“Leadership in Dispersion”- Isabelle Jenkins, Associate Director, Donelan Office

Group of college students posing for photo in front of wall
The 2019-2020 CBL interns

Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning blog on May 22, 2020. You can read the original post on the Donelan CBL blog.

On March 11th, the Holy Cross community received the news that, because of the global pandemic of COVID-19, the College would be moving all learning online, in-person events and activities would be canceled, and that essentially everyone had to vacate campus as quickly as possible. This decision was made so as to minimize physical contact between people in order to slow the spread of coronavirus. For the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning, this decision had particular implications, as contact is at the core of every single thing we do: contact with community partners and a variety of Worcester community members, contact with faculty and their courses, and contact with a variety of other community engagement programs on campus.

Our leadership program, the Community-Based Learning Intern Program, also felt the drastic impact of the College’s decision. This is because, again, a highlight of the CBL Intern program is the contact the Interns have with our community partners, with our courses, with our office space, and with each other. An example of this is how the 16 Interns utilize the Donelan Office space itself. If you have ever passed by the Donelan Office when walking along the hallway of Smith 3, you likely glanced into the Donelan Office and saw two, three, four, or five people in there at a time, eating cookies, getting work done, and laughing so much that at least one person had tears in their eyes. The Interns would fill the office to the brim, not only with themselves and their stuff, but with their hearts and minds, with their ideas and emotions, with their leadership. This contact, certainly, has not been possible in the past ten weeks as we have been in dispersion, away from campus.

Despite losing the physical space of the office and the ability to be in physical contact with so many, the CBL Interns have persisted in their leadership, helping to continue the work of community-based learning. Their leadership has proven that the work that we do is really about connection more so than about contact. Sure, the physical contact can help with making connections, but connection can be made in dispersion, too.

When we moved online, the Interns hardly missed a beat. They helped to move the CBL Intern selection process online, interviewing Intern candidates on Zoom and meeting as a group for several hours to make the very difficult decision about who would be selected for the 2020-2021 CBL Intern cohort. They held virtual in-class reflection sessions, assisting many CBL students with reflecting on how the move to remote learning was impacting their CBL experience. They wrote blog after blog sharing their thoughts about how they were continuing to be in communication with their community partners, what they missed about in-person CBL and being on campus, how their learnings from CBL have assisted them during this time of dispersion, how saying goodbye was difficult, and reflections on CBL after four years in CBL courses and about their time as CBL Interns. They put on a virtual dialogue session featuring four Holy Cross alumni who shared about living a life of service and justice beyond the Hill; this dialogue session was our highest-attended dialogue session ever! The younger Interns helped to celebrate our Senior Interns with a virtual send-off featuring a TikTok-style video, messages from faculty, community partners, and the CBL Intern community, and highlights of their numerous achievements. The Interns contributed to a social media gratitude campaign for our community partners during the last week of classes, recording videos of speeches they would have made in person and sharing messages they would have shared during their final days at their sites. The list goes on.

While these virtual times are no replacement for the in-person times we have had in CBL and that we hope to have in CBL as soon as it’s possible to safely gather again, these virtual times have been fulfilling and meaningful in their own unique ways. They would not be as fulfilling and meaningful without acts of great leadership. The CBL Interns’ work over the past two months has proven that when you put your mind and heart to it, connection is absolutely possible even when contact is not. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These times that we’ve experienced while physically distanced from each other most definitely have been challenging and controversial times. The CBL Interns, though, have faced these challenges and controversies head-on and shone brightly because of their leadership in dispersion. This leadership has inspired us and so many to persist in making and maintaining connections.

Thank you, CBL Interns!

Reflections from the Senior CBL Interns

Collage of photos of CBL Intern seniors

Editor’s Note: This post was originally featured on the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning blog on May 4, 2020. You can read the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/05/04/reflections-from-our-senior-interns/.

Upon  the end of their time as Interns in the Donelan Office and their graduation from Holy Cross in May, our seven senior CBL Interns were asked to reflect on one or more of the following questions: (1) What is my greatest learning from being a CBL Intern? (2) How have I grown in my time as a CBL Intern? (3) What will I take with me from the CBL Intern experience into my next step? They each share thoughtful remarks about how their time as Interns has shaped and molded their Holy Cross experiences. 

