“How Lucky I Am” – Patrick McQuillen ’23

My senior year blog post has been a moment that I have looked forward to ever since I was a sophomore, reading the thoughts of my fellow senior interns as they each prepared for their time after Holy Cross. However, now that it is my turn to write a reflective blog post about my time at Holy Cross, I just couldn’t find a way to properly express my gratitude for my past three years in Worcester, Massachusetts. That was, until I found this picture that I saved in my phone as I left for college in the fall of 2019. The picture comes from the book series, Winnie the Pooh, a childhood favorite of mine. Though I have many favorite quotes from the adventures of Winnie and all of his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood, no quote has been more impactful than, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” This quote has been especially impactful to me during moments of change because it reminds me to be grateful for painful goodbyes. As I sit at my desk wiping tears away from my eyes to complete this blog post, I am once again reminded about just how grateful I am to be able to volunteer in the city of Worcester and work with some of the brightest minds on campus as a part of the CBL intern Program. 

As a first-year student, I had little to no idea about what I wanted to do, and how I would spend my next four years at the college. So, when I was told that my class had a mandatory service requirement, I willingly welcomed the opportunity to serve at Ascentria Care Alliance. With an open and vulnerable mindset, I jumped at the opportunity to lead “conversation classes” during my two hours at Ascentria. On a weekly basis, myself and about ten individuals of various linguistic backgrounds would practice basic conversation skills by talking about our interests. At first, conversation was very simple, discussing topics like favorite movies, dishes and music. However, as weeks went on, conversations between students and myself deepened as discussion turned to the feelings of uncertainty that many students felt regarding the impending COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, these discussions were abruptly interrupted as students from around the nation were sent home due to the spike in COVID-19 cases in the spring of 2020. It was during this time that I realized how much these students, and my time at Ascentria, meant to me. It was also during this time that I decided to apply to the CBL Intern Program. Oh how lucky I am that I made such a decision. 

What followed my decision to apply to the CBL Intern Program has been the most impactful three years of my life. As a sophomore, attending school online in the fall, the CBL Intern Program provided me with community during a time when so many felt alone. From weekly “office hour” conversations with Prof. Jenkins, to monthly intern meetings where I got to meet new people from the safety of home, the 2021 intern cohort was a group of people that provided me with a sense of consistency in an uncertain time. 

Once it was safe enough to return back to fully in person classes and service, I was reminded about my passion for service and justice during my year at the St. John’s food pantry. As a resident of the Vernon Hill community during my junior year, I would walk myself down to the parish in the morning and help work the kitchen for two hours a week. Although this was a drastically different experience in comparison to my time at Ascentria, I greatly appreciated the relationships that I was able to build with other volunteers who were on the same mission as myself. Getting the opportunity to work with like minded individuals on a weekly basis is an experience I will never forget, how lucky I am to have worked with such awesome people. On the topic of awesome people, promotions within the J.D. Power Center gave the 2022 intern cohort the opportunity to meet a new intern coordinator, Mattie Carroll. Mattie’s positive impact to the Donelan Office and intern cohort was immediately felt, and it was clear how grateful that each individual was to have her join the group in an administrative capacity. The senior celebration for the class of 2022, was a reminder about the gratitude that everyone felt for each other  and helped me process my transition into my final year at Holy Cross. How lucky I am to have known every member of the 2022 intern cohort. 

And last but not least, I am especially grateful for my last year at Holy Cross. My weekly service at the WPS Adult Learning Center in the fall provided me with great support from coordinators like Kristin Barfaro during a difficult time when I suffered a broken hand in the fall of 2022. Additionally, I am especially grateful for my time at the City View Elementary school during this spring. The relationships I have been able to build with younger kids who attend an extra hours program have been especially meaningful to me because I am able to escape from the daily stresses of life for two hours a week through their creativity and humor. Obviously, I am especially grateful for the 2023 intern cohort, but I fear that I cannot find the words to describe just how lucky I am to have met such a great group of people. So, I will save it for the last intern meeting of the year 🙂 .  Oh how lucky I am that finishing this blog post is so hard.

