by Jennifer Deluca, Graduate Assistant
The first prompt for the BSU Social Media Week BlogFest has to do with learning – “What has been a learning experience that has impacted you the most in your life?” I have to say that I really had to think about this question. As a student and staff member in higher education, my days have been filled with learning moments and experiences since before I graduated college. While I could say that my overall experience as a graduate student is something that has greatly impacted me and my life, without a positive learning experience in college, I would not be here at Bridgewater.
I always valued service – growing up and attending a private Catholic school, service was a part of my life, it was even a requirement for my high school graduation. When I started getting involved in college, the service organization was the largest on campus and thus the easiest to get involved in. I always knew service was important, but I never realized how truly transformative it could be until spring break of my sophomore year. At Holy Cross, there is a spring break service program called the Arrupe Immersion Program. Over 300 students travel to areas on Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and the Gulf Coast including Mississippi and New Orleans. I was one of the lucky 10 students selected to go to Hurley, Virginia – a small town just over the border next to West Virginia and Kentucky. The amount of energy me and my peers brought with us on the trip would exhaust anyone, but we were excited to participate in this week long experience. When we entered Hurley (after a 8 hour bus ride and 2 hours squished in a van), everything seemed “fine.” When I picture a “rural town” in my mind, that is what we drove through. I remember questioning why are we here? What do they need from us?
I knew going into this I would be doing some hard work and helping families rebuild trailers. I never expected to learn so much about myself. I would be lying if I said it was not gratifying to completely re-floor a house and single handedly saw all the floor boards. I considered myself lucky growing up – good schools, amazing family – while we were not the wealthy family of my town, I knew I had a lot for which to be thankful. The family whose trailer we re-floored was absolutely incredible. Living in a completely run down trailer park, with a floor about to cave in, I can honestly say they were the most joy filled family I have ever met. Each day they greeted us with more hospitality than one might expect from a five star concierge. Here these people have virtually nothing and the walls and floors around them are literally crumbling, but yet they offered us so much. How could they be so nice? How could they be so un-materialistic in time where possessions are practically everything?
I reflected a lot during that week – about myself, my privileges, and my future. I changed a lot of my life goals on that trip and the weeks following. The idea of a career in anything other than business never crossed my mind until my adventure in Hurley, Virginia. It was about that time that I realized that the cut-throat world of numbers and business was not an option. I wanted to be in a profession where I could help people. While many could argue that attending graduate school and working with college students is not your typical form of “service,” I know that every interaction is an chance to teach and mentor and opportunity for the student to grow, learn, and reflect.
I can’t believe it’s already time to talk about nominations for the Impact Awards! The ceremony isn’t until April 29th, but the nominations are due April 5th.
With this event coming so quickly, I’ve been thinking a lot about how leadership and service connect and combine and how proud I am of so many BSC students and colleagues who have mastered this combination.
When you think of service, what comes to mind?
Do you think of serving food at a soup kitchen or building houses for Habitat for Humanity over Spring Break? I certainly do. I think of the countless hours that our fraternity and sorority groups contribute to national and local agencies and the amazing amount of fundraising that our Relay for Life participants have raised for the American Cancer Society at our event this upcoming weekend.
Service can also be seen in a different light here on campus. How about the students who put together the Lunar New Year celebration? They did it to teach us about the culture and provide an enjoyable experience for us as members of the BSC community. What about the students who participate as part of the Bridgewater Involvement Grant committee to offer a student perspective on which programs should receive funding? What about members of the Panhellenic Association? All of the students mentioned are contributing to the community with a goal of making life better for others. Of course, the level of need is different and the situations can not compare, but the motivation and drive to serve has a lot of similarities.
No matter what community you choose to serve, we host the Impact Awards each year to celebrate your contributions!
When you think of leadership, what comes to mind?
Did you think of organizations like student government or a group project in class where someone “takes the lead” to get your project up and going? I definitely do! Watching everyday “acts of leadership” on this campus is easy. It’s evident in every campus event we see, in every meeting you attend, and in every course you take. You can see leadership every time a group of friends is trying to figure out what to do on a weekend and every time a faculty member is trying to think of a new approach to help students understand a key concept.
More traditional “service” activities are also outstanding examples of leadership. Unfortunately, these volunteers are often the “unsung” leadership heroes and we’re hoping that the Impact Awards can bring these hardworking students to get some recognition they so sincerely deserve. Think about the leadership skills needed to motivate a group to keep clearing out a park trail in bad weather. What happens when you are faced with a choice between participating in a service project with your organization OR going out with your friends. There’s some values-based decision making that needs to happen in that situation, right?
Leadership and service are interconnected and we are ready to celebrate all of the great work by BSC students and colleagues. Are you willing to help someone get the recognition they deserve?
It’s time to nominate. Here’s your chance: Impact Awards Nomination
Last night I returned from the trip of a lifetime. Ten members of the BSC community left January 7th for a one week volunteer trip to Guaimaca, Honduras and returned changed people. Our primary focus was to make a substantial start to the addition of a medical clinic. With our local handyman Danilo as our leader we worked daily to dig the foundation of the new facility, mix the cement, move the cement blocks, and assemble the wire rebar. I spent the week working the most satisfying hard work I have ever done. Througout my time in Honduras I was challenged seeing a world so drastically different from the comforts of home. I was inspired and humbled by the people I met. I felt honored to be walking along side the people of Guaimaca. I could feel a change. I felt a change in myself that happens in that remote part of yourself that you can only get to through experiential learning. It’s a place where compassion and humility meet with drive and determination.
Not to be Ministered Unto, But to Minister. It’s not just a tagline or a motto, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a choice to give back to the community both locally and globally. It’s what makes being a BSC Bear so special. So if you haven’t volunteered, make it your 2009 resolution you’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself and our world.