Hannah Benson ’20: My greatest lesson from being a CBL Intern will always be the lesson of collaboration. I have learned that there is so much power in starting new ideas with others. As a group, we inspire each other, and because of this, the outcome can reach its full potential. Not only is this true for the CBL interns but for partnerships with community partners, other CBL Holy Cross students, professors, SPUD leaders, and more. Some of my best ideas come from conversations with others.

 It can be difficult to consider my own growth as an Intern, but I know it’s there because I surround myself with people who let me know. I started in the CBL office as a sophomore, went abroad in my junior year, and came back as a senior and it still feels like yesterday that I was given the opportunity to start working closely with the office. I think of examples like taking Professor Sterk Barrett my sophomore and senior years and facilitating discussions in Professor Lipsitz’s “Science of Happiness” Montserrat course for those years as well. These mentors and many more have seen my growth and given me the space to learn.

For me, the most incredible thing that CBL has given me is the fearless ability to take on any project. The world we live in is not perfect, but it is not permanently broken either. There is always room for improvement and what the world needs is people who have the ideas and the willingness to work hard and make it happen.

Jack Chaffee ’20: I would say that my greatest learning from being a CBL Intern is the importance of building relationships that are founded in mutuality and reciprocity when fostering community within Worcester and Holy Cross. CBL provided me with some of the most informative and transformative experiences of my four years here at Holy Cross, and I am incredibly grateful for the lessons I learned along the way, especially about how we engage with one another. During my time as a CBL intern I grew more confident in my abilities to be a leader and peer, while also gaining a much deeper understanding of systematic issues we face as a society. After being an intern for three years, I feel much more confident in advocating for ideas or concepts I believe in, many of which have been formed by experiential learning opportunities such as CBL. Being a member of the intern cohort, and receiving mentorship from the Directors of the Donelan Office, have strongly encouraged me to pursue what I am passionate about. The support I have felt from the CBL Office was important in my discernment of post graduate plans, and I will take this lesson of unwaveringly pursuing my passions with me as I prepare to leave Holy Cross and become an assistant in L’Arche Jacksonville.

Katie Kelsh ’20: The time I have been fortunate enough to spend within the Community-Based Learning community at Holy Cross has taught me many lessons. I have learned how to make delicious empanadas with the Worcester Public School Transition Program and the best strategies to painting French nails from Wanda at Training Resources of America. However, above all, this time has revealed to me the true value of asking a question. I have learned that it is from a simple question, such as “How was your weekend?” that meaningful and lasting relationships can begin. I could not be more grateful for these relationships I have been able to form on and off the Hill through CBL, as they have greatly enriched my Holy Cross experience. Ending my time with the CBL office is one of the hardest parts of leaving Holy Cross, but as I move to my next steps beyond HC, I will carry with me all those I have met through CBL and hope to continue building community, one question at a time. 

Will McAvoy ’20: From my time as a CBL Intern, I had the opportunity to learn from my peers and realize that we all have different interpretations of the world around us. I realized this during countless reflection sessions, at dialogue sessions, during the NPCC, during intern meetings, etc. From tutoring children to sitting with the elderly, students would have different experiences between sites. Students also interpreted their experiences differently at the same site. I quickly realized in my first year Montserrat with Professor Ginny Ryan that there was no “typical experience” with CBL. Throughout the years, hearing different students explain their experiences made me grasp the course material in a different way. It was a paradigm shift. To me, that is what makes CBL so powerful; it allows all of us to view our experience in and out of the classroom in a different way, thus allowing us to have a greater learning experience that leaves a meaningful impact on each of us.

I have also learned to embrace silence. This has happened in two places. The first is bedside at the St. Mary Center. I have learned from professors that sometimes the power of being present is simply enough for a resident. Maybe the resident is tired and would rather rest by watching a show with you instead of conversing. Similarly, in small group reflections, I have learned that silence can be a powerful moment for reflection that can allow not only you, but those around you, to reflect on their experiences. From this, I have learned that moments of silence do not need to be filled. Rather, they should be embraced.

Having the experience of CBL has shown me that everyone around me has their own personal experiences that they bring to the table. What I feel in a certain time is rarely the same as someone around me, and that is something that we all need to take into account. Sitting bedside at the St. Mary Center reminds me of my grandmother who passed at a hospice center several years ago. Another student at HC may not have had that experience and would benefit from hearing my story. Similarly, hearing perspectives from others that I personally have not experienced will allow me to learn. I also learned that everyone has their own internal and external struggles that are rarely visible. Having these different lived experiences allows us to be a stronger group. These different personal experiences need to be welcomed and cherished as they will allow us all to learn more from one another. 