“An Ignatian Examen of My Spring Break Experience in Wheeling, WV” by Erica Schofield ’25

An Ignatian Examen of My Spring Break Experience in Wheeling, WV

Ignatian spirituality is defined by repetitive reflection and contemplation. After an impactful Spring Break Immersion experience last spring in Alamosa, Colorado that ignited internal contemplation, I decided to go on another immersion trip this past month. I was placed at an Appalachia site, The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling in Wheeling, VA. After a snowstorm delayed our flight, I finally embarked to West Virginia on Sunday night with 5 of my peers. When we arrived in West Virginia on Sunday morning, we were greeted by our site contact, Becky. I could immediately tell it was a cause close to her heart. After a quick orientation of the kitchen and dropping our luggage and sleeping bags upstairs, we got straight to work: chopping produce, serving food, cleaning, and sharing meals with members of the Wheeling community.

Over the course of the week, I met many members of the Wheeling Community and was exposed to a different story than the one I had previously been told and believed about Appalachia and its people. The people coming to the soup kitchen came from different walks of life, backgrounds, and situations. I didn’t expect the people of Wheeling to open up to me – why should they? Nothing about our circumstances for being at the soup kitchen was the same. And yet, they did.

As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie put in her TedTalk “The danger of a single story,” single stories about groups or types of people are powerful and pervasive. And yet, it’s not exactly our fault for believing them in the first place. It is human nature to stereotype and categorize, a survival instinct. However, once we are aware of our tendencies, we should seek out opportunities to rewrite the stereotypes in our heads. As Adichie eloquently states, “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” My week in Wheeling  changed my perspective and opened my heart to the stories of a community I hadn’t had the chance to listen to before.

Many people hold stereotypes about people who use social services or soup kitchens. Whether it’s that they are very poor, unhoused, using drugs, or somehow lesser human, these stereotypes are prominent in the media and are believed by many people, even people who don’t realize they think them. While it is undeniable that some people who are homeless are struggling with substance use or addiction, many community members who I met were not. The Wheeling community was multidimensional: a community undoubtedly dealing with poverty and hunger but also full of happy young children, new parents, and elderly people full of wisdom and good stories.

I think my experience in Wheeling is valuable for the Holy Cross community at large. We are fortunate to be studying here, surrounded by a supportive community. We are also a campus on a hill, secluded or sheltered from the Worcester community both physically and symbolically. That is the value of CBL, the opportunity to dispel the own stories you hold. To find new empathy in your heart. To form connections with people across differences of identity and lived experience.

There are always going to be people who “prove” the stereotype right or who take advantage of a system aimed at helping them. But the few do not, and should not, speak for the whole. There is never a reason to stop listening, engaging, empathizing, and helping when possible.

“Law, Identity, and CBL: A Reflection” by Jocelyn Hernandez ’23

My time as an intern for the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning (CBL) on campus has certainly shaped my college experiential learning experience. Volunteering at Ascentria’s Unaccompanied Minors Program has created a deeper connection between my parents’ story and my own that I never imagined would happen. I don’t think I really understood what crossing the border on your own meant until I interacted with refugees. Helping them break the language barrier by ensuring that they are able to complete their homework assignments and also learning English meant everything because I knew this was the support that my parents needed themselves, yet never received. Having this connection with the students was incredibly important to me because I am living proof of Peruvian and Guatemalan immigrants crossing the border and breaking the language barrier. Mami y Papi ensured that language barrier was never something to impede me from excelling academically. I never thought being bilingual would have such a meaningful message behind it. The Ascentria students allowed me to work toward change for social justice issues in Worcester such as the language barrier that refugees experience when coming to a foreign country and being forced to learn English. 

But my experiential learning journey did not end with Ascentria. I was able to volunteer with another CBL partner: Worcester East Middle School. There was certainly a distinction from Ascentria because instead of seeing students after school, I was actually in the classroom with them. I was heartbroken to see so many students struggling because of various reasons. One thing I noticed was: the educational system is not only designed against them but also not supporting them academically. An observation I made was how English as a Second Language (ESL) students approached math distinctively. Even though they did not speak/know English, some students still did well. However, some students did not. Their teacher revealed how for some, the concepts are easier because they come from countries where they are exposed to a stronger math background. Those students who struggle the most are most likely from countries with weaker math backgrounds. Being in the classroom showed me the horrors that can happen in public education. For instance, Spanish and Portuguese students in the 6th grade math class had a classroom translator available to them, but then the teacher was moved to a different class with children who “needed her more.”  I sympathized with students who continued to need the additional help but were not able to receive it. The lack of support created an environment where students are left behind to fend for themselves with a teacher who does not even speak the language they do. 

