Madeleine Saylor | CARECEN

My name is Madeleine Saylor and I am a studying International Relations in the School of International Service. As a freshman here at American University I am someone who is eager to get to know the new D.C. Community around me, I saw the Community Service-Learning Program as a way to go about this quest. The CSLP program is great because it is allowing me to connect with my class subject beyond the classroom, and get to know the communities here in Washington D.C. to a greater degree. I chose to connect my service-learning project with my writing seminar, Decoding Social Justice. In this class we discuss the idea of an everyday hero, and whether that can truly exist or if it is the glorification of simply being human.

The organization that I have decided to work with is the Central American Resource Center also referred to as CARECEN, based in Columbia Heights. While the non-profit has many branches the main goal of CARECEN is to help immigrants pass the United States Citizenship exam. My role as a volunteer at CARECEN has varied every single time, from file work to tutoring, there has always been something to help out with. The experience that has meant the most to me thus far, was working with one of the adult immigrants prepare for their citizenship test the following day.

I tried to keep an open mind going into this volunteer experience, so the extent to my expectations was for the chance to be welcomed into the nonprofit, even though they knew nothing about me. Since I have been connected to CARECEN, I have felt welcomed by the staff and given work to complete that will make their jobs easier. I have come to understand while one may not think of scanning documents as glorious and rewarding volunteer work, I have realized that by doing so I am allowing those who are professionals use their skills to help more people. While the idealistic way to view volunteer work in this case is through tutoring, I feel just as helpful doing paper work. I would say that my expectations have been met.

It is easy to say you want to change the world and that you will stand up in the name of justice, it is another to make that happen. There is a deep connection between the help we are willing to give in the name of social justice, and delivering the help that organizations actually need. It is through this program and working with CARECEN that I am discovering the relationship between need and the strive for social justice.

My time with CARECEN was not all idea image of community service. It was a lot of behind the scenes work that was what the organization needed to keep moving forward. My time working with CARECEN so far has shown me that in life it is important to value the little everyday successes than trying to change the world. As I continue my work with CARECEN through the Community Service-Learning Program I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

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