Friday, January 17, 2014

A Summer Associate Looks Back


     When I first toured Wilmington College as a freshman, the campus atmosphere was               overwhelming. It was like everyone knew my name before they met me. They knew what my major was and where I was from. After coming from a fairly large high school in Englewood, OH, this was strange to me. It was   nothing like the college visits I made to larger campuses where new students always feel lost. I knew immediately that Wilmington College is different.
     One of the things that separated Wilmington or, Dub-C, as many students like to call it, from other colleges was the rich Quaker heritage that runs through the veins of the campus. The core values and mission statement are what help create this welcoming atmosphere.
     Community and the partnership with everyone around you are vital to the campus culture. Dub-C encourages individuals to share and support the   ideas of others. The sense of community on campus is empowering and helps those here take responsibility and create a culture that emphasizes constant improvement.
     This also leads into the next core value, which is Diversity. Wilmington College takes pride in  accepting the different cultural backgrounds from individuals from surrounding communities.
This is beside the point; it’s easy to spend all of your time explaining Wilmington Colleges rich heritage and how it creates this close nit community. What I am trying to emphasize is the importance of respect, working together, and helping others on this campus.
     This brings me, what used to be my least favorite Core Value. Service and Civic Engagement. When I was first introduced to this concept it sounded dreadful. I didn't want anything to do with the community. Most of this came from my fear of making small talk with people I did not know. 
It was not until the day that I decided to apply for a job with Grow Food, Grow Hope that this began to change. Initially I applied for the job because I would be able to stay in campus housing and would not have to go home for the summer.
     I came into Grow Food, Grow Hope with a strong sense of self. I knew what my strengths and    weaknesses were but I always wanted to be a part of something larger than myself. I had no idea I would find that at Wilmington College.
     On the very first day of work, I realized Grow Food, Grow Hope was bigger than I expected.
Immediately, me and the other AmeriCorps Summer Associates became a close knit group of friends who truly enjoyed working together and were not afraid to ask one another for help. This isn’t an   uncommon thing to find on the Wilmington College campus. However, when you put a group of people together, who have never met previously and ask them to work, it’s a slightly peculiar and exciting spectacle to witness.
     All in all, my first year with Grow Food Grow Hope, was a complete learning experience. I learned how to garden, and being from the suburbs of Dayton, it was a completely new experience. Midway through the summer, I no longer cared about getting paid or the fact that I had my own apartment, it was the giving back to the community and helping families that made all the sweating and complaining about heat worth it. I grew as a student, a man, and a  human being after my first experience with GFGH. 
     One of the more fascinating and important things I learned about myself was my ability to work well with others. I can honestly say that I was not a complete team player before this experience. I was the individual who would either; sit back and let someone else take charge or feel obligated to do everything myself. A large factor in that change was knowing that if I look over my shoulder,   someone else was either there willing to help or complaining just as much as I was at that particular moment. I quickly learned that as long as everyone carries their own weight and communicates, things are accomplished quicker, results are better and the bond between everyone is strengthened.
It was not until the two following semesters that I began to realize even more how important my    involvement with Grow Food, Grow Hope was for the community.
     Someone once told me, that the fact that I have the opportunity to be in college is a blessing. The fact that I’m able to better my self is a blessing. The fact that I am blessed with these things that will, in the future, benefit me only makes it fair that I would be willing to help someone else experience something similar.
     “With great power comes great responsibility.” This is probably one of the greatest and most memorable quotes from Spider-man. No one quite understands what it really means until destiny puts one in a situation and they are given. If you were in a position in your life to help someone else, wouldn’t you want to? Ultimately, that’s what the quote from Spider-man is telling us. If you are in a position to help someone who may or may not be less fortunate than you, you should.
     After gaining all this knowledge and the growing I did after my first term with Grow Food, Grow Hope, I, once again, applied to be a Summer Associate. This time it was for completely different reasons. I did not care about the less than minimum wage pay, I did not care that I had my own apartment. I wanted to do everything I could to help the community I had been living in for the past three years. I wanted to sweat and complain knowing that it was all for a reason. At the end of the day a family is going to be smiling because I gave a few hours out of my day to help them.
     What made this summer completely different from my first experience was the leadership role I that I would be put into. Many of the new associates had never gardened before, thus, this being my second year with Grow Food, Grow Hope it only made sense that I would be there to, not only answer questions they might have, but to be willing to work right by their side as we solved what ever problem they had.
     The best advice I had to offer anyone was to    prepare to sweat and work hard and to            complain. However, know that when you look over your shoulder there is someone working just as hard as you are and complaining just as much. So, you aren't alone. And when you go home after that hard days work, know that it was not in vain.
     Helping others and giving back to the community is not as bad as most people think it is. It’s not going around and picking up trash like I used to think and how some people still may think. You get so much more out of the experience than you expected. You develop and grow as a person. You become more aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Most importantly you are helping the people who may not be lucky enough to help themselves.
     Grow Food, Grow Hope gave me the opportunity to do my duty as a human being and, as a Wilmington College student, to give back. When a person has the means to do great things for others. It’s their responsibility to do so.  I would not trade this experience for the world. I would not trade those smiles I see everyday on the families that I have helped with Grow Food, Grow Hope. That’s what life is all about right?

Dominique Parks, Summer Associate

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