Wednesday, October 29, 2014

We All Need Somebody to Lean On


I always knew the community would be one of the most important parts of this Stonehill Service Corps program.  This summer I had high expectations for community living involving daydreams about group grocery shopping adventures or fabulous field trips across Massachusetts. Little did I know that these visions would come true in spades—and better than I could have ever imagined!  The community has truly become a family since day one of our orientation back in August. The bonding continued further as we moved into our home in Brockton and slowly filled each of the rooms with laughs, memories and quirky furniture.

                                                                                                             

The Brockton SSC house recently went apple picking together! I was extra excited for this experience because I had never been apple picking before despite my New England heritage. At last, a life-long dream came to fruition with the company of my wonderful community. It was certainly worth the wait! We all went to C.N. Smith Farms in East Bridgewater where we enjoyed apple cider, apple cider doughnuts, and of course, apple picking! Such a blast. It was Sean’s first time too se we made sure to get plenty of photos together documenting the groundbreaking experience.

 

Last Saturday the house attended an event called “Created Equal” put on by Mass Humanities that took place at the Brockton War Memorial.  It was a very well run event that facilitated conversation about the social contract. The moderator used film clips regarding historical events to spark conversation about who dictates the social contract of modern day Brockton and what level of responsibility we all hold in contributing to that social contract. It was a great opportunity for our community to engage in a local forum while learning about our new neighbors and city.

 

We have all had our ups and downs from our site placements. What’s great about a community is that we are here for each other at the end of the day when we are too tired to even walk ourselves up to our bedrooms for the night. We love, support, and take care of each other. The ability to have someone to lean on that understands the unique lifestyle you have committed to is truly wonderful. I have been enjoying my experience at My Brother’s Keeper more than I could possibly describe, but I know I would be suffering from extreme burn-out if I did not have my community to keep me going.


 

 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Scurry, Scurry, Woah


                              Some Brockton Service Corps Member at Houghton's Pond in Milton 

Surgeon-scientist Dr. Joseph Murray once stated, “Service to society is the rent we pay for living on this planet.” This is a concept my housemates and I have discussed, and I imagine it is one that can resonate with anyone participating in service immersion programs. For myself, one of the main reasons I pursued this year of service was to use the privileges with which I grew up in order to give back to the community. I, along with my housemates, have been blessed with various advantages
and it is our turn to use these in order to serve those who may not have similar privileges. Now that we are just over one month into our program, it is becoming increasingly important to reflect on our privileges and motivations as we each scurry to fulfill our various personal and work obligations.

So, I used the term “scurry” for a particular purpose. We recently discovered that our house is now home to a few mice. It started with one sighting, and it quickly has evolved into a handful of sightings throughout our house. Not to worry, though, as an exterminator has come to the house and our additional housemates should vacate soon. Nevertheless, I cannot help but to notice a bit of a comparison between the mice scurrying about our house and each of us scurrying about our lives these past few weeks.

I already mentioned that we are just over one month into our program, and with that comes the beginning of a new phase of our service experience. During our orientation, we learned about “The Emotional Stages of a Service Experience”, put forth by the Catholic Volunteer Network volunteers and program directors, which are intended to be guidelines to explain the various feelings we will be encountering as we progress forward. For the first one or two months, it is the “Initial Fervor” stage, where everybody is enthusiastic and eager for the upcoming year. Following that, it is the “Survival Phase”, where the initial excitement has worn off and feelings of frustration may begin to develop. Included in this stage are feelings of disillusionment toward our placement sites and a new awareness of areas of growth within us.

I believe our community has begun to experience this stage, now that we have settled into our placement sites and our lives outside of work. We all remain enthusiastic for the year ahead and enjoy our sites, however, it has become evident that we are a bit more tired after our work day/week is over. We each have begun to encounter various challenges at work; some were temporary while some are ongoing. Outside of work challenges, we have started to know the struggle of maintaining a work/life balance. Some days it is difficult to leave work challenges at work, and it is not always easy to make and maintain plans with friends outside of the house. Lately, it feels as if we have been scurrying around in our own lives in order to best fulfill our work obligations while maintaining our personal ones as well. With that, it has not always been easy to focus on our core values and the reasons that brought us to this program in the first place.

Last Sunday, September 21st, many of us attended the People’s Climate March in New York City. Over 400,000 passionate individuals and environmental activists gathered for what was the largest march for climate change awareness in history. We greeted Stonehill students and professors on campus at 6:15 AM, and the bus to New York City left by 6:30 AM, not to return until nearly 11:00 PM, with a four-hour ride each way. It was a long day, but most certainly a worthwhile one. Participating in this passionate event along side thousands of people demanding to be heard invigorated each of us, for while we each may not have been previously invested in issues surrounding climate change, there is something to be said about being surrounded by so many individuals fighting for justice, which is something each of us does in our own way daily. 



