Jolmi Minaya (’13)
Before becoming a Bonner Scholar at the University of Richmond, I “volunteered” at my local church in Lawrence, MA. I chose to describe my service, as a “volunteer” position because I believe there is a stark difference between volunteering and being civically engaged. The contrast between these two concepts arises because volunteering is something that is done once in a while, with or without fulfilling a purpose. On the other hand, when one is civically engaged one wants to see the purpose of their service fulfilled.
During high school, I helped children learn about God while teaching them the fundamentals of the game of baseball. I used the sport of baseball a venue to get the children to understand God’s love for them. Prior to coming to Richmond, I was providing a service for my community, but I did not understand the greater purpose of what I was doing. This is not to say that I did not know what I was doing. Although I felt I was giving back to my community, I never contemplated about the greater influence that my position had on the children. I felt I was doing something good that was benefitting the community, I did not understand the greater influence and the change that could result.
Once I fully began to understand the importance of what I was doing I became more aware of the impact I had in the lives of others. At Cross Over, I began to feel that I finally became civically engaged. My responsibilities at this health clinic ranged from filing paper work, receptionist, interpreter and accountant. Each of these positions allowed me to think about my influence in the organization at different levels. When I was filing paper work and worked as an accountant, I did not interact with the patients much, but I was able to see, first hand, the diligence needed in the sometimes menial, but nonetheless meaningful tasks. As an interpreter and receptionist, I had a completely different experience, as I met and talked with patients on daily basis. In the waiting room and patient room I witnessed people in pain receive the relief that they could not find anywhere else. Through these experiences I witnessed my purpose and social engagement in effect.
Civic engagement has largely impacted my view on three ideas: difference, power and privilege, and active citizenship. Through my involvement at Cross Over, I have seen those living under the poverty level struggle for certain services, which I personally believe should be unalienable, especially health care. On the other side of the spectrum, on campus I would see students that did not have to worry about health care or medical treatment costs because they were fortunate enough to have parents that could cover any of those expenses for them. It was eye opening to see the amount of struggles that some of the patients would experience at the clinic. There were times were patients would come in with a physical pain or a worry about their health and could not be seen at the clinic, so their only option was the emergency room. Many of them would not go to the emergency hospital because of the bills that they would later receive and be unable to pay. So instead of burdening themselves further with debt, they had to put their health on hold. It is a great privilege to have good health insurance in this country. Many people take it for granted because they have never been without it.
Another concept that has had great importance in my last four years has been active citizenship. In one of my recent write-ups I discussed my personal definition of citizenship, as incorporating civic engagement. A citizen of any country should want their country, state, county, city, neighborhood and block to prosper and move forward. The simplest manner in which to do this is to give back to your community with the intention earnest desire to see improvement. At Richmond, I have strengthened my desire to continuously be an active citizen and make a difference for the better where I go. Some people ‘volunteer’ in order to put it on their resume, and that reason does not qualify as one of an active citizen. As an active citizen, one’s objective is not to help oneself first, but to help others in need.
The most valuable aspects that I will take away from my community experiences as I move on to the next chapter of my life are, the importance of actively listening and cherishing all you have. In the next chapter of my life, I will be working as an audit associate at KPMG, an accounting firm in Boston, MA. Communication will be imperative in order to perform my job, and therefore I must actively listen to my supervisors in order to do all that is requested of me, just as I actively listened to patients, as they describes their symptoms or worries to doctors at Cross Over, I must use that skill I garnered to effectively perform my responsibilities in the corporate world.
Since attending Richmond, I have seen how the fast pace of life can take you off track and make you forget the important things in your life, as you only focus on the tasks at hand. In the next chapter of my life, I will actively cherish all I have because it can be gone in a blink of an eye. There have been patients who have come in to see their doctors and have heard the worst of news. It will be to my greatest advantage to strengthen my current relationships, as well as form new ones in the years to come.