Fatima Oseida ’20: Being a CBL intern was one of my favorite roles on campus. When I first came to Holy Cross, I did not know much about social justice or what it actually meant. While I was still finding myself, the opportunity of becoming an intern came across, so I applied and gratefully got the position. Ever since then, every day has been a learning experience. Not only did I learn more about social justice, but I also learned about its importance in our community, not only at Holy Cross, but in Worcester. More importantly, being a CBL intern gave me a new perspective on the Jesuit principle “men and women for and with others”, because being an intern is not just volunteering at a local organization and getting some work done. To me, it means to immerse myself in the community and to learn from my own experiences. Now that I am graduating, I came to realize that, through the program, I learned what my true passions are, and that is something that I will be forever grateful for.

Christian Realbuto ’20: The person I am now is completely different from who I was when I first entered Holy Cross – and a significant part of that is because of my experience with CBL and the Donelan Office. CBL introduced me to the strong, vibrant communities that make up the city of Worcester, and allowed me to meet incredible public servants who are committed to their nonprofit agencies that add to the city’s strength and history. CBL has also given me stories of love, along with tremendous sadness. Pain, along with tremendous growth. At the core of this learning has been the incredible power of presence. That’s what we do every week at CBL. We show up. We show up to our sites and share in that vulnerable space, that, by the end of the semester, is no longer just your “CBL site,” but the place where your new friends are, and the place that’s taken a piece of your heart. This learning would be incomplete without cultivating my sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the CBL students who came before me, and paved the way for me to participate in the power of presence. Gratitude for the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program for welcoming me into their community for the past 4 years. And also, gratitude for Isabelle and Michelle – whose commitment to the Donelan Office strengthens our relationship and partnership with Worcester each year.

Being a CBL intern has expanded my understanding of empathy to include different perspectives and contexts. As I learned through CBL, communities — and the people that make them up — do not have “a single story.” In this fashion, service demands that we look beyond “a single story,” and develop intentional relationships that expand upon a person’s whole self.

As I look to make my next steps after Holy Cross, I keep coming back to David Brooks’ opinion piece, “A Nation of Weavers.” “Weavers,” according to Mr. Brooks, “share an ethos that puts relationship over self” and exhibit “radical mutuality” in their relationships to one another. I believe this sentiment encompasses CBL and our community partners. CBL cultivates Weavers – people who recognize the importance of reciprocity and mutually in relationships with one another. CBL teaches that there is no “us” and “them” – there is only us.

Thank you, to the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning any my fellow CBL interns for all the wonderful memories and experiences I was lucky enough to share in.

Delaney Wells ’20: As I reflect back on my various involvements and endeavors throughout my four years at Holy Cross, I can say wholeheartedly that Community-Based Learning has had the greatest influence on the journey of finding who I am at my core, deeply shaping my mind and heart. The relationships I have built at the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program, among other community partners, within the intern community, and in reflection sessions have prompted me to develop a more critical consciousness about our world, our structures, and the way that I exist within them. I am leaving Holy Cross with a personal responsibility to those forgotten and disadvantaged by normative economic and political structures on local and global levels. Through involvement in the Donelan Office I have come to recognize the importance of the touch of the heart in relationships formed through CBL. This significant touch allows us to form meaningful and deep connections with one another which illuminate truths about ourselves and the world around us. I now value the touch of the heart in all relationships and actions I partake in, motivating me to work for justice and equality. I am leaving Holy Cross with the lessons, conversations, and moments through my involvement with community-based learning at the center of who I am, fueling my drive to continue to seek justice.

When “The Breakdown” Broke Down: Hip-Hop with the Woo Crew Goes Virtual – Prof. Megan Ross

By Megan Ross ’11, Visiting Lecturer, Music Department

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on April 28, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/04/28/when-the-breakdown-broke-down-hip-hop-with-the-woo-crew-goes-virtual-prof-megan-ross/.

