This week we meet Isabelle Jenkins ’10 as she shares her experience as a community organizer in a Boston community!
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I did not have a job when I graduated from Holy Cross in May 2010. In fact, I barely had any job prospects.
I went on a few interviews April of my senior year, but had not rigorously entered the career planning process. I was just too busy and frankly in denial that my time at Holy Cross was coming to an end.
However, looking back on this time now, it was perhaps one of the best decisions I ever made. I learned that if you have the leisure of waiting to search for a job, then take it. When else will you have a senior year in college? When else will you have a summer off? The jobs will come because Holy Cross has an amazing career network and is an amazing institution, so take the job hunting process at your own pace. Everyone approaches it differently and taking that pressure off of having a job the day after you graduate can actually make the process that much more enjoyable and will definitely make your senior year more enjoyable.
When I did graduate, I took a job as a nanny in my hometown and threw myself into the job-hunting process. Fortunately, for me, it came together rather quickly.
I knew that I wanted to go to graduate school and I also knew that volunteer work was something that I was always called to. So I applied to the Life Together program in Boston, MA, which is part of the Episcopal Service Corps, a program similar to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I was accepted into the program and moved to Boston at the end of August 2010.
My year with the Life Together program changed my life. I lived in community with seven other interns and commuted out to Watertown, MA everyday to work as a community organizer. In Watertown, through an Episcopal church, I worked in the community itself. I talked with people from different organizations, from different churches, and from the local hangouts and listened to what the town needed and wanted.Through this listening process, I discovered an immense amount of energy around building a community garden. Watertown did not have one, but many of the surrounding towns did. So, I set out to help the community build one.
Together, with a team of Watertown residents, we teamed up with the Watertown Housing Authority, a low-income community, and built a garden on a vacant lot that they owned. The garden opened in June of 2011 and has 30 plots where the low-income residents of the housing authority and the neighbors of that community garden side by side. It was an amazing feat and will hopefully be the first of many community gardens in Watertown.
I say that this year changed my life because it was extremely challenging work. Being a community organizer, I had to put myself out there every day. I knew no one in town and I had no idea how to start a “social justice project,” as my program deemed my community-organizing task. I constantly was meeting new people and having to talk about why I was in the town. I also had to return home to seven people and be accountable to the community there.
My job and my life became about relationships. This was what was so life-changing about the year. For so long, my goal has always been success, about the numbers and the letters, about what can be quantitatively measured. But what Holy Cross began to teach me and what my year with Life Together taught me is that it is the qualitative things that matter the most. Relationships should be and can be at the center.
Now, one and a half years out of Holy Cross and after my year with Life Together, I am a first year master of divinity student at Harvard Divinity School, still living in Boston. Additionally, I am working as a field education student in the Office of the College Chaplains at Holy Cross and the Alumni Coordinator for the Life Together program. Relationships continue to be what drives me, and I am so grateful that I am doing the type of work that continuously challenges me to keep these relationships at the center.
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Did this story resonate with you?