MIM Service-Learning Project 2019: Annette Cruz

I completed my service-learning project through a program called Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD). CCD offers religious education to individuals who are Catholic and do not receive formal education about the faith. This program is offered at many Catholic churches. I completed my service-learning project at Our Lady of Divine Providence Catholic Church. With this program, volunteers can be either assistants or catechists, who teach the class. I have volunteered in this program in the past as an assistant. This year, I volunteer as a catechist and am responsible for my own class. I am in charge of teaching young children about the Catholic faith in preparation for their First Communion the following year. In other words, the children in my class are in their first year of religious education classes and I am responsible for preparing  them to receive the body of Christ. I am also responsible for preparing the lessons of every class, planning activities so that the students can grasp what they are learning, and communicating with parents. I am also partnered with another catechist who teaches the older children who are in their first-year religious education classes as well.  I work closely with this other catechist to plan fun activities for both classes.

This service is significant to me for different reasons. One of the reasons it is important to me is because I am an Elementary Education major. I am studying to work with children and this volunteer opportunity gives me the chance to work with children in a classroom setting, where I am the one leading the class. It gives me a glimpse as to what having my own class would look like in the future. I am experiencing the kinds of relationships I will form with my future students. One of the best things I have experienced volunteering is when students see me and give me a hug or send me a smile with a hello wave. It is a simple act, but I feel like I am completing my job as a volunteer. I feel that I am making a difference in the lives of the children. I feel good about myself because this shows that the children enjoy coming to class on a Saturday morning. Additionally, the Catholic faith is something that has grown to be a part of who I am. I learned about the Catholic faith growing up and remember being intrigued by the Biblical stories.  However, I really didn’t enjoy attending class. The teaching approach was dull and boring. I want the children to become active learners and enjoy the lessons. That is why I plan interactive lessons and encourage critical thinking by having students ask questions in class. Teaching these children makes me more aware of my faith. With this in mind, I use this volunteer opportunity as my way to teach the Catholic faith in a creative approach so that the stories can be impactful to the students. This service also challenges me intellectually because at times I must produce quick answers to difficult questions posed by the students. Nevertheless, I try to bring clarity and encourage student participation. I feel this service project is preparing me for the years to come.

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