“How was your summer?” A greeting that many of us have heard over the past two weeks. A question that inspires a uniquely personal answer – or more often a simple “It was great!” – had been strangely difficult for me to answer. I was one of nearly 200 students who participated in the Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) last summer, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences here at Notre Dame. When the incoming early years reflect on what their ‘Notre Dame experience’ will look like, it often includes tailgates, football games, grueling college semesters and, of course, summer internships.
If you are looking for ways to fill your precious summers, internships are widely regarded as the gold standard. SSLP, however, will provide you with an experience that is both unlike anything you will do otherwise and unique at Notre Dame. The entire staff at SSLP is extremely dedicated to helping their students have as meaningful an experience as possible (and no, they didn’t push me to write this). For those unfamiliar with SSLP, this involves spending eight weeks working for a nonprofit organization. Many students live on-site or with host families, but I was fortunate to have a site: Hope Clinic in Ypsilanti, Michigan, less than 10 minutes by car from my home.
When I was first placed, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Even after speaking with former students who had served at Hope, I was only given a vague idea of what my role would really be – with the encouraging words “This is a great place, you go. love everyone you meet there! ” Well, that definitely ended up being true. Serving my local community, I have worked alongside many amazing staff and volunteers who shared my passion to do good in the world. I was also able to make meaningful connections with clients at different stages of their lives, people I would never have had the chance to interact with outside of SSLP.
As a bonus, Notre Dame was there with me every step of the way. The Notre Dame Club of Ann Arbor has proven to be an invaluable resource, and I have been fortunate enough to meet many alumni in the area who have volunteered their precious time over the years to get to know each student who served on my site. The weekly recordings and discussion posts with my small group of other students serving at various other sites across the country focused on Catholic Social Tradition (CST). Personally, I felt that CST provided me with a medium with which I could express everything I learned about both my community and myself during my 8 weeks at Hope Clinic. This is also what makes SSLP unique and not just another service opportunity; the whole program is dedicated, as the Constitution of the Congregation of the Holy Cross so aptly says, to working for “a world where justice and love prevail”. I am honored to have been able to participate in the SSLP last summer and I can say that it will be the centerpiece of my unique “Notre Dame experience”.
Thank you for supporting a sports writer who ventured into viewpoint waters for the first time. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me, I would like to talk more about my experience with anyone interested!
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.