Commitment to pursuing social justice is engraved in my CBL experiences at Holy Cross. Volunteering and working with both Ascentria and Worcester East has shaped my perspective toward immigration, refugees, and the educational system in the U.S. Refugees participating in Ascentria’s programming provide support for students; however, what happens to students who are not in Ascentria? They are left alone in the education system with no assistance. Being able to make a difference, even if it is as small as the students smiling when they see me is important because it is crucial for refugees to interact with students they relate to. ESL students need to see others with similar backgrounds to them in college and working toward a future since that can serve as an inspiration to them. Sometimes all they really need is just someone to talk to. I am humbled to say that I was that person for many of the students at Worcester East and Ascentria. Representation matters. It is one of the many factors that intrigues my interest in law. It is also one of the many reasons why experiential learning has made such an impact on myself not only as a student but also as a person. Seeing these social justice issues firsthand empowers me to continue my law school journey and also work toward finding spaces where I can potentially work with a team of other powerful lawyers to address them.

Community Partner Appreciation Reception Speeches, Spring ’23

SPUD leader, Daisy Fanter ’23 and CBL Intern, Valentina Maza ’23 were selected by the Community Engagement Steering Committee to offer speeches at the annual Community Partner Appreciation Reception (on 3/3/23). Daisy and Valentina’s touching remarks were the highlight of the reception. Read their speeches here!

Daisy Fanter:

Hi, my name is Daisy Fanter. I am a junior here at the college studying Biology and Religious Studies. Being from Nevada, my connections here in Worcester were slim to nothing before coming to Holy Cross. Us west coasters are few and far between! However, thanks to some of your organizations and the programs offered here at Holy Cross, I have been able to build connections throughout the past three years through both my academic life and my personal life. With that, I have come to realize Worcester is truly a special community

My freshman year, I decided to move to Worcester on my own. It was in the peak of COVID, and the campus was closed, but I still wanted to experience this city and what it had to offer, so I decided to rent an apartment in downtown Worcester. It was quite a unique and scary experience, being 3,000 miles from home knowing no one. But I had the opportunity to explore Worcester on my own. From riding the WRTA to working out at YMCA on Main St., I learned just how amazing Worcester is by getting a sense of the people during this unique time.

Once I arrived on campus, I realized I wanted to continue to get to know Worcester and its people. So, I began working in the SPUD program my freshman year as a tutor for the ANSAAR of Worcester program. Here I tutored one student in Chemistry every week. While everything was virtual, it was such an awesome way to step out of the isolation of COVID and begin making my very first Worcester connection. Flash forward to this year, I am a  Program Director for our SPUD program at the  Nativity School of Worcester, and my time there  has totally changed my life and who I am striving to become. We learn, grow, and become who we are through relationships and the people we meet. Working at Nativity has impacted who I am today,

The staff and students at Nativity have given me so much more than I have given them. I remember my first day there and  feeling so nervous and afraid of not remembering how to do long division or helping with Spanish homework. Yet somehow, when I arrived all that fear instantly left me, and I was just happy to be a part of this community. On my very first day of working with my student, we spoke extensively about his love for music. I remember being in awe when an eighth grader began telling me his favorite artists were groups like Coldplay, Nirvana, and Van Morrison. A few visits later, something happened that reminded me that these relationships are, at their best, mutually transformative. We were speaking about music, like we usually did, and he was telling me about how he wanted to learn how to read sheet music. I had told him it wasn’t as scary to learn as it may look. I remember him almost immediately questioning if I could play an instrument. Almost dismissively I had said that I played the piano growing up. He almost leaped out of his chair with both curiosity and excitement to ask me all about it; however, his biggest question was why I hadn’t told him sooner about my old hobby. I gave him an honest answer and told him it wasn’t ever something I was proud of that I almost was embarrassed that I was always practicing and playing the piano when I was younger. His demeanor changed and he said, “Daisy, I think that being able to play the piano is so cool. I’m sorry that you were embarrassed to play, but I think it’s something to be proud of.” We went back and forth for a few moments and got back to work, but I couldn’t stop thinking about what he had said.

