Published 04/24/11

Service learning opportunities are eye-opening experiences

April 24, 2011

Instead of heading to a tropical resort over Spring Break for some fun in the sun, Alicia Kennedy ’12 (Burlington, CT) was part of a group of students who spent a week in our nation’s capital volunteering with several nonprofit organizations. The experience, she says, was humbling and helped put life into perspective.

“Sometimes we all get so caught up in our own day-to-day work that we forget to think about the struggles of those who are less fortunate than us,” says Kennedy. “It is important that we, as students, are active in the community so we are reminded about how privileged we are.”

The work Kennedy did at Food and Friends, an organization that makes and delivers meals to people with life-challenging illnesses, made the biggest impact. “The thought and care that this organization puts into everything it does is amazing,” she says. “All of their clients are treated like family.”

The group of 14 students and four staff members also interacted with the elderly residents at Little Sisters of the Poor and youngsters at St. Anthony’s Catholic School.

“Community service helps balance my life and is very rewarding says,” Racheal Pozerski ’13 (Plymouth, MA), who also volunteered in Washington, DC. “It was inspiring to work with all of the organizations, and it helped me realize how important it is to give back.”

Learning transcends the classroom

In the Dominican, Stacey Kalivas ’13 (Millis, MA) was part of a team of students who taught English and computer classes to local residents of a small fishing village. They also conducted focus groups to examine the impact of globalization. The class is part of a directed study, “Globalization and the Dominican Republic,” taught by Associate Sociology Professor Sandra Enos and Gertrude Meth Hochberg Women's Center Director Toby Simon.

What left the greatest impression on Kalivas was actually seeing what she learned in class. “It is so easy to forget how fortunate we are,” she says. “We take for granted the fact that we have continual electricity and access to clean running water. There are many who do not have such simple ‘luxuries.’ ”

Despite the modest conditions, the local residents were more than welcoming to the group, Kalivas says. “They were so eager to answer our questions and they shared so much about their lives,” she says.

Kalivas believes that the relationships the Bryant group members developed will last long into the future. “Our trip would not have been as successful as it was without all of us sharing the same passion and dedication,” she says.

Also taking the trip to the Dominican were Joel Baussan '13 (Port-Au-Prince, Haiti), Felipe Baza '13 (Mallorca, Spain), Orlando Garcia '14 (Corona, NY), Stavroula Kalivas '13 (Millis, MA), Islindy Merius '13 (Providence, RI), and Crystal Santana  '14 (Rockland, MA). Hector Paulino ’11 (Central Falls, RI) and Maria Carranza '11 (Worcester, MA) who took part in the first service trip to the Dominican two years ago, returned this year as part of directed study projects they are working on.

‘Stronger desire to do more’

For the fifth consecutive year, students traveled to New Orleans through the Katrina Relief Urban Plunge to continue the rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast region. After the last classes on the Friday before spring break, 14 students boarded a bus for a 24-hr journey.

“We have to remove ourselves from our comfort zone, our home, and our school to see that not everyone has the resources we have,” says Corrine O’Neill ’12 (Queens, NY) who took part in a similar service experience in high school.

For a week, the Bryant group volunteered on a farm in the lower ninth ward. They helped build a greenhouse and assisted with general farming tasks. They also took part in workshops that explored the issue of social injustice and toured the hardest hit areas of New Orleans to see firsthand the rebuilding yet to take place nearly six years after the storm hit.

“The whole experience increases our awareness to the needs of others around us,” says Naa Aku Dua ’12 (Greater Accra, Ghana), a psychology major. “Being able to help plants an even stronger desire to do more in the future.”