The Hip-Hop Community in Worcester is legit; there are graffiti artists who paint downtown, MC and DJs who hail from the area and work with members of the Wu Tang Clan, and b-boys and b-girls who teach their craft to local youth after school. Learning about hip-hop, a continually evolving global phenomenon from the Bronx, NY c. 1970, requires one to engage with the here and now. When I arrived back to Worcester as an alum and a Visiting Lecturer in Music this fall, I knew I wanted my hip-hop class to be “in the community.” After many months of planning with the Donelan Office, applying for grants, and meeting with members of the local government and school district, “The Breakdown: Hip-Hop With the Woo Crew” was created—a 2-day long event with hands on learning through a graffiti mural project at North High School led by a local artist (Lamour Supreme) and a public forum on the significance of hip-hop in Worcester with members of the college community (Francis Lubega ’20), local government (Che Anderson ’11) and hip-hop scene (7L and Esoteric).

Leading up to the event, which was to take place April 16-17, my students were involved in a series of activities to help them learn more about the local community and prepare for the event. These activities included a tour of Pow! Wow! Worcester public art and group interview projects with local hip-hop artists. We were well underway with advertisements and curriculum designed to help students at North High School prepare for the event when Covid-19 shut down the college and all CBL activities. Needless to say, my students and I were deeply disappointed that our event would be cancelled.

During the week that faculty had to plan for their classes to go online, I was concerned with how to create community in a virtual way that would offer similar benefits to the students and the community at large. I decided to design a website showcasing the members of the “Woo Crew” alongside a student-run blog. Discussions ranged from the impact of Covid-19 on the Hip-Hop community, to reflections on their role as Ethnomusicologists learning more about the local community through their artist interviews. These last few weeks have been filled with discussions, presentations, and personal work related to the website. In lieu of the hands-on learning programed into our CBL event, students were asked to either conduct an interview with a classmate on their relationship with hip-hop or work on a music or art project. The results were astonishing; projects ranged from talk shows with special guest HC student and rapper Jonathan Abrahams (“Don Jon”) to hip-hop inspired beats, mixes, and fashion. We plan to make the website public on the last day of class and hope that it will serve as a platform for members of the community at large to discuss the significance of hip-hop in Worcester. The bonds made between members of the Woo Crew will hopefully build in the coming months, as well as next spring when I hope to revamp this project with my Montserrat class. Although “The Breakdown” broke down, Covid-19 did not stop our foray into community-based learning.

https://hiphopwiththewoocrew.wordpress.com/

Sindurakar ’20 Recounts Winter Break Trip to Nepal

Four people standing in front of religious monument in Nepal
L to R: Professor Naresh Bajracharya, Trishala Manandhar, Princy Sindurakar, and Maire White

By Princy Sindurakar ’20

Editor’s Note: Princy Sindurakar ’20 is a senior Biology major with minors in Asian Studies and Neuroscience. With funding from the Ignite Fund, Princy had the chance to travel to Nepal over winter break to study the complex use of sacred art in various rituals related to one’s well-being and spread of peace in Newar Buddhism. She took some time to write about her trip.

During our trip to Kathmandu, Nepal, I visited prominent and local historical sites, mainly built during the Golden age of the Kathmandu Valley, specifically due to the growth of culture, art, and architecture. Most of the visits were alongside two other students from Holy Cross and from part of the seminar, Buddhism in the Nepal Himalayas with Professor Todd Lewis and Professor Naresh Bajracharya. These sites were primarily Buddhist temples, stupas, and worship sites, all part of Newar Buddhism, a school in Buddhism.

From beautiful cities, such as Bhaktapur and Patan, to archives and tours within the city, I was able to experience the extensive beauty of the valley and perform field study, connecting with both scholars and locals around the area. For instance, I had the opportunity to observe the bathing ritual of a prominent figure in Vajrayana Buddhism, part of the Mahayana Buddhism, known as Seto Machindranath, in order to prepare for the upcoming festival. This rare sighting would occur every year thus it was fascinating to observe this complex bathing ritual of the figure at one of the local Buddhist sites, known as bahas. Most of these sites, including monuments, had been built by Newars, the historical inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley, and they played a significant role in practicing Buddhism through detailed rituals and discipline, passed down through generations.

Street in city with temples along street

I was able to further my studies in Newar Buddhism and apply my academic knowledge from my previous courses and seminars within the Asian Studies department. We had the chance to analyze the use of different art pieces, such as wood carvings, metal repousse figures, paintings, scrolls, clay moldings, and more, in the context of ritualism and worship. After our first week of visits and field studies at all these sites, I was able to focus on my project’s goals, particularly to understand the traditional practices and the role of diverse artwork on the practice of Newar Buddhism. In addition to my field study in observing the practice of rituals at different historical sites and meeting with scholars, including Theravada Buddhist monks, I studied the use of traditional medicine and its roots to Buddhism, specifically developed within the Newar community, also passed down through generations throughout decades.

