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Defining Service Through Experiential Learning

Prior to enrolling in an experiential learning course, I believe that my perception of

service was rooted in / influenced by Ignatian pedagogy, and somewhat still is. I feel very

accustomed to this pattern seen in many Loyola University Chicago service opportunities that

require patience, evaluation, community action, and the most important aspect, ​reflection​. Over

the course of my undergraduate career at Loyola University Chicago, I have been fortunate

enough to venture into many service-based experiences. The significance of these opportunities

presented to students like myself reinforces the idea that service is always a learning experience,

and I have learned many valuable principles and ideas from each service experience!

As one of the acting presidents for the LUC chapter of GlobeMed, partnering locally with

Centro Romero, a grassroots organization focused on supporting the immigrant and refugee

population of Rogers Park has taught me that service isn’t meant to be patriarchal and that

partnership can lift a community into self-sustainability. The GlobeMed model is not one of

many health-based organizations. Rather than organizing solutions alone and assuming what a

particular community requires, the model calls for bold partnership, asking the community what

they need and supporting them to the point of sustainability. In Centro Romero’s case,

GlobeMed LUC was called on and asked to assist their large organization with a new youth

program that, under the LUC School of Social Work hypothesis, would minimize youth

engagement in violent activity in the neighborhoods around them. This requires that our chapter

provide, in a rather cyclical way, learning experiences to about twenty teens and youth, who in

turn are teaching and providing learning experiences to​ our c​ hapter members every trip. This is a
relatively new partnership that has been recognized nationally by GlobeMed headquarters for its

initiative as most if not all GlobeMed chapters across the United States partner globally, whereas

Loyola University Chicago’s chapter of GlobeMed remains the one chapter with only a local

partnership. Something my co-president said when we first began this partnership with Centro

Romero that has truly validated the service experience was that local health-equity​ is​ global

health-equity. I would argue that the same method of partnership can be applied to what we hope

to assist the Chicago Friends School in their goal of achieving greater diversity and inclusion.

Another service experience I had the opportunity of learning from was being on Loyola

University Chicago’s HungerWeek team. When I was a member of the HungerWeek team a

major goal was to not only fundraise for three beneficiaries to combat hunger at the local,

national, and global level, but it was also to encourage the LUC community to assemble and

assist for the cause. It also required utilizing and exhausting every possible method of

fundraising and community engagement. One thing I especially appreciated through this

experience was teamwork. The number of tasks that had to be completed for the 45th annual

HungerWeek was nothing short of daunting in order to achieve the goals we had set out to

achieve, so having a strong group of students motivated by the need in our very own community

in addition to nationally and globally scaled needs was not only imperative, but appreciated as

well. Some of the changes we initiated for a positive outcome of over 1,400 pounds of food and

somewhere up of $6,000 included strengthening a social media presence, networking with

campus partners such as Campus Ministry for the canned food drive, Muslim Student

Association for Fast-A-Thon, as well as network with our beneficiaries and increase their

presence on our campus. So many other aspects to organizing went into HungerWeek but I
digress with this important takeaway from my learning experience in coordination with a service

tradition : positive outcomes require strong teams! There is no way this year’s HungerWeek

would have made the success that it did without the strength of our team. I believe that when

partnering with the Chicago Friends School our class dynamic will shift into more of a team or

community as opposed to classmates.

Loyola University Chicago has presented many more service learning experiences,

however, I specifically mention these two projects to highlight the importance of means and ends

in community engagement. Reflecting on personal experiences with service, I believe that I have

selfishly used many service learning opportunities only to my benefit and not a greater

population. I do not mean this as to say that I have used service opportunities to gain credentials

or log ”hours” for some form of bettering my own future or career opportunity because I actually

frown upon that type behavior which seems to be so loud in pre-health student culture. That only

emphasizes to students that service is something one​ has​ to do in order to get what they desire,

presenting it as a chore or an obstacle one must pass for their own gain.

This part of the reflection may not be as concise as the previous sections. What I mean

when I say that I have used service opportunities selfishly in the past is that I believe, and reflect

on now as I write this, that I cared so much more about my own learning experience than the

actual outcome for the community or population I was serving. I know that my initial intention

with every service opportunity is to, simply, do a good thing so that other good things can

happen afterward. Somehow, subconsciously, that intention has turned into an avidity to learn as

much as I can about a community, gather as much information about the issues that afflict a

population, and basically see as much as I can see in order to be able to say that I did, or that I
experienced --anything for the experience. That is selfish, and as I reflect is not the mentality one

should be going into a vulnerable community with.

What I have learned from Centro Romero and HungerWeek as service learning

experiences is that humans cannot and should not be used as means to an end. This is especially

important when the community we engage with is comprised of young individuals such as at the

Chicago Friends School. Something I appreciated from chapter 1 in the Stoecker text was the

detail given to ​community voices​. Research can be a distraction from the goal of uplifting a

community, but empowering voices from within can create that partnership ideal that I believe

creates the strongest positive change.

To conclude, I understand service as combining action, partnership, community building,

and reflection as a means for positive change. I learned this from acknowledging my faults in

service and I intend to implement honesty and humility when partnering with The Chicago

Friends School.