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.
I didn’t choose Community-Based Learning; Community-Based Learning chose me. As I sat in my Intro to Women’s and Gender Studies course on the first day of spring semester 2013, I had no idea what CBL was. I had no idea that it would change the way I view education.
In my Women’s and Gender Studies class, our discussions revolved around the kinds of ideas and theories and social issues you would expect when looking at the course title. When I chose to do my placement at Let’s Get Ready, a non-profit that offers free SAT prep courses for high schoolers in the New England area, I couldn’t see how my work in the community could relate back to the kinds of issues relating to gender dynamics we were discussing in class.
But as I thought back on the coursework for the semester, I remembered reading Adrienne Rich’s address to a women’s college about claiming an education. Rich’s speech sought to empower young women to be active claimers of their educations rather than passive recipients.
By the time I completed my placement at LGR, I had seen how the educational injustices in our society have complicated the lives of students in Worcester Public Schools. Lack of access to resources and guidance left many of my students struggling through college applications and the basic work of an SAT prep course. They had to fight for their education in a way I never did. I began to realize how much I’ve taken my educational advantages for granted. I began to realize how much time I’d wasted being a passive recipient of my education.
Watching my students grow and struggle over the course of the semester changed my outlook on education in America. Not only have I come to know how fortunate I am to be a student at Holy Cross–something some of us so easily forget–I’ve learned to approach my education as a source of empowerment.
In high school, I never availed myself of the wealth of service opportunities in my community. I was selfish with my time and with my education. But working with CBL taught me to approach my education in an entirely different way. It taught me that my education is valuable. You’d think that’s something I would have realized long ago based on the price tag alone, but working in the Worcester community added a value that can’t be understood in terms of dollars and cents.
Working with CBL, I learned that my education is something I can share. It’s something I can contribute, however small that contribution is, to ameliorating the educational injustices rampant in our country. It’s something I can use to serve others, and the best part? The more I use it, the more it grows.
–Rachel E. Greenberg
Greetings fellow Crusaders, and welcome to our blog! This blog will mainly be written by the four of us, Community-Based Learning (CBL) Interns, Cindy Nguyen (’15), Rachel Greenberg (’15), Annie Wynters (’14), and Jake Medina (’16). For our very first blog, we would like to allow you, the reader, to learn why we are blogging and what to expect in our future posts.
If you’re not familiar with the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, click here to learn more about what we do! For all of us, participating in CBL is a defining aspect of our Holy Cross experiences. Everyday on the Hill, we are constantly reminded why we have chosen a liberal arts education–not just for the academics, but to also develop and grow as a person, to widen our horizons, and to never stop questioning the imperfections in our society.
We started this blog because we want to share the stories and insights we gain through our personal experiences with CBL. We want to invite everyone to join our journeys of frustration, happiness, revelation, and confusion. We don’t want the dialogues to stop when you leave your CBL class or when you leave your CBL site; instead, we want to create a place where you, our fellow Crusaders, feel welcome and might even discover a little bit about yourselves.
A few words from the CBL Interns: What does CBL means to you?
Cindy: CBL is another outlet for me to continue an academic and personal dialogue about the social structure that is embodied within our communities.
Jake: With the understanding that life is not a lecture, CBL engages me in a way that expands the classroom and creates opportunity for personal, spiritual, and academic growth.
Rachel: CBL has given me the chance to get over myself, get into the community, and claim my education.
Annie: CBL has given me the unique opportunity to ground theories of the classroom in real world experience. I have found my passion for responding for social justice issues present at the community sites I have been placed at with urgency, lessons I will take with me far beyond the gates of Holy Cross.”