I had the opportunity to visit an Ayurvedic factory which involved the making of many forms of medicine through a series of procedures to produce pure traditional medicine with the use of herbs, plants, and minerals found all over Nepal and the world. As a Newari American, this trip was truly a dream, and especially being able to perform field study during my final year, I gained an immeasurable experience beyond courses and seminars through closely connecting with the locals and observing the daily ritualistic practices at the historical vihars and bahas.

“Continuing with CBL Remotely” – Will McAvoy ’20

Raised garden planters with white fence and American bunting behind on sunny day

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on April 16, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/04/16/continuing-with-cbl-remotely-will-mcavoy-20/.

I have been offered the opportunity to stay in touch with my resident at St. Mary, Vicky, over the past few weeks.  The Activities Coordinator at St. Mary, Sandy Geller, has graciously offered her phone as a means to conduct Facebook videocalls.  Every week at our scheduled time to visit, Vicky and I have had either a video call or a phone call.  It has been great to stay in touch, and I am thankful for Sandy in making this happen!

One thing that I definitely am missing is the garden at St. Mary.  Last spring, another Holy Cross student (Megan Treanor ’20) and I applied for a Marshall Grant to establish a garden at St. Mary.  We were awarded nearly a thousand dollars to implement a wheelchair-accessible garden where all residents would be able to grow their own fruits and veggies as well as get their hands dirty if they wanted.  Vicky was one of the residents who led the charge on this activity, offering her guidance from decades of managing her own garden at her home.

Last year was our first year, so there definitely were some challenges to overcome.  However, the garden was a huge success with many residents, Holy Cross students, and families of residents, participating in cultivating the garden.  Several residents told Sandy that they now had a purpose in life.  Megan and I were proud to have made such a big impact and are thankful for all that helped make the garden such a success.

I was excited for this spring to really grow a fantastic garden.  With the current situation, it doesn’t look as if that is going to occur.  But one thing is certain: I know for a fact though that once this time of social distancing comes to an end, Sandy, Vicky, and many of the other residents will be outside at the garden.  In the meantime, I look forward to staying in touch with Vicky via phone.

To the current CBL students reading this, I would recommend that you reach out to your community partner.  Maybe a phone call is something that could be facilitated for your site.  You never know until you ask!

 

“Learning How to Dance in the Rain”- Julianne Esteves ’22

Julianne Esteves
Julianne Esteves ’22

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on April 6, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/04/06/learning-how-to-dance-in-the-rain-julianne-esteves-22/.

The famous quote by Vivian Greene, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain,” has been circulating social media recently to lift spirits amidst our current global crisis. Each time I have come across it, I have been confronted with wondering how I really can learn to “dance in the rain” while reflecting on what my responsibility to others and the larger society is during this painful time. Although I do not have answers to these questions at this point, my optimism and involvement with the Community-Based Learning (CBL) community has helped to carry me through so far and has prompted me to reflect on these questions.

As a student of a Jesuit institution, I have been reminded countless times of my call to be a woman “for and with others.” Empathy and mutuality have inspired me throughout many of my Holy Cross experiences and continue to be influential forces even as I am learning remotely, physically removed from campus. While early findings suggested that those who were young and healthy were at low-risk for becoming ill, even if they had contracted the virus, I realized that this did not leave my peers and me “off the hook.” I quickly learned of the severity of the spread of the infection as I came home to New York City, the epicenter of the virus. While I would propose that our immediate call to be “for others” is to stay home in order to reduce the risk of transmission, I believe that our responsibility to be “with others” is just as immediately necessary. In these times, I have been reminded of ways to show empathy and to consider the unique struggles and powers of marginalized populations. Through my involvement with CBL, I have gained a widened perspective on various systemic issues that cause certain populations to become vulnerable. Now, I can’t help but imagine how an added global health crisis deepens existing vulnerability and causes major financial and emotional strains on those populations.

