Setting out to begin this essay, I felt more overwhelmed than anything. With a nearly infinite scope of possible topics to choose from, I struggled to find an avenue that felt right for me. Every idea I came up with felt inauthentic and unnatural, so I decided to consult my professor. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need; he pointed out to me a theme in my work for the semester that is so obvious I couldn’t believe I didn’t think of it myself: Community-Based Learning (CBL).
You might be wondering what, exactly, CBL entails. CBL, also called service learning, is an educational philosophy that seeks to connect theory and practice by incorporating civic engagement with classroom learning objectives. At Holy Cross, CBL can involve a project component or a placement component. With a placement component, students complete service in the community on a weekly basis, while project components usually involve consulting or other short-term service work.
For me, the past year has been one of self-discovery, and my experience in CBL became a significant part of that process. As I’ve looked back on my experience over the last few months—both in preparation for this project and in filling out applications for jobs and scholarships—I’ve begun to realize more and more the profound impact CBL has had on the course of my studies and on the way I interact with my community.
My involvement in a CBL course led me to becoming a CBL Intern and inspired the blog I started. CBL has given me the chance to exercise leadership and take advantage of the opportunities available to me at Holy Cross. It has intensified my interest in post-graduate service and allowed me to try on different professional roles.
CBL has been something I have truly enjoyed in my time at Holy Cross. I’ve taken so much away from my experiences personally, academically, and professionally. The CBL program, in my mind, epitomizes the cura personalis tenet of Holy Cross as a Jesuit institution: furthering intellectual horizons while working toward social improvement and personal growth, living and learning “the mission.”
In designing this essay, I have set out to see what my fellow students at Holy Cross think about CBL. I conducted a total of six interviews, three with CBL Interns and three with CBL students, focused on assessing how my personal experiences may or may not align with those of my peers. I will be looking at different facets of community engagement that I’ve extracted from my own involvement in CBL and applying interview and survey responses to that schema, hoping to shed light on how students experience CBL at Holy Cross.