It’s moments such as these that make community engagement so important for me and for so many students . Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is measured by the compassion of its members.” It’s the compassion we all see in the Worcester community  that makes it so special. I would like to thank you all for your compassion. For opening your doors to all of us students and giving us the opportunity to learn and love the community of Worcester just as much as you all do.

Valentina Maza:

Good morning everyone, my name is Valentina Maza and I’m a current senior at Holy Cross. As my journey as a Holy Cross student comes to an end, I can confidently say that I was able to find a home away from home here because of community engagement. By the end of my sophomore year, I became an intern for the Community-Based Learning Office. Our work as a group continues to be one of my greatest joys at Holy Cross. Indeed, through CBL, I have learned that in the end, there’s always joy. 

Four years ago as a first-year student, I constantly tried to fit somewhere and failed time after time. It was not until I volunteered at the Marie Anne Center during my freshman year through CBL that I finally grabbed onto a missing side of who I am. 

At the Marie Anne Center, I was lucky to work with English Learners. I was once an ESL student, still am, who had migrated from Venezuela. Therefore, it made sense to join this center for my CBL. To my surprise, I met people from all over Latin America, mainly from Brazil, which means they spoke Portuguese, and I did not. I spoke Spanish. So, it seemed that my initial logic no longer made sense. 

Nevertheless, we did share something; just like them, I also aspired to become fluent in English to achieve the dreams we all got to share with one another. We all shared who we are and where we come from. As a common denominator, we used to always go back to food as one of our main topics of conversation. The students shared their delicious dishes at home and at family gatherings. I then understood the deep meaning of our roots and how we can always go back to something as a reminder of our identity, whether food, music, or language. CBL allowed me to return to a part of mine. Being with the students felt like we were creating our sense of community, a family. Through this experience at the Marie Anne Center, I learned that it wasn’t me who had something to give them, partially because I didn’t speak Portuguese, but also because I was the one who walked away from the experience with endless lessons.  

In addition to my experience at the Marie Anne Center, I have been blessed to see Worcester outside of Holy Cross, which would not be possible without any of you. For instance, during the CBL Intern training, we had the opportunity to visit El Buen Samaritano. The missions and goals Mari, the Director of EBS, shared with us inspired me. Following our visit, I knew I had to contribute to El Buen Samaritano’s amazing work. I then applied to our Holy Cross Marshall Grant and brought items to their winter drive. Once again, I felt at home within El Buen Samaritano space. It is people like Marim and people like each and every one of you here today, that allow students like me to feel that way. 

So, what does community engagement mean to me? Endless learning experiences and challenges, as well as immeasurable joy. I also have to say that gratitude fuels my understanding of community engagement. Throughout my soon-to-be four years at Holy Cross, I wasn’t sure what college and life would be like. Although my time here is ending, I am endlessly grateful that I had the opportunity to create my own sense of community because all of you allow students like me to be part of your work. On behalf of the Holy Cross community, thank you, our community partners, for all that you do. 

The New Path – Ashley Garcia Quiterio ’25

My first year as a CBL Intern and my first ever blog- post!

One of the best things that CBL has helped me and further develop is my new interest in my life: volunteering at the Worcester Public Schools Adult Learning Center. Volunteering at WPS- Adult Learning Center this past fall semester and now continuing to volunteer during my spring semester is the best thing I could’ve done. I never in a billion years thought I would have been interested in going into the education world after college.

I remember my first day there, dropped off at 24 Chatham St. around 5:45 pm. I was early for once. I waited for Kashana, the night educator in charge, to tell me what I would be doing for the night. I sat on the bench, thinking to myself what I would be doing here because the only thing I knew beforehand was that I was helping out with technology classes, which was partially true. Now, I’m teaching those basic technology skills to 2 different beginner English classes. There’s times where I come up with new lessons for the classes, too. What can I say, I am a whole teacher now without being licensed and I love that!

A lot of the adults/students come from different cultural backgrounds – the majority of them are from South America, México, and the Caribbean. Others are Brazilian, Albanian, and from Sudan. At the beginning I was worried about interacting with these adults from various backgrounds and found it to be challenging for me because I didn’t know if I was going to be good at communicating well with all of them. Over time. that stopped being an issue because the students, myself, and the teachers worked together to help each other out. Every time I step foot into the classroom I just see smiles and laughs which brings me happiness and joy in the work I do with them because, not only are they learning, but I am as well. I remember I had these assumptions/ideas about people who teach because I didn’t feel I had the qualified skills that they do. Patience was one of them. I’m a person that easily gives up on things when I see them not working how they should be and blame it on myself which was something I didn’t realize I did in my life until I started volunteering there.

