I decided to enroll in the service-learning section of the freshman seminar course because I have always been passionate about community service. I also wanted to be able to meet other students who share these same values, especially because freshman year is an opportunity to make so many new friends. Service-learning was also a great way for me to acclimate to living in the Boston area and connect to the city beyond Northeastern’s campus. Along with these many benefits, service-learning also helped me to explore a major in human services, which as a freshman I was considering. I am now minoring in Human Services so this experience was very influential to my academic path.
My placement for service-learning was at Little Brothers: Friends of the Elderly, an international organization committed to relieving loneliness and isolation among the elderly population. The organization has many programs serving local elders, but I was part of the City Sites program. Through this program, volunteers visit Boston’s senior living homes and host weekly activities. I was placed at St. Helena’s House, located in the South End. I was really excited to work with an elder care organization because growing up I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, which taught how wonderful it can be to spend time with older people.
Each week, two other students and I would visit St. Helena’s and meet with a group of 7-9 elders. We would have snacks, play card games and complete puzzles, with poker quickly becoming a favorite activity of the group. Apart from playing games, the elders were very excited to have someone to talk to and share their wealth of knowledge with. I learned a great deal on my weekly visits including how to improve my communication and listening skills. I also learned an important lesson about dedication. The elders began to truly look forward to my visits and if I did not show up one week they would be left very disappointed. This taught me how important it is to fulfill all of my commitments. Through this experience I was also able to meet with several people working in eldercare and talk about their experiences, which was helpful as I considered different, possible career paths.
When the semester came to an end, I knew I wanted to remain involved with Little Brothers, but needed an assignment with a more flexible schedule. One of the organizers suggested I meet one on one with an elder as a friendly visitor. I decided this was a perfect position for me and I was assigned to visit with Ralph, a resident of St. Helena’s. Ralph does not have any family living in the area, so friendly visitors are really important to him. We began getting breakfast or lunch together once a week and sometimes I would also help him with errands. It has now been a year and a half since I began visiting with Ralph and we still see each other every week. I look forward to our visits as much as he does because Ralph is a great listener, especially when I am stressed with school.
Overall, my experience with service-learning was a lot of fun and had positive impacts that lasted beyond just the semester. It was helpful to learn more about the nonprofit sector firsthand and this influenced my decision to become a human services minor. I would highly recommend taking a service learning class because the valuable impacts will be greater than you ever expected.
By: Kayla DiPilato