By Grace Aklestad | student Concordia University-Portland
As a student participating in service leadership at Concordia University-Portland, I found my place on campus, identified a career path of civil service, and am forever changed as an individual, a leader and a global citizen.
Student volunteers seek to build community with and in the immediate Concordia neighborhood, as well as throughout the city.
Our Sept. 13 day of service resulted in 350 volunteers contributing 900 hours throughout northeast Portland with local nonprofit organizations. The effort brought the campus community together, and it helped everyone develop better relations and understanding of the Concordia neighborhood.
University students, faculty and staff cleaned up the communal gathering place of Woodlawn Park, set up for a community powwow with NAYA, packed food for the Oregon Food Bank and helped Faubion School with its picture day.
This is the university’s mission in action: to prepare leaders for the transformation of society.
As a student leader in the Office of Service Leadership, I lead students in weekly service with Night Strike, building relationships with a population experiencing homelessness. Just as people need food and shelter, many are in dire need of a sense of community.
The impact of a game of Uno or sharing a cup of coffee is felt as much as a hot meal or a fresh blanket. The relationships made under the bridge benefit guests of Night Strike, but are even more deeply beneficial to volunteers like myself.
My heart has been forever changed by the people I have met under the bridge. In conversations, I have seen and experienced whole world views shift. This is why CU engages students in service learning: to broaden horizons, understand a variety of life experiences and build supportive communities.
Service at CU is not about changing the community or individuals that comprise it. It is not about the manifestation of our vision in the neighborhoods in which we work.
Service is about using our voices and bodies, as the hands and feet of Christ, to lend help to make changes as the community members see fit.
As a CU student in service, my hope is to interact with community members and help realize the vision they have for improving our community as a whole.
Grace Aklestad is a senior history major from Montana. Upon graduation , sh intends to pursue dual juris doctorate and Arab studies masters degrees.