Cultures & Communities Testimonials

New Ideas Nurtured by Service: One Student's Story


EXCERPT FROM KATIE BENNET'S ESSAY:

“I really can’t put into words what the service learning experience has done for me, but I am going to try. I was touched by the experience very deeply. I was blessed to be able to work with the same student every time that I was there. As I have mentioned in the past, her name is Sofia.

In this semester I learned a new way of looking at our personal biases and recognizing them in myself. The internal biases that I have, became apparent to me, which was different. I found myself actually thinking about the thoughts that went through my mind concerning race and ethnicity. I realized how differently my perception of people is simply by the color of their skin, or their accent, and how hard it is to change those impulse thoughts. This has become a challenge for me in everyday life.

I don’t want to follow the norm. I want to influence people to realize how diverse our country is. I was humbled by the experience. I have always known that I happened to be born in a very good place, I had a plush childhood, although I didn’t truly understand how plush.

When I met Sofia I realized how hard it really could be. She doesn’t read or write her own language and she can’t communicate in English at even a basic level. She gave up everything for her children. I would like to think that if I was born in her shoes that I would be strong enough to accomplish the daily struggle she experiences. Sofia honestly made me feel like I changed her life. She was so appreciative of the time that I spent with her she had tears in her eyes after our last meeting, and so did I.

... I can honestly say that this was the first time that I feel like I made a real difference in someone else’s life. It felt really good. I plan to go back to teach Sofia as soon as the next module starts. I look forward to seeing her again.

Another thing that I wanted to mention was how my idea of the area changed throughout my work at WELS. The first time that I drove down 27th Street to get to the church and I looked around, it was obvious that I didn’t fit in. I will admit that I am a white suburban girl. I wouldn’t say that I was scared, but this is not somewhere I would go on any other occasion. Once you pass the domes on 27th, the feel changes. A majority of the people were Hispanic. I guess that over the course of the many times I drove there I caught my thoughts and thought about them. Why do I automatically think that that black guy or Mexican is at a disadvantage compared to me? I tried really hard to change those thoughts. I still challenge myself to think of everyone as equal, honestly equal.

I guess the first time that I saw all of the people at WELS that wanted to learn English I was baffled. I didn’t realize the true number of Hispanic people on the south side of Milwaukee. I genuinely didn’t understand the magnitude of Spanish speaking people in a community minutes from my home. How could this be? I have been studying the language and traveling to different countries to get the experience and it is honestly minutes away from my home.

All in all I wouldn’t take back the hours I spent with Sofia. She made me realize what making a difference really means. The power of being able to change a future is very enticing and rewarding. I think that I really made the correct career choice for myself.”