One way I am harnessing my lessons from CBL is through unbound presence. In between Zoom classes and meetings, I have found more free time in my daily routine. While I may be tempted to jump right into tackling a “master checklist,” I have tried to embrace these quiet moments. I have realized that the coronavirus does not have a master checklist nor a set end date. As an organized and thoughtful planner, I have become very anxious that the only things that I can truly plan in advance are the meals I am going to eat for the week. Even though meal prep does bring me a lot of joy, it does not provide the level of structure to which I am accustomed. This pandemic has caused countless cancellations for the months ahead, including three summer opportunities I had been anxiously awaiting to participate in. In the absence of planning, I have been approaching each day with minimal expectations. This practice is one rooted in my engagement with those in Worcester. Most of the time at my CBL site I do not have a clear agenda or any expectation of what I am going to do. I find beauty in being present with the students with whom I work. Our responsibility to others, especially those we are living with right now, includes being more present with their needs – whether that means unloading the dishwasher before your family member gets to it or reaching out to an old friend.

As a Catholic, something that I have been reflecting upon is how the Lenten season prompts Christians to “give up” something as a sacrifice to God. I now believe that “giving up” has taken on a new perspective for Christians amidst the coronavirus. The tangible and intangible items individuals must give up during this time has been difficult to witness. My hope is that we, as a society, do not just “give up” completely. Rather, I believe that our responsibility to others is to instead “give in,” to show mercy, and to find ways to be in community with others from afar. Greg Boyle, S.J. beautifully summarized this idea by calling people, in the meantime, “to create fires that keep each other warm. In other words, in these times of physical distance, how can we “keep each other warm” through social connection?

Many people may be stuck in the mindset of viewing their days in relation to the number of days “stuck at home.” Instead, I propose to channel the hope of the message of Greg Boyle, S.J. to live out this time of social distancing as “one day closer to normal.” Even as we move forward in hope, viewing each day as one “closer to normal,” these times in which we are living are a “storm,” particularly for individuals and communities who are marginalized. Tragically, this “storm” has yet “to pass.” And yet, can living in the present and acting upon our roles and obligations to one another be our way to “dance in the rain”?

“Abruptly Saying Goodbye” – Kathryn Hauver ’22

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on April 6, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/04/06/abruptly-saying-goodbye-kathryn-hauver-22/.

By Kathryn Hauver ’22

The last few days we had on campus were filled with abrupt goodbyes, a range of  emotions, and the harsh reality that we would all have to leave Holy Cross. CBL students were informed of the cancellations, and suddenly, something that was once so integral to our learning was gone. For my CBL, I volunteer at Rose Monahan Hospice Home on Friday afternoons. During my visit on February 28th, I informed the staff that the next week I would not be in for my shift because of spring break. The nurse told me that the resident I had been meeting with may not still be there when I returned, so I should say goodbye. That day, my resident and I had a lovely time together watching cooking shows. At the end of the visit, I expressed my gratitude for the time we had shared, and her smile warmed my heart. I took a long time saying  goodbye, as I knew it would most likely be the last time I saw her. When I was leaving my shift that day, I said my normal goodbyes to the healthcare team, not thinking much of it.

Fast forward to our first week back from spring break. A new panic about COVID-19 permeated campus as everyone eagerly awaited the email regarding Holy Cross’ plan. When I read the email about CBL cancellations, I was very shaken up. I was concerned for Rose Monahan because the home operates by relying on volunteers, and it is a high risk community of COVID-19 infection. At that moment, I was very thankful I was able to say goodbye to my resident, and hoped that other residents would also be able to spend their final moments with their loved ones. I also felt guilty because I didn’t give the Rose Monahan staff a proper goodbye, for I didn’t know my last visit would be my last visit.

I reflected on how I could still express my appreciation for the home and say a more heartfelt goodbye without actually visiting. I decided to make cards for all the residents and send a letter to the staff thanking them for all of their hard work. While it was not how I would have chosen to say goodbye, it was still a way to communicate with my community partner. In terms of saying goodbye in this new environment, I  would recommend reaching out to your community partner and spreading some words of support. Kind words can go a long way in times of crisis and may offer the reassurance they need.

“Writing to Get Out”- Emma Powell ’20

Emma Powell sitting at desk typing on laptop
Emma Powell ’20 sitting at her desk

Editor’s Note: Over the course of the semester, we will be sharing stories from students highlighting how they continue to engage with experiential learning even while away from campus. If you would like to share your experience with remote learning, please contact jdpowercenter@holycross.edu.

