Martha Ligas approves Aidan Flynn's "Senior Reflection". Now complete!
Senior Reflection

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Service Reflection.
Senior Reflection

Aidan Flynn

Ms. Ligas

Theology 12

April 14, 2023

Service Capstone Essay

If you had asked me four years ago what I thought of the service requirement, you probably would have been disappointed with my answer. I dreaded knowing I would have to spend 60 hours of my free time doing meaningless work. I viewed it as a chore. This was because of my previous experience with service at my grade school, where my service hours were mostly spent doing yard work for strangers and altar serving each Sunday. Sure, these were important, but they felt like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do.

But four years later, I have completely changed my opinion on service, and this is because of the experience that I had the summer before my senior year serving at St. Adalbert Catholic. I will admit that I only signed up because of the requirement, but it didn't take long for me to fall in love with the experience. 

One of the reasons that I liked this service opportunity was that I was able to use my talents to help others. During high school, I learned that I'm good at teaching others. When I'm in math and the first to fully understand a concept, I can easily communicate it to my friends. This skill was extremely useful at St. Adalbert when I had to be creative and got some students to think about problems in different ways. Because of the pandemic, most students at the St. Adalbert summer programs were extremely behind in school. As most children attending St. Adalbert didn't have access to a laptop at their homes, the school could not transition to a virtual setting. Because of these circumstances, St. Adalbert canceled school during Covid, and the students suffered. 

Upon the first day I worked with the students, I recognized the importance of catching up the students before the next school year. While the program was only going to last for four weeks, there was still enough time to make some progress with the students. 

The relationships I built at St. Adalbert were incredible, though they didn't happen instantaneously. During the first half of the first day, I felt somewhat like an outsider while I read chapter books with some students; however, this tension all went away as soon as it was time for recess. The boys I taught loved football, so I brought a ball during recess and played "all-time quarterback" for their game. As soon as the game started, any awkwardness between the students and I faded. Before each snap, they hurried up to me, suggesting a play to execute or telling me what route they would run. They absolutely loved it, and I had fun, too.

After recess, the second learning session that we had was much more fluid and, I think, beneficial to the students. Before, I had to ask if I could read individually with the students; all the students wanted to read with me. They were much more enthusiastic about learning, and although it was the first day, I realized that significant progress was possible.

To say that the rest of the experience was smooth sailing wouldn't be accurate, though. After all, the students were essentially going to summer school, and though they certainly did need the extra lessons, they can't be blamed too much for getting distracted. After a few days, since they first got excited to read with me, the majority of the students I taught had begun to "goof around" instead of completing one of their multiple-choice grammar packets. I tried a few different strategies to get their attention. My initial thought was that I needed to offer a reward for good work and a punishment for misbehavior, so I attempted to bribe the students with candy and threaten timeouts when they misbehaved. This was ineffective, so I needed a new approach. 

After exhausting seemingly every idea, I finally found a solution: I would do one push-up for each math or phonics question answered correctly. The students loved it, especially one of the brightest students, Zay, who enjoyed contributing forty push-ups daily. Although this meant I left each day physically fatigued, the progress the students made left me satisfied. 

More than just helping the students progress in English, Reading, and Math, I enjoyed getting to know each of them. While my conversations with the younger students weren't particularly deep and were generally about Fortnite and Roblox, I learned about some of the older students' goals. One of the students that I just mentioned, Zay, was probably the brightest student I taught at St. Adalbert. He was a 6th grader, and while his peers struggled to read chapter books, Zay impressed me by reading through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe every day during independent reading time. Like most little boys, his dream was to be a pro athlete, but he also really wanted to go to a good high school, as he had learned that some high schools like Gilmour would let him attend for free if he got a certain score on the entrance exam. This experience with him and a few of the other students that shared his same values really changed my perspective on my experience. Less than a decade ago, while I also placed a big emphasis on getting good grades, I never had to experience the pressure of preparing for high school entrance exams like Zay and his classmates did. While I certainly studied for them, even if I did badly, my parents probably would have been able to pay for me to go to a good high school. Even if I was denied by Gilmour and the rest of the private high schools I applied to, I had the option to go to Aurora, which is one of the best public high schools in the state. This wasn't the case for Zay. For him, getting a good score on the entrance exam would be the difference between going to somewhere like Benedictine, Ignatius, and Gilmour or an inner-city Cleveland public school that lacked the same opportunities. 

