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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

College students serve with the Sisters of the Holy Cross

Over the summer, five Saint Mary’s students — juniors Teresa Brickey, Jessie Purvis, Madeline Moeller and Michaela Mwachande and sophomore Nguyen Nga — volunteered with the Sisters of the Holy Cross to help run a summer camp for school children in Park City, Utah.

Moeller, a economics major, said she found out about the program through the Saint Mary’s Office of Civic and Social Engagement, the campus’ resource for service opportunities.

Brickey, a Global Studies and Intercultural Studies major, said the program caters mainly to immigrants, especially from Mexico and Latin America. She and the other Saint Mary’s students aided in the summer school programs, teaching “non-cognitive” subjects, such as anti-bullying or hygiene.

“A lot of the kids come from very low-income families or families where their parents are always working,” Brickey said. “During the day and at night, they might not have anyone at home, so we would do lessons where their parents might [only] teach them if they have the time.”

Moeller said they also led activities such as archery, crafts, fishing and swimming during the week.

“It was priceless and rewarding to see the kids fully engaged with activities we planned,” she said. “I enjoyed getting to know the Sisters and the community in Utah.”

Although not all children were necessarily immigrants or second-generation immigrants, most of the students spoke Spanish, Brickey said. She said she was able to communicate with them in Spanish and English, although some children knew only Spanish.

“I think it makes people more comfortable, knowing that they’re understood,” Brickey said. “I hope I made them feel like a human. … There’s a lot going on right now, and they might interpret that as not being worthy because of the language they speak or the income level they live within. Just being with them and having fun with them … and them knowing they’re so loved [is important].”

Brickey said one student would not participate during class or activities. Eventually, she said, she realized the student could not understand English well enough to follow along with class, so she began translating the lessons for him.

“After he realized that I understood him, he lit up and opened up,” she said.

This experience helped Moeller become more flexible and open-minded, she said.

“My Saint Mary’s experience enabled me to learn to reach out and help others in need,” she said. “I hope the community saw I always tried to do my best.”

This opportunity helped Brickey connect closer to the people around her, she said.

“We’re all called to be one with another,” Brickey said. “It’s not ‘service’ or ‘volunteering.’ It’s just being a human being, working together [with them] in this world. I didn’t do it to be a savior. What I wanted was a community and to be opened up to learning about the world, and I think they taught me about the world.”

Brickey said she chose a program in the United States because she wanted to help address issues within her own country rather than participating in a service program abroad.

“We like to think that we don’t have problems, but we do,” she said. “We’re called to address those problems, not because we’re better, but because this is our country. And just because someone is an immigrant doesn’t make them less American than I [am]. They have the right to education and healthcare and having someone just be with them.”

The experience helped her put Saint Mary’s values into action, Brickey said.

“The [values] are all tied into human rights and human dignity,” she said. “Understanding that everyone has a God-given dignity — or if you don’t believe in a god, then just a dignity given to us by being in this universe — we’re all called to respect each other.”