My name is Samuel Oswald. I am a freshman studying International Relations at American University. At the beginning of this semester, I decided to combine the Community Services Learning Program (CSLP) with my Social Justice and Science College Writing course taught by Professor Michael Moreno. With the help of Professor Moreno and the CSLP staff, I found an opportunity to volunteer at the Mary House in Brookland, Washington, DC. This organization provides after school care and learning support to children from the area. The Mary House has also partnered with Panera Bread and YES Organic in an effort to distribute surpluses of food to families connected to the organization.
I joined the Mary House as an after school program assistant. With around twenty children ranging in age from 3 to 13 years old and only three full-time program leaders, there was plenty for me to do on a regular basis. I tried to entertain, read, and study with the children for the hours they were at the Mary House each day.
Truth be told, I was a little nervous to work with children because I had never been responsible for someone else before. My worries were cast aside after one session with the Mary House. The kids were energetic and sometimes wild, but my job of watching over them was far from difficult. They ate snacks, went outside to play, came inside to read, and then did arts and crafts. I joined them in their fun whenever they wanted me around. If they did not want me around, I sat back and made sure that their playing with each other did not turn into fighting. Again, my job was easy.
I have yet to mention that many of the children at the Mary House have parents who recently immigrated to the United States. Here in lies my experiences’ connection to my Social Justice and Science course. I discovered through working with the Mary House how important providing a supportive community to people who are rebuilding their lives half a world away from where they previously lived. Simple after school programs are perfect for building this supportive community. I am trying to convey my experience with the Mary House in an editorial I am writing for Professor Moreno on the importance of community support in reference to immigrant mental health. I see a correlation, so I am trying to convince others to pay attention.
I hope that other students will take the opportunity to enrich their educational experience at American University through CSLP. I had a wonderful time working with the Mary House. I met a lot of great adults and children and was able to expand my knowledge by learning outside of the classroom. CSLP gave me an excuse to spend less time studying and more time becoming a part of the Washington, DC community off campus. So often, students like myself get caught up in the academic aspects of college that we forget there are other ways of learning. I will be forever thankful to have been pushed towards the Mary House by CSLP. I am for sure continuing my work with the organization after my completion of the program.