The Service Learning Experience is one of the pillars of the Holy Cross Experience which will help students gain the competence to see and the courage to act. This phrase, from the Constitutions of the Brothers and Priests of Holy Cross, points to the connection between education and action. Thus, the Service Learning Experience is focused not just on performing charity or on studying ideals of Christian love. Rather, students gain valuable self-knowledge about the ways in which they are called to serve in the world.
The Service Learning Experience can perhaps even contribute to their choice of career or field of study. Vocation has been described as the place where “my passion, my gifts meet the world’s need.” Service learning is a great way to discover both!
Specifically, the Service Learning Experience begins as a course that all Holy Cross students take in their sophomore year. The course is IDST 250: The Service Learning Experience. IDST 250 combines a dynamic inside and outside of the classroom components. In class, assignments reflect on the meaning of the service and what it teaches us about contributing to the advancement of justice in our society. Students will choose from among placement tracks that have been pre-arranged to ensure weekly, structured times for service. The track options reflect distinct ways in which our students can explore the call to serve. Each track is named as follows:
The Brother Vincent Track
This track is named for one of the very first Holy Cross Brothers, Vincent, who was the consummate teacher. Thus the theme of this track is “Educating Hearts and Minds.” The service options in this track will relate to education. Some students will choose to take part in a tutoring program in a local Catholic school that serves the poor. Others will join a mentor program aimed at keeping at-risk students in school. Choosing this would be a good option for someone interested in learning more about teaching or working with youth.
The Brother Andre Track
This track is for students who wish to reach out to those on the margins of society. Thus the theme of this track borrows an important phrase from Catholic Social Teaching: “Preferential Option for the Poor.” Students can be part of the team that prepares and serves dinner every week at the Center for the Homeless. Or they can join the group that goes to the Catholic Worker Center each Saturday morning. This track will help students learn more about poverty and homelessness in our society and explore ways to make a difference.
The St. Mary Track
The theme of this track is “The Gospel of Life.” Students will volunteer at the Women’s Care Center, which helps women facing crisis pregnancies so that they can choose life for themselves and their unborn babies. Students interested in this track should be committed to pro-life principles and eager to offer their time and energy in defense of human life.
The Father Dujarie Track
One of the features of our society is, sadly, a decrease in the esteem and attention given to our elders, and so the theme of this track is “Honoring the Elders.” The service project for students who choose this is simple: to make a weekly visit to the Holy Cross Village residence for seniors (mainly older Holy Cross Brothers) which is on our campus. Not only will students gain wisdom in learning from these elders, they might also explore the way in which caring for seniors could affect their career and life choices.
The St. Joseph Track
This is for students who want to work with their hands, as St. Joseph did. A number of projects, both here at Holy Cross and in the local community, need people to do manual labor. So, this track, with the theme “by the sweat of your brow..” will use good old hard work to make a difference in the world.
The Father Moreau Trip Track
Basil Moreau, the founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, believed that our mission cannot be confined to one place but that we “go forth to the world” to serve and learn from the people we encounter. This theme guides this track, which will offer the chance to go on a service trip. The trip will occur during Fall or Spring Break and will take a group of students to places where they will help communities in need. Recent groups have gone to West Virginia to work with the rural poor and to Mississippi to help those still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.