I am constantly growing as a person and gaining new skills that being a part of WPS Adult Learning Center has helped me without me knowing and I am forever glad of the community that I am a part of with them. Education, teaching, and being the one doing that is something that never crossed my mind in doing and now look at me. Even though I am not 100% sure of being a teacher, I am one step closer in knowing the path I want to go in life than before. 

How Do I Immerse My Passions? Am I Meant For Only One Path? Answer: Be Open To Change – Fernanda Perez-Alvarez ’24

When I first agreed to join the Non-Profit Careers Conference, I was unsure of what to expect. Of course I knew there would be panels, speakers, and it would revolve around non-profit organizations in Worcester, however, I had never attended a week-long conference that I, at first, believed was straying away from future career goals. Now having come out of the conference I want to share my passion for non-profit organizations with others while still being pre-med, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning. 

The first day of the conference my stomach was turning as I walked down the steps of ‘Science’ (science building) toward Smith Laboratories. I had been so used to entering Smith Laboratories ready for Chemistry classes, yet I was greeted with kind smiles by CBL Interns, Mattie, and Isabelle. It felt a bit as though two of my different worlds (academics and CBL) had collided. Although I am a returning CBL Intern, I am still trying to pave the way for two of my passions, medicine and CBL (community building, immersing in community, working for and with others, etc). I want to mash these two passions together and create a vocation out of it. Although I am a Biology major with a LALC concentration on the pre-med track, it can be hard talking to other students majoring in the STEM field and even pre-med students about the importance of CBL. I want so hard for them to understand what it means to be immersed in the Worcester community. I want them to see how important it is to work with non-profit organizations to better understand how they themselves can go out into the world ready not only for themselves, but others too. I understand that better now thanks to the CBL Intern Program, but I am still learning. 

During the NPCC, there were sessions students could choose from to attend. I attended Lynn Lancaster’s (HC Alumni ‘86) session about Grant Proposal Writing. I went into the session thinking I would simply learn about how to write proposals in order to receive grants. I was very wrong and actually learned about Lynn’s road to her current job. There are so many twists and turns in life that it is important to remember that change can be good. One just has to be open to it. It was during this talk that I realized how glued to one single path I had been this whole time. It is definitely possible to do non-profit work and go into medicine. I just need to be open to change. I realized how important both my CBL and science experiences are. I began to really think that day about how intersected both fields could be. On one hand, I was to be a provider of health, but yet I could still do non-profit work by helping in clinics doing behind the scene work. 

As I began working with my team on our designated non-profit, Girls Inc., I began to also think about my identity. I thought about other women of color in the field and what it means to be in STEM as a woman of color. I began to reflect on experiences I had as a young girl. I grew up a daughter of Mexican immigrants in a low-income community. I’m now at a predominately white institution in a predominately white field. Imposter syndrome is almost impossible to ignore, yet CBL and the NPCC conference reminded me what a gift it is to grow up understanding first hand what it is like growing up as a woman, POC, and low-income. These intersecting parts of my identity are what are now able to help me pursue my two passions. The NPCC and Girls Inc.’s mission were a wake up call for myself and for what the future holds. 

Going forward, I am not pressuring myself to stick to one single path, but instead to be open to multiple and allow my experiences to guide me. Currently, I am working with young 2nd grade and kindergarten students at Girls Inc.. Seeing these young girls reminds me of after school programs my parents would place me in and I find such joy working with these young scholars to prepare for future chapters in their lives. I can’t wait to continue working with Girls Inc. this semester (as well as my senior year) and be a part of more CBL reflections to help me discover more about myself and what I want to do with my life.

Reflections on Fall ’22 – Alison Maloney ’23

As my fall semester of senior year comes to a close, I feel grateful to look back on so many special memories made possible by community involvement. Each year, my activities both on and off campus have enabled me to grow immensely, and this fall was no exception. As a senior, I stepped into new leadership opportunities and helped direct exciting events. I joined new clubs, reconnected with peers and faculty, and made new friends and connections. Out of all these wonderful experiences, my involvement in the CBL Intern Program once again stands as a highlight to my fall semester, allowing me to learn, connect with others, and grow personally.

