It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I am hoping that my posts here will increase over time, due in part to the fact that I am planning on a “Facebook fast” for the next few weeks, and in part to the fact that the online course I’m taking this semester starts up this week, and I’ll probably be doing more writing than I have been for a while.
The course I am taking this semester is online via Empire State College’s distance learning program. It is a Human Services course entitled “Community Organization”, and I’m looking forward to learning about the diversity amongst myself and the nineteen other students. I thought I would copy the first assignment over to this blog because, well… writing it was an exercise in remembering how to put my passion and mission into words. It caused me to go back to the mission statement I wrote while I was at the Ranch and revisit exactly what was driving me, and why I care about what I care about. Students are supposed to comment on each other’s essays, but mine has yet to garner a response. Oops? 😉 I’ll list the assignment first, and then the essay, that way you can see what it’s all about. Feel free to comment; I’m always up for hearty discussion.
Prepare a 3 to 6 page essay that addresses the following questions:
- Your name and current geographic location.
- Your educational and career goals and where this course fits into them.
- A brief description of your past experiences, especially any that may be relevant to community organizing. Do not be shy… even seemingly “ordinary” organizing activities like coordinating a sports league or a community clean-up “count” as community organizing.
- A description of the knowledge and skills you bring to the class.
- What you hope to learn in community organizing by the end of the course.
- What you hope to have practiced in community organizing by the end of the course.
- A brief description of the community where you live or the community you would like to have as a target of our work together.
- A dream that you wish you could see fulfilled in your community.
Submit your answers in a three to five page essay in this discussion section.
As your fellow students begin to participate, read their submissions and comment on them.
Be sure to begin to break the ice by noting any common interests or concerns that you share with others. Use this discussion space as a place to identify common interests and as a place to ask questions of your fellow classmates and the teacher.
My name is Hannah, and I live in [my county, which doesn’t need to be publicized on my blog!] here in New York. I am twenty years old, and this is my first course through ESC. I’d like to start off by saying that I have a slight tendency to be verbose. In other words, I ramble easily. Because of this, I will try to stick closely to the assignment outline in topic, but when it comes to length, it’s wait and see. My hand-written rough draft was nine pages double-spaced.
When it comes to stating my education goals, I must admit that I find it to be difficult. Why? Because for me, education is not just a classroom; it’s not just a textbook. Education requires personal responsibility. Personal responsibility, in turn, requires hard work, and hard work can be done just about anywhere, whether it is in a classroom, on the job, or simply in daily experiences.
So, if I had to label my educational goals, I suppose it would be as follows: to learn anything that will serve to assist and deepen my faith and subsequent passion. What is my passion? To contend for those that our culture has cast aside, and educate others of their intrinsic value and worth. It might sound like an idealistic mouthful, but as we’ll see later in the essay, I’ve learned that having a mission that drives you will take you farther than no mission at all.
This, of course, has necessarily led me to the question of my career goals. I look at this not as a career, but as a necessary outflow of my passion. For me personally, this includes such things as therapeutic riding, sustainable agriculture, and family. Due to time and space constraints, I will not address these fully in this essay, but I would love to hear from anyone who would like to discuss them further in another forum.
When it comes to past experiences, I’m not quite sure where to start. During the start of my junior year of high school, I was blessed with the opportunity to see my parents help organize a home school organization with other parents that would serve as a basis for several sports teams. This process resulted as a combination of both their decision to home school me for my final two years of high school, and the closing of the private school that I had attended, which had also served as an “umbrella school” for many local home schooling families. Through this, I was able to learn leadership skills as I participated in a variety of sports, which eventually resulted in assisting my father for a season as he coached the girls’ basketball team.
Also upon graduation, I went from being on the “substitute” list at a specials-needs integrated preschool to being a one-to-one aide for three different children by the time I finished working there in August 2007. It was during this time that I discovered a love for those with special needs, as I watched their zeal for life and found myself wondering how society could ever view them as a burden.
In August 2007, I went with the missions team from my church to assist a pastor in Calgary, Alberta. During this time we helped him with outreach to his surrounding community, as well as joined him in his attempt to locate a more permanent facility for the church rather than his family’s house.
After that, in September 2007, I began an apprenticeship at Miracle Mountain Ranch, in Spring Creek, PA. Through their Camp Apprenticeship Ministry Program (CAMP), I was able to take courses in topics such as Counseling, Biblical Studies, and Camp Programming, while also participating in horsemanship classes and rotating through work detail in all areas of the ranch. The apprenticeship culminated with a practicum in administration of the summer camp under the supervision of the full-time camp staff. My part in this was to head up the myriad of volunteers that came through the landscaping department.
So, what did I learn from all that? The choice to home school taught me to not be afraid of change, and to be willing to get my hands dirty when I wanted to learn something. Working for ten months straight with a child on the autism spectrum taught me to think on my feet, and to truly enjoy the little moments in life, because those are the ones that matter. Taking a missions trip to downtown Calgary taught me to not be afraid of getting involved even in the face of possible rejection.
My year as an apprentice taught me too many things for me to list them all, but when it comes down to what might help me the most in this course, I would have to point toward three things. First, that I should always move forward with a purpose and mission in mind, no matter how small. Second, that projects do not always follow the timetable you had in mind. Last of all, that proper delegation is very important, most especially when you’d rather be digging in the dirt next to them than be running the project.
Dreams? Well, just yesterday I spoke with a very successful local entrepreneur about the very topic of entrepreneurship. One thing that he told me it all boiled down to was vision. Without vision, he told me, you have no end goal, no direction. Without vision, you will not earnestly seek to go over and around the obstacles that you will inevitably face. What he said rings true with me even further because I also see it within my faith, when I read in the book of Proverbs1 that “where there is no vision, the people perish.” In essence, I need these dreams, I need that vision.
What does that look like for me? It looks like a community that embraces the concept of localized, sustainable agriculture, that encourages accountability and neighborly outreach. It looks like a facility with a therapeutic riding program that reaches out to those that society views as burdensome or broken, the disabled and abused. Lastly, it looks like one day raising a family that can impact the world with visions of their own, visions that I cannot even imagine.
So, what am I hoping to learn from this course? I hope to learn more about the various forms in which community organization and outreach can be carried out. Also, how to assess a community’s true needs rather than looking strictly through the lens of my hopes and dreams. Above and beyond that, I hope to better learn how to impassion, motivate, and mobilize others when it comes to the things that I myself am passionate about.
One of the staff members at the ranch once challenged us with a quote that I believe brings clarity to what I hope to do. He told us that John Wesley (1703-1791) once said, “Catch on fire with enthusiasm, and people will come for miles to watch you burn.”
I don’t just want to catch on fire.
I want to catch others on fire.