"Service-learning is all about relationships. In the process of building those relationships, one is also building a relationship with themselves and the world around them."
CESL Program: Student Bridges
In the fall of 2009, I was accepted into the yearlong Student Bridges (SB) service learning course as a tutor/mentor (TM). The after-school program where I served is in Springfield, MA at the South End Community Center (SECC). At this after-school program the focus was on science, engineering, and technology (SET) and college positive activities, reaching youth ages 11–14. In the SB course, I learned how race, class, and other factors impact student access to quality education, and through my service, I witnessed firsthand the importance of educational programs, such as the SET program. Throughout that year of service, I began to feel a sense of meaning and worth that was missing before. I have always been described as a happy person, smiling and laughing most of the time, but after that year, I didn’t just look happy, I felt happy. The youth, the SB family, and the Springfield community partners I worked with gave me the support and love necessary for such positive growth to take place.
In the fall of 2010, I was hired by Student Bridges as a site coordinator to run the SECC site. In this new position, I worked directly with Karen Barshefsky, the 4-H Extension Educator who wrote a five-year Children, Youth, and Families at Risk grant that funded Student Bridges to be able to form a reciprocal partnership with the Springfield community. As a SB site coordinator, my responsibilities included: SET curriculum design, program and TM evaluation, supervising a team of TMs, and acting as a liaison between SB, UMass 4-H program, and the SECC. The responsibilities I had that year pushed my confidence and shaped my future goals. I knew that I wanted to remain a core member of the community partnerships in order to promote, organize, and deliver educational programs. When I heard that a 4-H Extension Educator professional position opened up to work with the grant I had been working with for the last two years, I knew that I wanted that position.
In the fall of 2011, I was hired as that 4-H Extension Educator to oversee the Springfield SET program. Working with Student Bridges and the Massachusetts 4-H Extension Youth Development Program has been a life-changing experience. I now have a career that pushes me to grow positively every day. I am doing what I love—working and interacting with people and learning about their lives, as well as my own.
Service-learning is all about relationships. In the process of building those relationships, one is also building a relationship with themselves and the world around them.