences have not only helped me with the work I had for my CBL classes – and believe me, these were experiences that were incredibly meaningful in relation to the content that I was studying at the time. However, I didn’t expect that CBL was going to become the thing I most wanted to do at Holy Cross. From my first experience in the Worcester community Freshman year, I have thrived off of participating in the Worcester community; I often felt lost and out of place when I did not have a CBL to go to, or when I was home on break and didn’t have to go into the schools to help tutor. In this sense, CBL truly became a part of me – CBL became something that I couldn’t live without, something I looked forward to, something that kept me going during the toughest of weeks. In essence, CBL has truly been my saving grace: it has been my light at the end of the tunnel, my opportunity to break away from the stressful Holy Cross atmosphere and immerse myself in the Worcester community.

So as I come to the end of my time at Holy Cross, I can’t help but to be so incredibly thankful for my CBL experiences at Holy Cross. I have many people to thank for my fantastic experiences in the Worcester community: to my professors who saw the potential that CBL had to give students an indescribably meaningful experience; to Isabelle Jenkins and Michelle Sterk Barrett, the two women who work tirelessly to make sure every student is having a great CBL experience and always manage to have smiles on their faces and kind words of encouragement when I need it the most; to my fellow CBL Interns, past and present, who put up with my antics and support me in any way they can; to my community partners, who have accepted me into their buildings and communities with open arms; and finally, to Holy Cross, for providing me with the experience of a lifetime. I know I want to continue working in the Worcester community after I graduate, and I have these people, places, and things to thank for that.

Thank you, CBL, for turning my education into an experience.
-Lauren Suprenant ’16

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.

 

Finding New Horizons

“Finding New Horizons,” Jake Medina ’16

When I first came to Holy Cross, I had two big questions:

  • Would Holy Cross transform me into a better person?
  • Would I be able to make a lasting impact on my home for four years?

I am proud to say that I know the answer to my first question. I will permanently be a more confident, intelligent, connected person due to my time at Holy Cross. The second question is more difficult to assess. How does one measure one’s own impact?

As I begin my senior year, my goal is to answer question two with a “yes.” I have no doubt that I put my best effort into changing the environment around me. I volunteered my time, redefined my understanding of morality, and constantly pushed myself to new limits. I see positive results from my work—I know that I impacted lives and that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

However, as I face the end of my time at Holy Cross, I must confront the fact that I will not be in Worcester for much longer. Now, the most important word in my second question is “lasting.” Will my impact last after I leave or will the systems I put in place graduate with me?

My passion during my time at Holy Cross has been working with Worcester students. They inspire me, make me smile, and provide solace on my most difficult days. As much as I love working with them, I also realize they are being failed by America’s education system. The blame cannot be placed on anyone specifically as all the Worcester educators I worked with are amazing people doing their best in a difficult situation. Still, Worcester students deserve better.

I am not foolish enough to think that I can change an entire system, but I want to make my mark before I leave. With a team of students, I fundraised for and purchased 17 tablets equipped with keyboards and headphones. Recognizing the need for access to technology and a fun, interactive way to learn, our team of students equipped each tablet with various educational games on subjects ranging from art and music to ESL, math, and science.

The tablets went out to two after-school programs last spring/summer and we hope to add over ten more sites in Worcester this fall. Our goal is that whenever a Holy Cross student leaves campus to tutor, they will leave with an educational tablet.

So far, the results are amazing. I taught students how to type their name for the first time, watched a young boy smile as he learned multiplication tables to zap zombies on the tablet, and saw countless “aha” moments as students connected with their education.

We hope the impact of tablets will not end in Worcester and are preparing documents to file a nonprofit under the name “Student Empowerment Program.” Our team plans to export our model to other colleges and universities in struggling school districts.

Have I made a lasting impact on my home for four years? How does one measure one’s own impact? I cannot say that I know the answer to either of these questions, but I certainly hope that when I come back for my Holy Cross reunions, I will see students getting ready to volunteer and make a difference, holding tablets in their arms.

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.

A Senior’s Words of Gratitude to Our Community Partners

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to address an entire room full of the people who help make Community-Based Learning a viable program for students at Holy Cross.  I wrote this speech, which I’ve included below, not only to thank our community partners for the work they do, but to remind them of how this work contributes to our academic and personal growth.

If my four years here have taught me anything, it’s that college isn’t just about what you learn.  It’s about the person you become through your learning.

In that respect, CBL has been an invaluable aspect of my experience here at Holy Cross, contributing to both my academic and personal growth. Before I arrived at Holy Cross, social justice and community service were things I’d never really considered.

But now, as a graduating senior, social justice and community service have become integral to my identity as a student and as a citizen. Going out into the community and experiencing both the frustrations and the successes of treating social problems awakened in me a social consciousness developed otherwise.

Being able to forge a relationship with the Worcester community has shaped my college experience into one I’m proud of and excited by. Many Holy Cross students neglect to explore Worcester and claim it as their community. We tend to get wrapped up in the monotony of campus culture so that even when we do engage in community service, we do so with a level of distance.

Our objective is not to get to know the community and make its problems our own; our objective is to become more “well-rounded” by adding yet another item to our collection of commitments and responsibilities. We approach service with romanticized hopes of intimately touching the lives of those we (often condescendingly) deem to be “less-fortunate” than we are.

I’ll be the first to admit I initially became involved in service at Holy Cross for that very reason. It wasn’t until I unwittingly enrolled in a CBL course that the paradigm of service shifted for me. When I found out my Introduction to Women’s and Gender Studies course would require me to go out into Worcester and try to determine how our course objectives played out in the real world, I was skeptical.

But as the semester progressed, I came to see the pedagogical value of observing theory in practice. For me, engaging in the community didn’t just illustrate the social problems and structural inequalities discussed in our course readings; engaging in the community broke down the “us/them” boundary many of my peers carefully maintain between ourselves and the Worcester community. Immersing myself in the community made theoretical problems and inequalities personal imperatives.

Through the relationship I’ve grown with the Worcester community, I’ve come to see Worcester not as a place I inhabit between vacations but as my home. I’ve come to see broader social problems as personal calls to action. I’ve come to see that theory and practice are never mutually exclusive things.

In the same way, 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 not only to 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 our society.

So, if I can speak for my fellow Community-Based Learning students and Interns, on behalf of all of us, I’d like to thank 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.

Thank you.

 

–Rachel E. Greenberg, ’15

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?'”