By the time this is published, I will have three days of classes left, three concerts to play, and four finals to take before I return to Nebraska and The Good Life. The time has flown by over the past three and a half months but here I am, one-eighth of the way through college. That is kind of a scary thought in some ways. Time does fly. But the question that I have repeatedly asked myself during this first semester is, “What am I actually doing with all of my time here at Valpo?” As I pondered this, I realized that most of the time has been spent on me: studying for MY tests, participating in organizations I AM interested in, relaxing how I WANT, worrying about MY grades, always putting MY interests first. I realized that college could be a very selfish time in a person’s life. Usually the first thought of the morning is how can I maximize each minute of the day to get the most out of it for me. But this is exhausting as it is impossible to every achieve enough, and the stress builds up as a result. No matter how many study breaks you take, how many sporting events you go to, how many clubs you belong to, they always leave you feeling incomplete as they only serve you. When the stress began to build up early on in the semester, I came to the realization that I needed to stop serving myself sometimes, but rather, take my energy and time and focus it others.
So I jumped in, taking time to give back to the community around me in various ways. My biggest commitment every week is tutoring middle school students at Gloria Dei Mission here in Valparaiso. It is a Hispanic Lutheran mission that aims to help students and their parents succeed in the often-threatening world of today. While this internship does fulfill the requirements of my scholarship, it is so much more to me than that. Every Tuesday and Thursday I look forward to leaving campus for a few hours to teach algebra, social studies, English, and science to these underprivileged students. It is honestly a privilege for me to help them and I have learned so much from them about what it means to be a Hispanic student in Valpo. In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to encourage high school students to pursue college education, as they are nervous about their future as first generation Americans. It is a place where I can share my faith, while learning many life lessons from the students and other tutors there too. It has been a fantastic stress reliever for me in the midst of my hectic academic life.
Valparaiso University has also provided me with other opportunities to give back as well. As a member of the Social Action Leadership Team this semester, I organized the Native American Passion Group that raised money and school supplies for a school on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. That was a huge success as the group raised over $100 in funds and brought in enough supplies to help over 40 students next school year. We are now beginning our World Relief Campaign, a fund drive to raise $20,000 for the project Grain of Rice, which helps to get people out of poverty near Nairobi, Kenya. I am very excited to begin work on this project next semester as the organization works to reach our goal. If anyone would like more information about this project, feel free to see me when I am home! I would love your support. I also helped with the VU Day of Caring during which students packed over 200,000 meals for the hungry across the world and later today I will be teaching grade school students how to play handbells. I cherish these small opportunities to give back so much as they allow me to focus my attention away from school and let me have an impact on others’ lives at the same time.
To those who read this, I challenge you to examine your own lives and see how your time is spent. Is it all about you like it was for me? Should you consider giving back in some small way? Whether you’re in high school, a parent, or a retiree, there are thousands of ways for you to serve in your home, in Seward, in Nebraska, or across large geographic boundaries. Consider taking some time out of your day and help others, and you will be amazed by the positive impact that it will have on your own life. Happy belated Thanksgiving to those of you that I missed while I was home and I look forward to being back home again soon!