Having joined the CBL Intern Program last year, I was so excited to continue my involvement as a returning intern. The CBL intern community has provided me with wonderful friends as well as chances to learn and get out of my comfort zone. I loved visiting my community partner, actively promoting community-based learning, and discussing all that we had learned in our intern meetings. I also had the chance to direct reflections and write for the J.D. Power Center Newsletter. All of these opportunities centered around community pushed me to think deeper about society, its structures, and our role within them. After nearly a year of remote learning and feeling all too comfortable with what was “known” to me, I was very thankful for the new experiences the CBL Intern Program gave me.

One of my favorite aspects of this program is that each intern is given a specific leadership role. This year, I have been serving as one of the meeting coordinators. Meeting coordinators work together to plan and co-facilitate intern meetings with the director and assistant director of the Donelan Office. So far, I have really enjoyed stepping into this new role. It’s been such a pleasure working with my fellow meeting coordinator, Fernanda, as well as Mattie and Isabelle to create relevant activities for our interns. Our activities are most often team-bonding and reflection based, but I really appreciate the flexibility that can go into this aspect of our meetings. With the next semester approaching, I’m really looking forward to seeing what new activities Fernanda and I can bring to our future meetings.

Finally, this semester I also had the opportunity to engage with a new community partner. Every Thursday morning, I visited Whitcomb Middle School in Marlborough to assist students in the Latin language program. Through crafts, games, and discussion, I worked with my group of students to learn more about Greek mythology and the ancient world. Our activities were centered on the stories of Hercules and the twelve labors—each week we learned about a couple of the tasks this hero was assigned, whether it was fighting monsters, capturing animals, or stealing treasured items from gods. Visiting this CBL placement site was always very exciting to me. Over the summer, I had worked with Prof. Machado of the Classics department to develop parts of this program. Seeing activities I had helped design come to life was really rewarding. Further, as a Classics major, I loved teaching something I was passionate about to other students. It was a wonderful learning experience getting to hear the students’ unique opinions on these ancient myths, many of which helped to guide my thoughts on ancient notions of a hero. Finally, I really enjoyed getting to know my group of students better. Whether it was providing each other with updates from our week, discussing Hercules’ very poor decision making, or designing our final board game, these simple moments in my group made each visit truly meaningful to me.

CBL in our “New Normal” – Morgan Vacca ’23

Life at Holy Cross is busy. This semester especially, I’ve noticed that people’s schedules are crazier than ever. Successfully planning something with others is becoming an accomplishment, and having time to yourself is becoming rare. Seeing the campus revert back to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic has been exciting. However, the stress that process has brought on students is extremely taxing, and, dare I say, “unprecedented.”

As a CBL Intern, I was worried about the impact that this unexpected stress would have on students going to their CBL sites (myself included). Having what seems like a million things to do is distracting. This kind of distraction seemed like it would take away from students’ experiences at their sites, and their desire to connect with others. 

At the beginning of October, I helped facilitate a reflection session in a Montserrat seminar. As I prepared myself for this session, my fears about students and CBL were heightened. At that point, most of the students had started going to their respective sites, and I was so worried about what they would say. However, the second I sat down, I was pleasantly surprised. I barely had time to introduce myself before students started telling me what site they were going to, who they met there, and what had happened. Whereas most conversations I had on campus always seemed like everyone was just trying to get to the next place they had to go, this one was different. Everyone was engaged. Everyone was fully present. Most importantly, it seemed like everyone was truly passionate about what they were doing.

After four years here at Holy Cross, I never realized the real power of connecting with one’s community until that day. This semester has been hectic for everyone. However, instead of adding to that stress, it became clear to me that our community is one of the few things that can relieve it. Forming connections with others, reflecting, and learning about oneself is something that it seems like no one has time for anymore. However, being present in the community gives people the opportunity to do exactly that.

