The Pace Center: Learning Through Service

Published in the February 3, 2016, issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Mark Benjamin ’14, Annie Tao ’16, Douglas Bastidas ’17, and Jackie Rambarran ’16 install solar panels in a remote village in Peru as part of the Pace Center’s 2014 International Service Trip. (Courtesy of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement)

Service and civic engagement are essential to Princeton’s mission, and central to the University’s strategic planning process. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement this year, I thought it fitting to share a few reflections from students and alumni who have participated in the center’s many wonderful programs.— C.L.E.

“The first time I walked into a classroom in Trenton and saw the opportunity gap right before my eyes was fundamentally life-changing. It’s one thing to read about it, and it’s an entirely different thing to experience it. … Service helped change my posture toward learning and knowledge—by transforming it from something to be acquired to something to be experienced and by teaching me that I had a lot to learn from the people and communities surrounding the University, not just from the University itself.” —Kristen Kruger ’14, Student Volunteers Council (SVC) imPACT project leader

“Civic engagement is more than just an opportunity for students to give back to Princeton and its surrounding communities—it’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and absorb different perspectives, experiences, and emotions. … It’s more than just showing up to an assignment or planning a service project. It’s about finding meaning and fulfillment in every activity.” —Karmen Rivera ’18, SVC student executive board member, SVC Red Cross project leader, member of GlobeMed and Princeton Faith in Action

Adaure Nwaba ’16 celebrates at the 2015 Community House carnival. A Pace Center program, Community House works with families to close the achievement gap in Princeton by offering support in the areas of academic success and social-emotional literacy for underrepresented area youth. (Courtesy of the Pace Center for Civic Engagement)“My Princeton experience will forever be tied to my experiences with the Community House program. One of the most transformative experiences I’ve had was the senior high school graduation ceremony for the scholars in our program. They each spoke about the impact that this program had on not only their high school career, but also the personal impact it had on their lives, and it was one of the most powerful exchanges I’ve witnessed while at Princeton. I believe service is essential to any Princetonian’s career as it is a constant reminder of life outside the bubble and puts into perspective what we are working towards and studying for.” —Adaure Nwaba ’16, Generation One and Community House After School Scholars project leader

“Doing service work and schoolwork at the same time makes for natural moments of transfer, applying what I study to real world situations. Moreover, sustained and meaningful service is intellectually stimulating, shaping the questions that fascinate me and the ideas that I follow. Princeton has asked me time and time again to think about how my education can lead to a life of service, of meaning, and of consequence. But college is not just a time to learn for a future life, but to begin that life, starting now.” —Andrew Nelson ’16, Community House student executive board member and Oscar S. Straus II Fellow in Criminal Justice with the Guggenheim Internships in Criminal Justice program

“There is a dangerous tendency in academics to become increasingly siloed as one progresses in one’s studies and training—a problem for which I’ve found service to be a potent remedy. Whether teaching in a prison or working on a soup line, service opportunities have never failed to leave me feeling that I have broadened my horizons, deepened my appreciation for my own good fortune, and enriched the palette of colors with which I paint my understanding of the world.” —Tim Treuer GS, Graduate School Community Associate and Prison Teaching Initiative volunteer

“What has been most meaningful about Community Action (CA) has been the knowledge I’ve gained about my own relationship to service. I learned how moved I could be when the work I am doing can be connected to an impact in the community. When the freshmen have their ‘aha’ moment and see the connection, I feel doubly moved. On this trip, as we packaged hundreds of carrots, we could see the difference being made in the fight against hunger and poverty. … I have stayed involved with Pace and CA because of the service and the deep bonding that results from working together towards a meaningful goal. It starts with a week, and at least for me, it lasts for years.” —Eliana Glatt ’16, CA participant and orientation leader, Community House student executive board member, Community House STEAM Camp counselor

“I firmly believe that if you engage in service with a love of people you come to realize that service is a reciprocal, not a one way, relationship, and that the best way to work with a community is to learn from the people within it with an open and curious mind, and try to help them leverage the incredible strengths they already have.” —Ari Satok ’14, recipient of the A. James Fisher, Jr. Memorial Prize in 2014 for his contributions to service and civic engagement at Princeton

 


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