By Emma Powell ’20

Remote learning has defined my life by mostly losses, but my one gain is time. I suddenly have what seems like a limitless time to do school work but also take a second to explore my passions in an environment where I can discern and ask myself, “What actions make you and only you happy?” As a decidedly extroverted person the alone time is difficult. This personality quality means I need to share my thoughts with others in order to feel balanced. I would go as far as to say it is required for my productivity level. It is difficult to focus without those coffee breaks where I chat with friends in Cool Beans.

I have wracked my brain on how to feel that void. My typical schedule would be filled with meetings, classes, and friends. The only time I spent alone on campus was to nap or do homework. I have kept in touch with my friends but facetime calls only do so much. The first week of social distancing was tough. The ongoing events were a weight on my heart and mind. I felt like screaming but instead, I wrote out a reflection for a web page Professor Hooper created for my seminar to not only share content but archive it in the context of this unprecedented historical moment. This pandemic will go down in the history books and my grandchildren will certainly ask me about it. The blog piece felt so good to write. I shared the article with The Spire, in hopes other students could empathize and relate to what I was going through.

In writing that reflection, I rediscovered something I had not done since I was a child: to write purely for the sake of writing. It was cathartic, productive, and simply made me happy.

Recently, I read an op-ed in the Atlantic about how local papers are understaffed, underfunded, and under-resourced in facing this pandemic. In writing that reflective piece, I craved to write more and to write with purpose. So now, I am writing an article on nurses and other healthcare professionals in my local community. My hope is the article will be published in a local paper so the state of Massachusetts and perhaps even higher government powers can more fully recognize just what my mother and other nurses are going through.

I want to identify myself as an activist but this is difficult to do while unable to take physical action outside my tiny bedroom. My try at journalism is an experiment to channel my energy into a space for change. Like Professor Hooper has done in our class, I encourage Holy Cross students to sit down and write about issues that matter to their community. For those just starting out (like myself), I recommend utilizing “medium” which is a free and respected writing platform for anyone wanting to write more publicly but does not want to pay for a URL for their own website. The platform also has a lot of interesting articles from students and journalists all over the country so it provides a virtual sense of community. Then from there, you can submit it to a local paper in hopes it gets published. Local papers live for community members’ perspectives. If you feel called to, use this time to write not only for fun and self-reflection, but to use your ideas for a platform for change all from the comfort of your couch.

“Take What You Need” – Hannah Benson ’20

Editor’s Note: The below post was originally featured on the Dolenan Office of Community-Based Learning Blog on March 29, 2020. You can find the original post at https://communitybasedlearning.me.holycross.edu/2020/03/29/take-what-you-need-hannah-benson-20/

Sheet of paper with "Take what you need" and various words like love, faith, strength on bottom in tearable pieces

By Hannah Benson ’20

A few years back a fellow CBL intern, Kara Cuzzone ‘19 and I started posting little sheets of paper outside the CBL office door. If you have ever passed by our door in Smith Hall I hope you have noticed how decorated it is with events, quotes, and artwork. The inspiration for this came from a journal account on Instagram that wrote plain and simple, “take what you need” with perforated tabs inviting a passerby to simply rip off a word from the bottom of the sheet. Kara and I wrote things like wisdom, peace, love, hope, passion, and confidence and it has been popular ever since. This was a peaceful project for us too, as every few weeks the sheets would become empty and we would draw another one.

When Kara graduated I really started to miss her artistic talent so I took to my computer and found that the Canva app could give me at least the appearance of artistic talent. I also found that I could print more pages, have more variety, and add more color to the idea. Just to spend a few minutes each week thinking of a holiday themed page or a new Spanish phrase was something I really enjoyed. It still baffles me today that people actually take them. I remember sitting in the office one night with the door slightly open and I kept hearing noises at the door. In the moment, I assumed it was another intern trying to play a trick on me, but as I was leaving, I realized all the words were gone and I had just witnessed people visiting the door.

I have expressed to some trusted mentors these past few weeks that what makes me most nervous about the abrupt end of my last year at Holy Cross is that I have to be apart from everyone. I know I am not alone when I say I feel like I can get through anything if I can sit with my closest friends and laugh, hug, and cry about it. So, our last few days on the hill were bearable but now comes the hard part.

This shift to remote classes means you can’t pick up a slip of paper from the door of the CBL office when you truly need it most. It means I won’t walk into the office next week to create a new page and hang it up. So, I find myself adjusting, as we all have recently, to see if we can make what was once so accessible in person, available in the digital world we now live in. These days we have a responsibility to one another to just simply check in. Even if it’s just a word or two, it can make a difference, just like a word from the door. I am confident that if we do this well it can feel like we are together again and we can get through anything.

