Friday, March 28, 2014

The End of an Era, the Beginning of a Movement

Hey all,

Cristina here. Well, here we are. The conclusory (co-) leader post of the week.

But this time it’s different. This time, I can’t write, “See you next year.” This time, I can’t write, “I’m excited to see where my Catalyst trip experiences will take me next year.”

This is it. This is the end. Or is it?

In this post, I’m going to reflect on: 1) the past week and our 2014 Washington, D.C. Catalyst trip, and 2) my past four years of Catalyst and my individual transformation.

This week, we served with A Wider Circle, DC Central Kitchen, So Others Might Eat, Bread for the City, Capital Area Food Bank, Martha’s Market, Georgetown Ministry Center, and Samaritan Ministry. We spoke with and heard from the United Nations Foundation and speakers from the National Coalition for the Homeless, and we completed the 48-Hour Homeless Challenge. We heard a lot, saw a lot, did a lot, and learned a lot.

Just to give you a little background, my co-leader and I have been planning and preparing for this trip since October/November. I’ve been so excited since we started planning the trip for the service that we would be doing and the student participants with whom I’d have the pleasure of spending time.

But I was also very nervous, especially in the weeks and days leading up to the trip. I was nervous that the Homeless Challenge wouldn’t work out, that the group wouldn’t bond or grow together, that our community partner experience would be horrible, etc. etc., I could seriously go on. But once we arrived in the city and started doing service work, my nerves were quickly put to rest. I was immediately reassured of the power of a Catalyst trip when the group started reflecting and discussing the issues surrounding homelessness that plague our society and the impact our service had on the greater community.

I am so proud of each and every participant on this trip, and I could not have asked for a better group of folks with whom to have spent the past week. I can’t even count the number of times that I have learned from someone on this trip, or the number of times someone on this trip has impressed me with the quality and depth of their reflection and critical analysis. I can’t even explain how much this group has shown me that homelessness is an issue that deserves attention and that, with the effort of many, can be solved. I can’t express enough how grateful and honored I am to have met and gotten to know everyone on this trip, and I am so happy to leave Hamline with this experience.

I wanted to say thank you to everyone on this year’s trip for this experience. You have all made it so great, and I am so fortunate to have spent this week with you. I love you all.

As some of you may know, I am a graduating senior, and this is my last semester at Hamline University. This is also the fourth time I’ve participated in the Washington, D.C. Catalyst trip. I was a trip participant my first and sophomore years, I was the student leader my junior year, and I am now a student co-leader this year.

I seriously can’t even accurately articulate how much Catalyst has done for my life, and how much Catalyst has impacted my growth as a student, leader, and advocate. To be honest, Catalyst trips haven’t changed my life, because I think I was meant for this track all along, but Catalyst has transformed and molded my life and has pointed me in a direction in which I am proud and extremely excited to go.

During my first semester at Hamline, someone told me about Catalyst and I applied haphazardly, honestly not realizing or intending the experience to turn into anything. I thought that service sounded like a pretty good way to spend my freshman spring break. But the experiences I had in D.C. that first spring break sparked something inside me. I was introduced to a world of issues I had never really given much thought to. I was angered by what I was told, but also motivated to learn more and do more. I have learned so much more (about both homelessness and social justice) on every Catalyst trip to D.C. since, and the spark that began on my first Catalyst trip is now a fervent fire.

My collective experiences on Catalyst trips have given me the opportunity to learn about meaningful and reflective service. Catalyst trips have allowed me to realize my passions and talents, and have moreover given me the tools to construct a plan with which I can combine my passions and talents and utilize them to enact change.

After graduating from Hamline, I intend on going to law school and becoming a public defender. Participating in Catalyst trips has allowed me to discover a way to combine my talent (the law) and my passion (homelessness and poverty); because of Catalyst, I have discovered a way to do what I love with a community with which I am very excited to work.

I have learned so much from my Catalyst experiences, about homelessness and social justice and social change, but also about how to be a better person, a more engaged community member overall. I have Catalyst to thank for so many life lessons and experiences. My time at Hamline definitely would not have been the same without my Catalyst family.

I really have found a family in every Catalyst trip I’ve been on. I have bonded with and grown with people I didn’t think I would ever have the opportunity to meet, but Catalyst brought us all together. And I am very thankful for Catalyst in that respect as well.

Another significant part of this gratitude post is the impact that Margot Howard, Coordinator of Social Justice Initiatives and the Hamline to Hamline Collaboration in the Wesley Center at Hamline. Margot was also the staff resource person on the D.C. trip this year. I can’t express enough just how thankful I am to have Margot as a leader and mentor. I know that I have grown so much as a student and leader from her example and support. Even though the trip leaders have certainly done their fair share of work on their trips, Margot has served as a behind-the-scenes resource person and source of support for every pair of student co-leaders. I can only guess how much work has gone into what Margot has done for every one of the Catalyst trips and all of the student leaders. I know much of my journey and growth is a direct result of the lessons I have learned from Margot. It is my hope after leaving Hamline to go out into the world and be even half of the leader, advocate and champion that Margot is. Margot, you mean so much to me and to my journey, and I am so honored to have had the pleasure of working with you and getting to know you. Thank you for everything you do for Catalyst.

In addition, this trip definitely would not have been possible without my student co-leader Maleni. Maleni, you have been such an amazing person to work with and plan this trip with, and I could not have asked for a better source of support during this process. I feel like Maleni and I have held each other up and have empowered one another to be the greatest leaders we can be, and I am very fortunate to have such a good friend and genuinely good person as a partner. Maleni, I know that you are going to do so many good things in this world, and I am very excited to see where your passions and talents take you. I know it will be far.

Thank you 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 D.C. Catalyst trips, thank you Margot, thank you Maleni, THANK YOU Wesley Center, and thank you friends and families of all Catalyst trips and participants.

I want to conclude by saying that this certainly is not the end. I know that though my time at Hamline is ending and my time as a student on Catalyst trips is ending, the work will not end, the need will not end, and the drive will not end. I am very excited for the next steps, and I feel very confident that my Catalyst experiences have prepared me well to take these steps. It is with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye to Hamline and Catalyst, but I am motivated, hopeful, and optimistic to continue this journey.

Let the journey continue… :)


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