I still remember how nervous I was sitting in a circle with seven of my classmates during my first CBL reflection session last year. It was the first time I actively reflected on the service I was doing. In high school, I volunteered at soup kitchens, food banks, and my local elementary school, but I never took the time to reflect on those experiences afterwards. As I sat with my Montserrat classmates talking about my time at Herd Street Elementary School or Ascentria Care Alliance, I began to realize the power of reflection. I learned about Toxic Charity, or the concept that despite our best intentions, service is not always helpful and can be degrading to the recipients of service. I learned about the idea of reciprocity and experienced firsthand how service is beneficial both for the person giving and receiving. My first year at Holy Cross changed my mindset regarding community engagement, and it made me realize that I do not just want service to be another extra-curricular activity I add to my resumé. I wanted service to be a central part of my college experience.
I knew Holy Cross offered students many ways to get involved with the Worcester community, but I also knew that one of the best parts of my Montserrat was getting to hear about other students’ experiences. Listening to my classmates reflect on their days at their CBL site often deepened my understanding of my own service. Also, I wanted to continue reflecting on social justice issues outside of an academic setting with other students who were passionate about the topic. Furthermore, I wanted to help other students understand service the same way the CBL interns who led our reflection sessions helped me. With all of these thoughts in mind during the spring of my first year I decided to apply to be a CBL Intern, so that I could continue participating in service, reflecting on my service, and learning from others.
The first step of the process was relatively simple. As I sat writing out answers to the various questions on the application, I began to realize how much the position meant to me. It was yet another chance for me to consider the ways in which my time at my CBL site impacted me. My time working with third graders during my first semester offered much needed relief from the constant stress of never-ending classes and assignments. During my second semester, I sat in a classroom with fourteen recent immigrants learning English grammar and pronunciation. All of the people I met were from different countries and spoke different languages. I began to recognize how difficult it is to learn the English language, and I learned about the struggles and persecution immigrants face in America. I wrote about these two vastly different yet eye-opening experiences in my response to the essay questions. I found that the initial application offered me the opportunity to reflect on my own interest in the program and what I was hoping to gain from the experience if I was selected. This also happened to be extremely helpful for the next step in the intern selection process.
The final step in the process, the interview, was certainly the part I was most worried about. I was unsure if I would be able to accurately express my interest in the program and articulate the ways my CBL experience influenced my time at Holy Cross. However, I was grateful to find that the interview was relatively conversational, and the reflection I did while preparing my written application certainly made it easier to relay my experiences to the interns who interviewed me. Despite my worries about the process and the brief anxiety I felt during that time period, I am happy to say that being a CBL intern continues to be the most rewarding activity I participate in at Holy Cross. Every day I am inspired by the people I meet through my service site, my fellow CBL interns, and other students involved with CBL. The application process proved to be far less daunting than I made it out to be, and I am forever grateful for the connections and experiences I gained through this community.