                                              A snapshot of the People's Climate March 

We each feel passionate about the city and population of Brockton and we go to work every day fighting for it. Whether its ensuring every child has access to education, every voter feels heard, every family has access to nutritious food, or that no one sleeps without a bed, we fight for this city and all of its people every day. Yes, we may feel tired at the end of each day and we may face different challenges in our individual battles, but let’s face it, nobody said this would be an easy year. It will, however, be a worthwhile one, and whether we can notice it now or not, we are making differences, no matter how small.

                           Some Brockton Service Corps Members at the People's Climate March


P.S.--The title references the song, “Hurry, Hurry” by Air Traffic Controller. The link to the music video can be accessed here: 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

How long has it been?

It feels like just yesterday we were moving into the house, starting this incredible journey. As of Monday, we have been living in the house for a month! That is crazy to realize. We have experienced so much already and have so much more to go.

Everything has been going really well and we have already started to get into a good rhythm. Trying to manage the vans and who needs to go where has been a fun experience for work as well as for personal use. Sometimes we have had to figure out how to pick up one person from a work meeting, drop another one off somewhere else, and make sure a third person does not need to go to a different place an hour later. It is challenging, but we find it to be a good bonding experience, helping us realize how difficult it is to be limited by transportation.
 
As we become more and more involved with the Brockton community, we are realizing that our jobs are interconnected through this community web and play different roles in the lives of so many people. Individually, the organizations we work for have limited resources and are trying to pull support from a similar group of people in the community. Working together in different ways, there is much more we could be accomplishing. For example, sometimes during the day working at Brockton Interfaith Community I get calls into the office from individuals reaching out, looking for direct services. Though we do not provide direct services, we are able to redirect them to groups like the Family Center at Community Connections. Individuals at the HOPE House are excited to visit The Farm at Stonehill, which regularly donates food to My Brother's Keeper for their food pantry. Trinity Catholic Academy helps teach some children in Brockton, while School on Wheels helps teach others, and the YMCA helps give some a place to go after their schooling. Each plays a role in different parts of life and all are needed.


School On Wheels Gala
 
But as we have gotten to know our different organizations better, we ask less about what they each do, but more about how they are progressing. We have become invested in each other and each others' placements. On Friday, we all drove over to Showcase Live at Patriot Place to volunteer with the School on Wheels 10th Birthday Gala. Leading up to the amazing event, we have been doing our part to support Dan in any way we can. We want to see each other succeed at our placements, but we also want to be there to support each other with work and personal life.














Tuesday, September 2, 2014

2014-2015 Service Corps is Underway, but first Let Me Take a Selfie!


After waiting anxiously all summer for this new journey to begin it finally arrived on August 11th, 2014 when the nine members of the Brockton Stonehill Service Corps arrived for a 4-day orientation.  On August 11th, the common thread that tied each of us together was that we were all Stonehill College Class of 2014 alumni that wanted to dedicate a year of our lives to not only serve those in the Brockton community, but also to take time to discover our passions and reveal our core values in life. 

As orientation came to an end, these nine people who once were just other members of the Class of 2014, like me, became my second family for the year and hopefully many years to come.  On August 15th we were welcomed with a  “Welcome!” cake as we began to move into our new home.  Our first meal together was cooked using what we could find in the house: pasta with olive oil that was seasoned with salt and pepper.  We all sat gathered in our dining room that was only filled with chairs at the time, but just being together to share a meal was what we all needed to provide us with energy for the tasks that needed to be completed before the day was over.

That same night we all gathered in the dining room, but this time we were blessed to be sharing a meal with one another around a table!  That night we all sat in the living room, talked, and observed our surroundings to have a better idea of what the neighborhood was like. 

As the days went on we explored various attractions in Brockton and the surrounding communities together. In addition to enjoying the neighborhood, there were also a lot of logistics to work through such as assigning chores, planning meals, going grocery shopping, creating a budget, organizing our rooms, and coordinating rides to and from our work sites in order to create a cohesive community, that we all must work at each day to keep the community and each other strong as one united group.  

 



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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Goodbyes

ü End of the Year Retreat 
ü  Extended Day
ü  Last Blog Post and Reflection
ü  Report Cards
ü  Pre-K
ü  Farewell Party

      The past few weeks have gone by so quickly. Each day, I have been mentally checking things off.  With only 2 1/2  days left of school and 8 days until I move out, there will be soon nothing to check off.  It is very hard to believe that this year is coming to an end.  A little over 10 months ago, my housemates and I began this exciting journey and now it is coming to a close. What now? There are so many goodbyes to be said, and very little time. Saying goodbye to Kyle, Jess, and Emily will be hard. I know I will see them again, but when? We have spent so much time together in the past year and in one week, we will all go to our separate ways. Kyle, Emily and Jess: Thank you all for help making this year so memorable. You are all such hardworking individuals and have such bright futures ahead of you.  I can't imagine my experience without you . You helped me become a better person and I learned so much from all of you.  I know I have my flaws, but thank you for accepting them and putting up with me.  I couldn't have faced all my challenges this year without your support and I am so grateful. I hope that I had some positive influence on all of you because you definitely influenced me. I wish the next group of volunteers the best of luck and hope that we served as good pioneers to the program for you all. 

