Faces turn toward me, expectantly. Books are out. Pencils are sharpened. I write my name on the board, my hand shaking a little as I do so. Nervously, I try to think of something else to write on the board, anything to delay that moment when I lock eyes with them, all 15 of my students. In a 20x12 classroom, seven nationalities are represented, and our 16 warm bodies neutralize the already-stressed air conditioning.
For the first time in my life, I am a teacher.
I serve alongside 29 other students in the Bonner Service Scholars Program. Sponsored by CNU’s Center for Community Engagement, we’re placed within local community organizations, where we commit to completing 300 hours of service each year. I’m an English teacher at Commonwealth Catholic Charities’ Refugee and Resettlement Services in Newport News, where I teach pre-employment classes to refugees. They’re from all over the world, and they’ve come to America to start a new life.
To be honest, I joined the Bonner program not so much out of my own personal desire to serve in the community with other like-minded people, but rather, it seemed like the right thing to do. For me, college was a place where you grew as an individual, and opportunities for personal growth should be found through avenues like community service. But teaching English to refugees has transcended anything I could have asked for, or expected.
Through teaching people from all over the world, I have learned an invaluable, yet so intangible skill: becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. I know now that I never want to lead a life where I’ll be comfortable. Safe places are secure and cozy, but they’re dead ends; there’s no way forward. I want to constantly grow as an individual. To meet new people, try new things and ask questions. That’s what a life of significance means to me.
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