You can’t Learn to Swim by Reading a Book

Written by Ash.

Today I attended a very thought-provoking and important conference called Community-Engaged Education: An Idea Exchange. In the aftermath of Dr. Patrick Deane’s innovative letter entitled Forward With Integrity, there have been several task forces put to work to help McMaster University POP THE BUBBLE!

The enthusiasm in the room was palpable. The collaborative effort to put the ideals of community-engagement and service based learning into action was an experience I will not forget. While I was surrounded by faculty members and celebrated scholars I wondered to myself, where are my peers? Although it is summer time and the weather is unbelievably nice, it cannot be understated that students are key agents needed to advance the initiatives of community- engaged learning. So tell me, what will it take to get more of us interested? What do the students want? I’m serious, tell me what it will take to get students to come out to more events which provide education on the changing face of academia, get interested in social activity and bridge the gaps that divide McMaster University and the rest of the Hamilton community.

As an immigrant to the city of Hamilton myself, I can understand some of the rhetoric and attitudes that support the idea that getting publicly involved has no immediate benefits to the students who truthfully, probably couldn’t care less about the strangers suffering through…whatever they’re suffering through. I mean, after all, I have OSAP to pay back and rent money to come up with. I don’t have time to care about the homeless or volunteer my time.

While this might be a reality for the students of higher education, the benefits to popping the McMaster bubble are multitudinous. Taking just a few hours per week to help a person in dire need is easier than you think. Coming out to events hosted at McMaster University isn’t too far out of our comfort zones, is it? As citizens privileged enough to call ourselves McMaster students, we need to also recognize that there are people who have different circumstances, and who could benefit from our reaching out. If you think about it, this type of social relationship is a part of democracy as a whole. We all have a responsibility to each other.

We all know that there is a lot of crap in our classes that we don’t want to learn, or information that we simply memorize with all intentions of forcing it out of our memories as soon as we walk out of the exam. Well, if we can’t look back on our experiences with pride, what was the point? Why are we working so hard to pay off an OSAP loan if the educations we purchased are partly forgotten immediately? The magic of an experience is the way it alters us, usually in unforgettable ways. In turn, our experiences with others also has the potential to alter them, to help them, by making life-changing impacts.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from Katniss: SHE VOLUNTEERS!