On Learning Service: Planting the SEEDS

This essay was written by Adrienne Schmidt, during The SEEDS Project’s trip to Houma, Louisiana in 2011.

Monday night’s reflection gave everyone an opportunity to sort through the overwhelming stories and sights we had witnessed in the first part of the week and prepared us to embark on the second part of our journey. We started the reflection by discussing the meaning of learning service. Learning service goes beyond helping people in need. It involves an openness of heart and mind that allows us to form a relationship with others. To be a part of learning service, we welcome the risk to be changed by the people we meet and with whom we serve. These experiences challenge our perspectives. We are lucky to realize that in learning service, we take much more than we can give, but what we give is not insignificant. Our presence may not solve the problems of those facing insurmountable circumstances, but our compassion gives hope and strength of spirit.

There were several components to our learning service on this trip: the work we put into gutting a house, painting a deck, and working in an urban farm; the outlet we provided for the people who generously shared their stories with us; the experiences we shared with the Richmond community once we returned home. Each was an important aspect of our work. This trip was the first learning service experience for many members of SEEDS. Most people expressed a desire to incorporate learning service into their future educational and broader life plans.

Each member of the SEEDS team had a different reason for going on the trip: to add purpose to a life of schoolwork and sports, to become part of a community of engaged peers, to replicate the experience of a positive fall break trip, to learn about the geography and environment of New Orleans, to bring topics of class discussions and books to life, and to learn about a different culture and part of the country. Despite doubts we had before the trip of our ability to make valuable contributions, our diverse interests allowed us to come together and learn an incredible amount about ourselves, each other, and the people of southern Louisiana.

The SEEDS Project is the only student-run learning service organization on campus. This gives its members a unique sense of pride and ownership in what we have accomplished and what we are capable of doing. Reflecting on possible new directions for the SEEDS Project brought out an intense desire for expansion of the organization. We want the passion we have for the issues we have learned about to infuse the rest of the Richmond community. Future SEEDS projects may include expanding to other locations across the country and world that have interconnected issues and would benefit from the perspective of learning service.

Adrienne is currently a sophomore, studying public health and the environment. She was a participant on the first-ever SEEDS trip to Appalachia, in her home state of West Virginia. She is excited to be a part of The SEEDS Project Leadership team next year, when she will serve as historian and co-chair of education. 

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