It was conversations like these that I had with Zay and some of the other students that made my work feel truly meaningful. If I could teach them not only the math, English, and reading material that was required of them but also motivate them to work hard after the experience, it could dramatically change their life.

My experience at St. Adalbert truly gave me a passion for justice. It isn't right that while many have an education like Gilmour practically guaranteed from birth, others are not awarded the same opportunities. Because of this realization, equal education has become an issue I'm passionate about solving. Despite no more service requirements next year, I plan to return to St. Adalbert for the summer program. At each of the two colleges that I'm deciding between, there are service opportunities where I can tutor kids at similar schools. 

This experience has also shown me how unjust the education system is. While charity, such as volunteering as a tutor at these schools, is certainly helping, it does not fix the systemic issue that plagues education: the inequality of public schools. While St. Adalbert offered a much lower quality of education than what I had at my Catholic grade school, it likely was better than the public school alternative. It's undeniable that the current laws being exercised are blatantly incompetent, and when I vote in future elections, the topic of education will influence me greatly. 

Overall I feel extremely blessed to be in the position where I could tutor the kids at St. Adalbert, and I greatly recommend the experience. I've already tried to "recruit" some of my underclassmen friends to join next summer. Mostly, I'm thankful for getting to meet Zay and the others, as they have truly changed my values and perspectives. 


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I volunteered at St. Adalbert's Summer School Program for 13 days for 6 hours each.
78.0 hrs Service Hours

St. Adalbert School offers summer school for 4 weeks for some of their students.  Because they have limited amount of teachers who come in over the summer, every year Gilmour students volunteer at St. Adalbert tutoring the students in English and Math.  Because of Covid, many of the students were very behind, as in 2020-2021, St. Adalbert closed for the year, and the past year, many St. Adalbert students were still fully online.  Each day, we spent time with students in ages pre K up to 8th grade and worked with them on various skills that they need to become excellent students.  

Are the service hours you completed COMPETENCE HOURS (learning about social justice issues) or COURAGE HOURS (direct or indirect service to others)?

COMPETENCE

Which Gilmour charism (Divine Providence, Forgiveness, Hope, Hospitality, Inclusiveness, Option for the Poor, The Cross, Zeal) did you best live out through your service experience? Please explain.

I lived out both the competence to see and the courage to act in this experience.  Being around the kids 4 or 5 times a week helped me to realize that not everyone gets equal opportunity in life.  While my parents gave me several resources to learn Math and English since kindergarten, such as reading with me daily and getting me a math book called Summer Solutions each year, a few of the students told me that they didn't even have books at home to read.  Because of this, many of the students were well behind grade level.  This gave me the competence to see that often underprivileged parents aren't able to afford the time and/or money to make sure that their kids succeed to their potential.

I also had the courage to act as I was in person helping the teachers and kids of St. Adalbert.  

Would you try this service experience again? Why or why not?

I will definitely do this service again next year.  I got really close with a lot of the kids I taught, which were the "older kids" (grades 5th through 8th) and kids in the middle grades (2nd-4th).  Every day, I taught them English via packets that Dr. Monitello provided.  While I think I succeeded in improving their comprehension and phonics skills, the most meaningful part of the experience was the connections that I made with each student.  There were around 15 of the kids that came daily, and every morning when we arrived, they were extremely excited to see us.  During their break between Math and English classes, I would play football outside with them.  This made this service feel a lot less like a job and just more fun.  While we definitely could use a bit more help next year, it was nice to be the only helper along with my brother, Liam, somedays as it required us to work together with every kid in these upper grade levels instead of just 1 or 2 kids  I'm writing this the day after the last day, and honestly I'm sad to leave them and wouldn't mind doing a week or 2 more of service.  I hope Gilmour coordinates some service opportunities with the kids during the school year, as I'd love to teach them again, but for next June I will definitely be one of their "teachers." 

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Joined Glave with 30 hours
30.0 hrs Service Hours

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Aidan Flynn (23) began work on Gilmour Academy's St. Br. André Service Program
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