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#IamVincent @ NU Vincentian Service

by | Feb 5, 2016 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

nu-iav-diez-FBJacey Diez, a student dedicated to Vincentian service, is in her final year at Niagara University, majoring in Teaching English as a Second Language (K-12) and Elementary Education (6-12) with a minor in Theatre Performance.

The poor have much to teach you, and you have much to learn from them.
(St. Vincent de Paul)

As a senior majoring in TESOL & Elementary Education here at Niagara University (NY, USA) working with children is, without a doubt, a passion of mine. Spending college break in an alternative way by volunteering in classrooms around the world has helped me develop as a future teacher by instilling a profound sense of hope for the future, and reinforced the reason why I want to become a TESOL teacher: to make a difference, and help inspire young minds to want to learn.

(Pictured: Jessica Tobin ‘15 and Jacey Diez ‘16 in Ms. Gatinella’s first grade classroom. Camden, NJ)

Jessica Tobin and Jacey Diez with a class

This winter break was my sixth trip with Campus Ministry, and my previous BASIC credits include: Philadelphia, PA, Greensboro, NC, The Republic of Panama, PAN, Buffalo, NY, and Camden, NJ (where I was last year as well). I decided to return to Camden this year because I was truly touched and inspired by the caring individuals we met last year who made a difference in the poverty-stricken community. It is my overall goal as a future ESL teacher to contribute to the development of school classrooms that strongly value diversity, multiculturalism, and provide equal opportunities to learn for all students. The diverse population of Camden’s city schools and high population of English Language Learners (43.9% of students as of 2015) also contributed to my interest in pursuing TESOL Education (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) as my future career path.

When you participate in a BASIC service trip, you gain new experiences, ideas, and memories to last a lifetime. What I have gained based on my own experience, is a content feeling of purpose, fulfillment, and renewed sense of faith.

Based on experiences working with children both inside and outside of the classroom, features of my educational philosophy primarily focus on a vision of a whole-child education, one in which students are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. I bring a lot of energy to the students I work with daily. If I can’t get excited about ESL education, why should my students? Creating a positive learning environment and cultivating motivation for students to succeed is my philosophy in my future teaching. I feel that it is important to have high expectations for all students to help them learn. During the trip, NU students had the opportunity to visit the local school on a daily basis and work with students each morning as well as during the after-school care program.

Reading "Frosty the Snowman"

Reading “Frosty the Snowman”

Throughout my time here as an undergraduate student, I have discovered that Brothers and Sisters In Christ Program is a service experience that is unlike any other. Through service immersion and living in community, I have learned that you become friends with people you might have never have met, if not for the trip. Working with people in a new place quickly turns a group of strangers into close friends. These friendships last, even after the trip is over. Probably the best and most rewarding part of going on these trips is that you get to spend time helping those in need. In Camden, highlights of our week of service included: working at the soup kitchen, meeting with local youth groups, attending bilingual masses, volunteering at the homeless shelter, attending AA/NA meetings, sandwich ministry, spending time with the impoverished children and elderly in the community, and also participating in community clean-up projects in parks and alleys.

So, the question is: “What makes what we do Vincentian service as opposed to just service?” Well, the answer is more complex than one would think. During the final night of our trip, the Camden group reflected upon this question and collectively agreed that the answer can be found best within the five Vincentian core values:

  1. Spirituality: Attentiveness to the spirit within that connects us to the world around us.This was exemplified through the community of Camden. Their devout faith and hope of better times to come was encouraging to every member of our group. Despite the extreme circumstances of poverty, the people we encountered were full of hope for the future, and constantly thinking of ways to improve the city’s current situation through various church-based programs to assist those in need. Faith is ever-present in the community of Camden, and there is a great respect for the Church and its works of good deeds.
  2. Knowledge: The lifelong pursuit of truth and excellence. During our time at DeSales Service Works house, the group had the opportunity to observe AA/NA meetings through a rehabilitation program called “The Last Stop.” There is a lot of stigma that comes with addiction, and many stereotypes as well. Based on these observations, NU students were able to learn about the serious challenge of drug and alcohol addiction, and also we learned about the effects of poverty in Camden. Even in the dimmest light, a gleam of hope can be found in the strength and honesty of the members of AA: they are forced to be honest with themselves so they can improve as a person.
  3. Creativity: Innovative and practical responsiveness to the needs of all people. The after school care program was a way in which we needed to “be creative” when it came to working with students. Helping with homework, playing group and team building games, and coming up with various ways to entertain and teach students in grades K-8 was a challenge that called for creativity from all members of our group. This experience taught us that it is good to get out of your element once in awhile, to try something new, learn and grow!
  4. Integrity: Consistent, continuing truthfulness to oneself and others. The NJ group witnessed integrity at the church’s sandwich ministry. Camden Cathedral Parish’s Outreach Coordinator, Ms. Susan Mackey, and her assistant, Miss Irma both are amazingly strong women who show integrity on a daily basis by serving the poor, and addressing a basic human need: stopping hunger on the streets.
  5. Compassion: Opening oneself to relationships with others, serving with acceptance and respect. St. Vincent’s teachings encourage us to value and respect the God-given dignity of all people. The person who inspired us most during our stay was Fr. Mike McCue, Spiritual Director of DeSales Service Works. His selflessness, spirituality, and dedication to the members of the parish and community was an amazing thing to witness. The community relies on his prayer, guidance, outreach, and support- all of which he gives wholeheartedly as an Oblate Catholic priest.

When you participate in a BASIC service trip, you gain new experiences, ideas, and memories to last a lifetime. What I have gained based on my own experience, is a content feeling of purpose, fulfillment, and renewed sense of faith. At Niagara University, we strive to follow the tradition of St. Vincent DePaul, who said “Let all things be done with charity.” This motto is exemplified by the student participants of BASIC, who live the mission of Christ through his works- and the spiritual rewards for doing so are beyond comprehension.

Camden BASIC 2016. Top row: Kelly Zaky, Mariah Doucette, Jacey Diez, Jessica Tobin, Linnea Ryer, Maria Croft, Gabe Literman, Hannah Croft, Kendra York, Kelsey Mursuli. Bottom row: Brian Bremer, Josh Fose, Derek Puff, William Haydeneck, Josh Dumbleton, Nick Barile, and Michael Kobito.

Top row: Kelly Zaky, Mariah Doucette, Jacey Diez, Jessica Tobin, Linnea Ryer, Maria Croft, Gabe Literman, Hannah Croft, Kendra York, Kelsey Mursuli. Bottom row: Brian Bremer, Josh Fose, Derek Puff, William Haydeneck, Josh Dumbleton, Nick Barile, and Michael Kobito

The BASIC experience in Camden, NJ has changed my outlook, my heart, and my life. Although words alone cannot truly explain the spiritual experience of giving your time and love to those in need, I would like to conclude by encouraging Niagara students to sign up for the BASIC service immersion experience. Whether you are a freshman, sophomore, junior, or graduating senior: participating in this trip will change your perspective on working with those in need. By actively volunteering and mentoring the poor with a spirit of love, we can all become a part of the positive influence necessary to enrich the lives of our community’s poverty-stricken neighbors.

1 Comment

  1. Claudia Senring

    What an amazing Woman you have become. You have done this for all the right reasons. To give of yourself to help others is one of the most rewarding feelings. God bless you my beautiful Grandaughter !

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