As the first quarter of my senior year comes to a close, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the journeys that brought me from the person I was at this time in my first year at SCU to the person I am now in my fourth year. One of the most powerful transformative forces I’ve experienced has been SCCAP. From being a volunteer as a first-year, to a Program Coordinator as a sophomore, to a Department Coordinator as a junior, and now Director as a senior, SCCAP has been one of the most central parts of my entire college experience.
As a first-year, I felt a little lost. I was having a grand ole time with my new friends in Dunne and relishing in the newfound freedom of college, but everything felt superficial and somehow disconnected from myself. Like many incoming SCU students, I had volunteered extensively throughout my high school years and it felt strange not to have that as a part of my college life. In just my third week of college, my friend and I started volunteering at Downtown College Prep (a SCCAP program tutoring highschoolers) and in my second quarter, I also started volunteering with LUCHA (tutoring elementary school students) and Best Buddies (hanging out with students our age with developmental disabilities). All of these opportunities were enriching in their own way, but I still didn’t feel that connected to the greater community. Each of the volunteer experiences felt isolated from one another and whenever I went to bigger SCCAP events, I didn’t feel like I knew anyone or was actually a part of the SCCAP community. (Ok, shameless plug here, this feeling is one of the reasons why we’re really trying to build the SCCAP community this year through events like the SCCAPreciation dinner on January 13th from 5-6:30PM! If you’ve volunteered with SCCAP even just once, you are welcome to attend. We really want the SCCAP community to be stronger than ever this year! <3)
It wasn’t until I was on staff my sophomore year that SCCAP really started to change me. I had a tough year, filled with anxieties and doubts and a struggle to finally come out. But SCCAP was my rock through it all. I was surrounded by a group of loving, supportive, incredibly passionate individuals who both accepted me as I was and challenged me to constantly grow. All throughout high school and my first year of college, I saw service mainly as “helping people”. I mainly worked with individuals with disabilities and I enjoyed it and felt that I was making a positive impact in their lives. However, through all-staff meetings and discussions with other SCCAP staff members my sophomore year, I started to question a lot of what I thought I knew about service. Who am I, some upper-middle-class white girl from a suburb, to enter a predominantly low-income and Latinx community in downtown San Jose and try to “help”? What do I know about the unique experiences that each marginalized population faces? Am I just reinforcing some sort of “white savior” power dynamic by going into a school once a week and pretending that I’m helping these students? How does “community service” fit into the wider questions of privilege, power and oppression? While I loved being the Program Coordinator of Chandler Tripp (working with preschoolers with disabilities), my sophomore year on staff arguably left me with more questions than answers.
I came back in September to start my year as the Department Coordinator of Health and Disabilities after having two transformative experiences: spending my summer in The Gambia teaching at Starfish International through Global Fellows and coming out as queer. These journeys humbled me and broke down what I thought I knew, but gave me an incredible sense of peace and perfectly primed me for new learning and growth. Working as a Department Coordinator was so different than a Program Coordinator—at times it felt distant from the community partners we work with, but it was also so much more integrated with SCCAP as a whole. I grew in my relationships with fellow staff members, started attending different programs in different departments, and found that I was passionate about so many more aspects of SCCAP than I had previously realized. I also had the invaluable opportunity to attend the IMPACT conference in Massachusetts as a SCCAP representative and for lack of a better word, had my mind blown in every workshop. Through a difficult year for staff as a whole, I grew exponentially in my understanding of social justice. I could go on forever about each thing I learned and even then not be able to fully explain. But here’s a very poor attempt to sum it up: I think the three most key points I had previously understood but never deeply comprehended until then were 1) everything is connected and intersectionality is key, 2) listen to people who have had a specific experience first and 3) service and activism are inseparable.
I am still humbled and in disbelief to be the director of SCCAP this year. While I do feel rudimentarily educated in issues such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, immigration, etc. and am now comfortable talking about these things to others, I still know relatively nothing. They say that the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know, and that could not be more true. I believe that we all have the responsibility to educate ourselves about issues that oppressed groups face, but that does not mean that we can ever be a full ally. We can never completely understand an identity that we are not a part of, and one of the sayings that resonates with me the most is “ally is a verb”. It is a constant process, a constant challenge and a constant growth. One of our main focuses this year (as shown on our new tank tops woohoo!) is Solidarity, and what we mean by this is that service is not about going in and “helping,” service is about being with a community, learning from each other, and being in solidarity. It is through these relationships that we start to understand each other’s unique experiences and struggles and become equipped for the activism that can fight against the systemic injustices causing these inequalities. I have been blessed with an incredible SCCAP staff this year who challenges me and teaches me every day, and that is the way it should be. Leading this intelligent, inspired, creative group of activists is one of the most difficult positions I could imagine, but also one of the best.
If you made it to the end of this, congratulations, and just for that, you should come to our dinner on January 13th and start/continue to be a part of SCCAP. I have participated in 18 out of our 20 SCCAP programs, and I can honestly say that there is a program in SCCAP for everyone. My story is similar to many others on our staff: SCCAP has been both a relentless and challenging source of growth and increasing awareness and a warm, loving, community that finally allowed me to be my whole self. If you have any questions about SCCAP or if any part of my journey resonated with you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you join our family and see what your journey with SCCAP will be.
- Alaina Boyle
Director of SCCAP