If you are someone who frequently took a word or phrase from the CBL door for yourself or to share with a friend, please reach out! Though we may not physically be together, a hope and goal of the CBL interns is to continue to cultivate community. So, if you are in need of a word or saying to lift you up on a long day just send an email to CommunityBasedLearning@holycross.edu with the subject “Words from the CBL Door,” and I will make sure you get one!

Experiential Learning and Social Distancing

Exterior of Smith Hall with clear sky
By Daniel Klinghard, Director, J.D. Power Center

Students across the world are experiencing significant disruption in their daily lives and in their education. At the J.D. Power Center, we know that many of the students we work with in normal times are particularly hard-hit, as internships, CBL sites, and research opportunities are curtailed. Most of these opportunities thrive most in situations where students can engage with people and communities on a close-up basis—internship supervisors, community partners, research subjects, all require the kind of one-on-one contact that the current situation prohibits. These experiences often come as the result of long term planning on students’ part, and are hard to recreate.

That’s why we’re starting a blog series on experiential learning from home—to help you think through some ways that you can keep engaging in experiential learning while you are engaging in social distancing. We invite students to join us by sharing their own experiences.

In the meantime, here are some ways you can continue engaging in experiential learning:

1.) Intern remotely

In many cases, students interning through the J.D. Power Center’s programming were automatically moved to remote work along with the rest of their work sites. If you have this opportunity, keep it up. Set aside specific hours that you can focus in on internship work, and keep in contact with your supervisor. In times like this, doing good work can really stand out, and demonstrate your engagement.

If you are not currently interning, but interned in the past, consider reaching out to past supervisors to see if you can help out—particularly if the kind of work you were doing can be easily done remotely. You likely have additional time on your schedule with normal operations shut down—offer a specific amount of time that you would be willing to return to your internship duties, and see if they could use the help.

2.) Learn about working remotely

Although the world of work is undergoing significant changes as large numbers of people shift to working remotely, remote work has been a feature of the American work landscape for some time. Take some time to think about your work habits while working remotely. Research best practices in working from home (the popular press is currently featuring a number of articles on working from home), set up your own workspace with this in mind, and monitor your own habits. Write your own guide, reflecting both your research and your own experience.

3.) Learn a skill

Often, our students have ideas for projects that they do not have a technical skill to accomplish—video editing, coding, statistics packages. This is a great time to develop some skills that might help you advance future projects. Or just engage in learning something you know you’ll value down the line: master Excel, polish your negotiation skills, or learn a new painting technique. Skills like these might help you when it comes time to launching a new project or internship when things get back to normal. Sites like Lynda.com and Coursera have a wide range of online courses that help you invest in your experiential future.

4.) Seek out a mentor

Students often say that one of the best things about experiential learning are the mentoring relationships that they develop. Make use of additional down-time by reaching out to a Holy Cross alum to develop a mentoring relationship. The Center for Career Development hosts the HC Network, a completely-online guide that lets you contact alums in fields you’re interested in via email, phone, and video conference. https://hcnetwork.holycross.edu/

5.) Build your online portfolio

Too often, social media is seen as a massive time waste (and very often, it IS a massive time waste), but it can also be a useful way to both explain and reflect on your work. Think about how you can build a web presence that you use exclusively to engage with others about your work and your interests. Maybe create an Instagram account that highlights artwork you’ve studied, or a Twitter account that posts news about an issue you care about. Use your time on social media to engage in ways that help you experience the world positively. Some helpful guides to using social media in a professionally-responsible way can be found here:

Twitter

Linkedin

Pinterest

Blogging

6.) Work with a club

Holy Cross’s RSOs could be particularly hard-hit by the campus shut down. If you’re part of an RSO, think about ways that you can work now to prepare for starting up again. Reach out to members and plan some virtual meetings, or propose some remote projects. Are there long-avoided tasks that could improve your operations or standardize your procedures that you just never seem to get to? This could be the time to get them done.

 

Staying at home is going to have its highs and lows, its frustrations and its moments of peace. It is also a moment of testing, and an opportunity to learn patience with ambiguity. Don’t stop engaging!

And remember, the J.D. Power Center is here to help. You can reach us at jdpowercenter@holycross.edu.