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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year

The CORE of My Thankfulness

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(11/2012) I first heard about Mountward Bound at freshman orientation this past summer. Mountward Bound is a program where freshman at Mount St. Mary's University arrive a week early to go on a trip to make new friends and have a memorable experience. I was eager to sign up because I knew it would be a great way to interact with some of my future classmates. I was most interested in the Outdoor Adventure trip but, to my dismay, when I went to sign up all the spots were already full. Looking back, I couldnít be more thankful that all the spots were taken.

I still wanted to go on a trip so I signed up for one through the Office of Social Justice. I was excited but nervous because I did not know what to expect. After arriving at the Mount and I moved into my dorm for the first time; I was overwhelmed. I wondered what I had gotten myself into. When I met up with the CORE leaders who would be leading the trip and the other students who would be going with me, I could not straighten my thoughts. I was about to get into a van with a bunch of strangers, travel to a an unknown place, leave my mom and at the end of it all not even get to go home but have to go back to a cramped dorm room that was a mess. Why did I think that this was going to be a good idea?

Throughout the week the group traveled to different service sites. We went to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, the Beacon House, Montevue Nursing Home, and the SERRV market. After each day we all would gather as a group, discuss what we did during the day and reflect on the importance of our actions. I ended up loving every minute of the trip. I was learning new things and making new friends. Though I was skeptical at first, going on Mountward Bound became one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am extremely thankful that it opened my eyes and my heart to my passion for social justice.

Toward the end of the trip I started to learn more about what it meant to be a CORE leader. CORE leaders are dedicated Mount students who work through the office of social justice on campus. They facilitate service trips to help others understand the importance of social justice and equality. When Mountward Bound ended, each participant was encouraged to apply to become a CORE leader. I knew without any hesitation that I wanted to be part of CORE and I was thankful when I was handed an application.

After completing the application and going through an interview, I am thrilled and thankful to say that I have been accepted to become part of the CORE family!

My first week of CORE training happened over Fall Break. The six new CORE members, including myself, spent our week in Baltimore and DC while the rest of the Mount community went home. We served with Peopleís Homesteading Group in Baltimore where we cleaned an apartment from top to bottom, in preparation to house families of low to moderate income. During this week, we discussed what we are often blind to in terms of social justice issues. We learned about social systems, systemic injustices and reflected on the importance of awareness. In DC, we visited the Holocaust museum where we observed with a social justice lens and our new-formed knowledge. We had dinner with Ms. T, an inspirational woman who has gone in and out of homelessness, who encouraged us all to "find our lane and own it." We spent time listening to one anotherís personal stories and grew closer as a group each day. By the end of the week we had been challenged and tested multiple times and our outcomes were not always successful. The important part is that we learn from our mistakes and work to communicate positively together. I am thankful that we can all only get better as a team and as individuals.

My involvement with CORE has only just begun and it has already started to change my life. I am so thankful for the opportunities and knowledge I will be able to gain through CORE. I cannot wait to continue to spend time with my CORE group and I am thankful to be surrounded with such amazing people whom I can now call family. I am thankful for Jeff Abel, the Director of the Office of Social Justice, for his positive influence, sense of humor, and standards that make me work to be a better person in my thoughts and actions. Being a member of CORE is exactly where I am suppose to be. I am thankful that I have learned to see injustice with my heart. I am thankful to be part of such an incredible group that changes lives.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen