A world where justice and love prevail
John Kalemkerian | Friday, September 17, 2021
“How was your summer?” A greeting that many of us have heard over the past couple weeks. A question that inspires a uniquely personal answer — or more often a simple “It was great!” — had been strangely tough for me to respond to. I was one of nearly 200 students who participated in the Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) this past summer, and I can genuinely say it was one of the best experiences here at Notre Dame. When incoming first-years consider what their “Notre Dame experience” will look like, it often includes tailgates, football games, grueling academic semesters and, of course, summer internships.
If you’re looking for ways to fill your precious summers, internships are widely viewed as the golden standard. The SSLP, however, will give you an experience that is both unlike anything you will otherwise do and one that is uniquely Notre Dame. The entire SSLP staff is extremely dedicated to helping their students have as rewarding an experience as possible (and no, they did not put me up to write that). For those unfamiliar with the SSLP, it involves spending eight weeks serving at a non-profit organization. Many students live on-site or with a host family, but I was lucky enough to have a site: Hope Clinic in Ypsilanti, Michigan, within a 10-minute drive of my home.
When I was first placed, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Even after talking with past students who had served at Hope, I was given only a vague idea of what my role would actually be — along with the words of encouragement “It’s a great place, you’ll love all the people you’ll meet there!” Well, that definitely ended up being true. Serving my local community, I worked alongside many incredible staff and volunteers who shared my passion for doing good in the world. I was also able to form meaningful connections with clients at various stages in their lives, people who I would have never had a chance to interact with outside of the SSLP.
As an added bonus, Notre Dame was there with me every step of the way. The Notre Dame Club of Ann Arbor proved to be an invaluable resource, and I was lucky enough to meet many alumni in the area who have offered up their valuable time throughout the years to get to know every student who has served at my site. Weekly check-ins and discussion posts with my small group of other students serving at various other sites around the country were centered around the Catholic Social Tradition (CST). Personally, I felt that CST provided me with a medium with which I could express how much I learned about both my community and about myself throughout my 8 weeks at Hope Clinic. This is also what makes the SSLP unique and not just another service opportunity; the entire program is dedicated to, as the Constitution of the Congregation of Holy Cross puts so nicely, working for “a world where justice and love prevail.” I am honored that I was able to partake in the SSLP this past summer and can say that it will be a centerpiece of my unique “Notre Dame experience.”
Thanks for bearing with a Sports writer venturing into the Viewpoint waters for the first time. If you have any questions feel free to reach out, I’d love to talk more about my experience with anyone interested!
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.