      Saying goodbye to Trinity will be hard. While I was faced with many obstacles along the way, the experiences only made me a better teacher and I appreciate each experience so much. If I hadn't moved from Preschool,  I may not have been able to form such close bonds with my second grade colleagues, Anne and Melissa. They were so wonderful to work with and I am so lucky  to not only have them as my partners, but as my friends.  I was able to form so many friendships and I hope they will continue even after I leave. I was welcomed with open arms by so many individuals and couldn't have survived the year without their support.

 I    Saying goodbye to my students will not be easy. It was a difficult group of second graders, but I loved them all. Sure there were many tears, some drama, and  many moments that tested my patience, but I made it through. In the end, I truly feel appreciated by them and feel that I made somewhat of a difference in their lives.  It may not have always been evident but there are those certain moments that make all the difference The love I have received from them in this past week, as I have began to say my goodbyes, has reassured me that everything I did this year was worth it. 

I      While I may not know where the future will bring me, this experience has taught me that anything is     possible.  I am optimistic about the future and have no doubt of the tremendous influence that this past year will have on it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

I am

I am idealistic and hopeful.
I wonder why the world is so unjust.
I hear the man say, "Hey miss got a dollar?"
I see discrimination.
I want to make a difference.
I am idealistic and young.

I pretend that it's all okay.
I feel a knot inside my stomach.
I touch the dollar in my pocket.
I worry that I'm too selfish.
I cry for the times I haven't given anything.
I am idealistic and hopeful.

I understand the world isn't far.
I say, "Well, that's bullshit."
I dream that other people think so too.
I try to make one small difference now.
I hope one day it is a big difference.
I am idealistic and hopeful.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

7th Inning Stretch


If you have ever been to a Red Sox  home game, you know what an unbelievable experience it is. Doesn't matter if there's a chance of rain or if it's a day game or night game, you go there for the same reason. Nothing's quite like the moment when you sit down in your seats, whether you are in the bleachers, the Green Monster or behind home plate and look out into the magnificent ballpark that is Fenway Park. I've been to my fair share of Red Sox games and each time I go, I fall more in love with the team and the ballpark itself. My favorite moment of a game at Fenway has to be the 7th inning stretch.  The game is nearing the end which may be a good or bad thing depending on how well the Sox are doing. Regardless of the score, this doesn't damper the spirits of the thousands of fans at Fenway.  When  the familiar tune "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond comes blaring on the speakers,  they are going to sing and they are going to sing proudly, all frustrations aside. Once the game resumes, the spirits may change, but for that one period of time, the environment of the park is quite remarkable. 

I myself feel like that I am currently in my " 7th inning stretch".  I am not quite at the end of my service year, but if i look up at my scoreboard, my calendar, I see that it is approaching quickly. My current battle in the game we call " life"  is  Job Applications vs My Current Job.  During the weekends, I am busy working on cover letters and submitting applications. During the week, I am busy teaching not one but two grades, 2nd grade and Pre-K.  I definitely have had a lot on my plate, but so far it has been manageable. I haven't allowed my applications to get in the way of my lesson planning and teaching and vice versa. As long as I stay on task and pace myself, everything will get done. 

During this stressful time, I am always eagerly looking for those " Sweet Caroline" moments.  This past weekend, I was home alone for the majority of the weekend, with very little plans. Instead of sitting down on the couch and moping, I decided to make the best of the weekend. On Saturday, I decided to use the movie pass that one of my students had given me and I went to see the movie Neighbors, by myself. This is only the second time in my entire life that I have seen a movie by myself, the first being earlier this year. Last year, I would have never even thought of doing it, but times have changed! It was a nice break for me. I definitely needed a good laugh. ( also, some of the actors aren't bad to look at either.. ) On Mother's Day, one of the most beautiful days I have seen in a while, I decided to make the best of the weather and take a walk. Since graduation isn't until  this upcoming Sunday and all of the seniors are on Cape Week, I took advantage of an empty Stonehill campus. I probably walked around the campus for 45 min or so, stopping at a few places to take in the beauty. My favorite place on campus by far, is the top of the steps in front of Donahue Hall.  Like I have many times before, I  sat  there for about 20 minutes looking out onto campus and enjoying the beautiful weather. Amongst the trees and green grass,  I could see the graduation tent, a crazy sight since it feels like yesterday that my friends and I watched that tent go up for our own graduation. As I sat there, all my stress  briefly went away. Nothing else mattered, only the view that was in front of me.  I could have sat there forever. It was a very necessary " me time". There are very few places where I am able to feel this way.  


The next month and a half will not be easy, but I am going to try to make the most of it. I am going to enjoy my 7th inning stretch as I wait for the impending 9th inning. I want to enjoy the time I have left with my housemates as much as I can. We've become a little family and it seems surreal that shortly we will all be going our separate ways. Regardless of the stress of my job applications and my current job, I am going to take time to enjoy life, whether it's by myself or with others. I urge you all do the same, whether you too are in the 7th inning of your current stage of life,  or earlier/ later in the game. Find your " Sweet Caroline".