Four Years Filled with Lessons and Change – Valentina Maza ’23

Almost four years later, I have yet to believe my college experience is coming to an end. As I was thinking about what I should write, I realized that my time as a CBL intern is also falling short. This would mean that I have a single blog post left to write. It’s crazy how time flies, isn’t it? I know it sounds cliche, but it truly amazes me. I recall who I used to be during my first year, and sometimes, I have difficulty recognizing my old self. Some might say that’s also crazy, but I firmly believe college is about ongoing change and figuring out who we are. Multiple experiences have driven my personal growth throughout my time at Holy Cross. My time as an intern and working alongside the Donelan Office have influenced me since my first year in Worcester. Because of that, I would like to reflect on my time with the CBL office.

During my first year, I had the opportunity to volunteer at the Marie Anne Center as a part of my “Social Ethics” class. It served the primary purpose of CBL; I could apply the concepts I learned in class to real-life situations. However, I discovered more about myself there than anywhere else, so I joined CBL. My role as an English tutor truly shifted my perspective on life and helped me understand the need to remove presumptions. I assumed I would meet
Spanish-speaking students, but most spoke Portuguese. I was outside of my comfort zone for the semester but learned so much from each of them. Due to my lack of Portuguese, I was always nervous about not giving my best self. But even then, each of them welcomed me with a smile. Until this day, I cherish the Brazilian woman who invited me to share dinner because she had passed her citizenship exam. They taught me the importance of gratitude. Amid my discomfort, I felt at home with all of them.

After that year, I knew I wanted to continue working with the CBL office, so I became an Intern. I volunteered with the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program during my junior year. I met some of the most remarkable and determined people who also taught me many lessons about life and myself. They showed me how finding joy and appreciation in everything could change how we view life. Lastly, this year I am an Ignite Fellow tutoring third graders. I
work with them online since they are in Texas. Like all my other experiences, I have learned to work with my students individually, not as a homogenous group. They show me that we all have different needs, but even then, the least we can do every day is treat others with kindness and never forget about a smile.

Following my three volunteering experiences, I reflect on my old self during the first year. I have learned so much about others, and I have learned about myself through them. As my CBL experience begins to wrap up, I am forever grateful for the lasting influence it continues to have in my life.

Embracing Uncertainty – Delaney Walch ’24

My first year at Holy Cross was tumultuous; not only did I enter college in the midst of a global pandemic, but I grappled with the certain uncertainty that comes with starting college. I constantly questioned whether I was choosing the right academic path, what clubs I would join, and if I would ever feel prepared for life after these next four years. As a junior, I can confidently say that this uncertainty does not go away. Rather, this uncertainty has become a driving force for my personal growth, as I have found that embracing uncertainty has led me to incredible opportunities to learn more about myself and my community. 

I began to develop the notion that discomfort is an opportunity for growth during my first-year CBL experience. Although my experience was confined to my dorm in Hanselman through my computer screen, I faced discomfort. I collaborated with students from Worcester Public Schools Transition Program as well as a Nurse Practitioner student to create educational panels for healthcare professionals on ableism. As an outsider who had never worked on this type of project before, I was hesitant to contribute to conversations and I feared that I was not doing enough to help. However, by taking the leap to act and speak despite my worries, I was able to make the most out of my experience. Hearing the experiences of people with disabilities in healthcare helped me perceive others through a more compassionate and informed lens. Through fully immersing myself in new environments, whether that was through my computer screen or at City View School through the CBL Latin Program, I was able to gain insights that informed my perspectives of different groups of people. I am certain that I would not have otherwise had these perspective-changing experiences if I did not take the opportunity to go beyond the minimum requirement of showing up to my CBL site and take risks to form stronger connections. 

Our experience of learning from others as students tends to be a more passive than active process. We have grown accustomed to sitting and listening in lectures, and sometimes we are brave enough to take the leap to ask more. To make the most out of our experiential learning experiences, we must treat learning as an active process that requires constantly challenging our comfort levels and perspectives. We must strive to learn with others by stepping out of our comfort zones. Through my participation in CBL and Spring Break Immersion Program, I have learned that leaning into discomfort, rather than letting it be a debilitating force, has increased my understanding of others and their lived experiences. 

My mantra since my first year, which has continued to be pertinent to my engagement experiences at Holy Cross, is the following quote: “if you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done.” Growth lies within the new and uncomfortable. I would encourage everyone who is seeking opportunities for growth to not only lean into discomfort but seek experiences that might completely alter their current beliefs about others and the world.