Circles, Commitment, and Conversations

By: Sasha Panaram

April 17, 2012

During March 3, 2012 to March 10, 2012, over 200 Georgetown University students, faculty, and staff participated in Alternative Spring Break trips located both inside and outside of the United States. Georgetown’s Center for Social Justice and Campus Ministry sponsored over ten direct service and immersion trips, which offered participants opportunities to involve themselves in communities, develop mutual awareness, and grow personally. For one week, all of these trips challenged participants to live beyond the front gates of Georgetown and see the needs and wants of others with observant eyes. These trips also invited Hoyas to participate in another pillar Georgetown is so deeply grounded in: reflection.
On March 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm, I walked into an intensely animated room on the Hilltop, filled with people bursting at the seams with excitement. This overflow of emotion is not uncommon when you find participants of ASB trips gathered in one room. As people welcomed one another with warm embraces, shouted across the room, and eventually made their ways to their seats, I knew the evening would be nothing less than inspiring. For one night in one room, all of the 17 ASB trips had gathered to participate in roundtable reflections together. Senior Arianna Pattek began the evening sharing reasons as to why she participated in ASB trips all four years of her Georgetown career. She was followed by freshman Kayla Corcora, who offered a reflection on her first ASB trip.

Shortly afterwards individual tables began to reflect and reminisce on their spring break experiences. Surrounded by trip leaders and members from Race, Dialogue, and Renewal: Detroit, Worker Justice DC, Magis El Salvador, Habitat for Humanity, and Urban Education Immersion, it was impossible not to feel grateful to learn, live, and love besides some remarkable people. Our conversation, which lasted over two hours, covered topics of all sorts from what it was like to hammer a nail for multiple hours every single day to how it felt being welcomed into someone else’s home to the difficulties of fostering conversations about race. In a relatively short period of time, we delved into topics about stringent racism, endless inequalities, widening achievement gaps, and senseless prejudices. As we reached into the depths of ourselves to accurately explain our unique adventures, we lived through the experiences again telling fragile memories, careful not to miss any details.

As a co-leader of the Urban Education Immersion trip, I remember offering up a story about how overwhelmed with gratitude I was when two days before March 3, 2012, I realized this trip, that I had been creating for over a year and a half with Colleen Gravens, Arianna Pattek, and Ray Shiu was actually going to happen. Based on showing participants different approaches to learning and methods of combating the achievement gap, UEI placed our participants in direct contact with educators, students, parents, and community members. We visited schools, observed classes, and lived with families. None of this would be remotely possible if Georgetown alumni and other partners did not make themselves available to us without reservation. They opened up their classrooms, gave us their homes, engaged us in dialogue, and sacrificed valuable time from their days so that we could continue to make meaning of the world in which we all live. Likewise, the others at my table chimed in with similar responses relaying the joyful welcomes they experienced. When embarking on discovering why such welcomes occurred, we posited that Georgetown’s continuous commitment to working with others to promote justice in all of its forms day after day, week after week, year after year, certainly has more than a little something to do with it.

If I learned nothing else from my roundtable reflection it is that Hoyas have hearts. However, our hearts were not always so open to growth, susceptible to vulnerability, or capable of such great love. These things were only made possible by others. Be they teachers, mentors, religious leaders, parents, siblings, relatives, community members, or strangers, all of these people play integral roles in our formations. But those who we meet, if only briefly, during our one-week of service or immersion, leave lasting inexplicable impressions that touch two parts of us, that when working together, encourage true learning: the heart and the mind. As our roundtable discussion rightly noted, we need other people. No world will become more just unless people commit, collaborate, and communicate together. ASB trips always have and always will provide safe spaces for such work towards the common good; such work towards a better world. Now our work revolves around living beyond those one-week experiences and sharing what we have learned with a community much bigger than ourselves.
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Circles, Commitment, and Conversations