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A Hat for Service

Through the years, I’ve done many activities and worn many different hats. I’ve played six sports, I’ve played one musical instrument, I’ve been a cast member of eleven different theater productions, I’ve held nine different jobs and, believe or not, I’ve been to quite a few metal concerts! I think it is natural to grow in and out of hats as we go through life; however, I also think it’s natural to keep a special few. I’ve come to realize a special hat I can never seem to take off: my hat for service. I can’t remember a time in my life where I haven’t been serving; whether it be in Cub Scouts, for rank advancements in Boy Scouts, high school volunteer clubs, or mission trips with my parish. I thought I knew everything about service when I graduated high school; however, I quickly began to see service in a different light when I arrived to Aquinas.

Here at Aquinas, we live by the four charisms of prayer, study, community, and service–but those charisms don’t stop outside our campus entrance. One of the many opportunities we have to live out these charisms outside of Aquinas  is through our Service Learning program. Service Learning allows us to go out and volunteer in the Grand Rapids community through programs like Into the Streets and Heartside Cleansweep, and it also gives us opportunities to volunteer in other cities, states, and countries through our Fall Break and Spring Break service learning trips. Since I came to Aquinas two years ago, I quickly found my niche in all the opportunities this program has to offer.

I first found out about this program during freshman orientation, when my Orientation Leader told our group about these trips; in particular, a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine. As an avid traveler and Eagle Scout I knew how much I loved nature and how this trip would be the perfect fit for me, so I applied. I didn’t think I was actually going to get accepted into the trip, so imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when I got an acceptance email in my inbox! In just a few weeks I would be off to Acadia National Park in Maine with thirteen other Aquinas students and one staff advisor to do a week of service in the park.

Acadia was beyond anything I could’ve imagined, from the car rides, to picking up lobster traps on the Maine coast, to building a new trail, to the countless mountain hikes, to nights of laughter and reflection with the other participants, to the free lobster meal provided by the park rangers. My heart was full by the end of this trip, and it put so much into perspective for me. I realized service wasn’t just about the work you do; it’s also about the lives you touch and the lives you’re touched by–even if it’s the people you’re doing service with, not serving for. Getting to know my fellow participants and their unique interests, personalities and stories opened my heart up more to the beauty of human beings, and these wonderful people reminded me of the beauty inside of me as well. I also learned that to do meaningful service, you don’t always have to serve people; sometimes you need to serve your planet and preserve it’s beauty. It’s just as rewarding as serving people. I never saw service this way until this trip, and I’m grateful that Aquinas gives me opportunities to discover this and share our charisms with the world. I’ve made an effort to go on a service learning trip every Fall Break and Spring Break since Maine, and I couldn’t imagine spending my breaks any other way! Service Learning has made feel at home here at Aquinas, and it’s one of the many reasons I am proud to be a Saint.

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