By Grace White
While there are many places that an honors student can end up living after Bergstrom, one popular place is Michels Hall, a service-learning hall in which students live with seven other people in a suite while working with a community partner. This, of course, was not a normal year, but many honors students were still able to give back to the community while living in this remarkable hall.
Miranda Lobermeier ‘23 was one of said honors students to live in Michels. Her suite was able to serve at St. John’s Homeless Shelter, where the suitemates would take turns serving meals and forming relationships with the residents, which was extremely rewarding. While Miranda has a plethora of stories from her time serving, she was happy to share one moment that she shared with some women over a game of Uno. “One evening at service, two of my suitemates and I were sitting at a table with a couple ladies at the shelter playing Uno. One time when one of us put down a card that made the next player draw multiple cards, one of the ladies said, ‘And I was beginning to like you!’ The remainder of the game consisted of us all teasing each other every time we’d make someone else draw cards. This seemingly simple interaction with these ladies brought a sense of joy and normalcy to us at the table that night in our current world filled with so much uncertainty”. Little interactions like this meant so very much, and, like Miranda mentions, they truly brought joy and a sense of normalcy.
However, with COVID and all, before Miranda’s suite could be set up with St. John’s Homeless shelter, there were some hurdles to be leaped over. “My suitemates and I were switched between three different community partners, and we were even switched between multiple responsibilities at those community partners. It wasn’t until spring semester 2021 that we were able to regularly serve at St. John’s and begin to create relationships with the ladies at the shelter,” explained Miranda. This isn’t too surprising, though, due to the fact that we have all needed to adapt a lot during this year. Miranda and her suitemates were just excited to be given a chance to really connect and serve eventually, as they could see both the difference they were making in the lives of others and the difference the women they were interacting with were making in them.
Emily Miziniak ‘23 and her suitemates also served through Michels, starting in the fall at House of Hope, where they sorted donations, ran the front desk and phone, and helped children with homework, and, due to COVID, changing in the spring to Whatsoever You Do Inc., where they helped paint and renovate the House of Hospitality. Switching programs like they did wasn’t easy, as Emily explains, “Our first service site had to close due to Covid, so we were placed with a new community partner, which was stressful, but my suite still enjoyed serving. We did a lot of hands-off activities at both of the service sites to help reduce the risk of getting Covid, which was sad, because we did not get the fully immersive volunteering aspect that is typical. But we still enjoyed serving”.
While switching programs is really hard, as you build deep connections and then have to leave, Emily and her suitemates were still able to take a lot out of their time serving. Emily has several wonderful memories that she is bringing with her after her time at Michels. “Talking with Whatsoever You Do people, while painting and serving, was probably my favorite memory. They really wanted to get to know us on a personal level, and it was amazing to hear what they all do as a part of this program. I think helping to release a skunk (they had a problem) was my second favorite memory, because it was spontaneous and uplifting”. Serving can be done in a variety of ways, even through skunks, but it always makes a difference. Giving in such a way can teach you so much, and it changes you for the better.Many honors students served in a variety of ways this year, and, like with everything else this year, they had to adapt. However, most of them would happily do it all over again, because, even through the struggle, seeing the impact they could make made it worth it. There is nothing like watching the world get a little bit brighter, especially when you have a hand in it. For more information on any of the organizations mentioned, please visit the following links: https://www.stjohnhomelessshelter.org/, https://www.houseofhopegb.org/, https://whatsoeveryoudo.us/contact/, and I encourage you to look into finding where you can serve in your own community, because there is nothing quite as rewarding as giving back.