Success! Eric in Cambridge

Success can be measured in many ways. For math teachers, seeing students ruminate over each step to that difficult problem, thinking about where x number fits into the final solution, and eventually seeing that solution unfurl before their eyes is a definite measure of the word success. However, for my class on World Hunger and Development, success cannot be so easily measured. We discuss topics that students have never critically thought about before, and getting past superficial answers of “That’s horrible, we should change the way that works!” will be one of the biggest challenges I face this summer. The material presented in the class gets the students thinking every single day, but getting them to ponder and give solutions or even convincing the students that they do have the power to change the world in their hands is a constant struggle.

However, one of the best feelings I’ve had so far during the Breakthrough Experience occurred the other day after an exciting lunch filled with cheers and overflowing with SBC spirit. I teach a “Bridgeblock” class here in Cambridge, which incorporates a service-learning curriculum into the class. While it can be a struggle to get students excited about volunteering at East End Food Pantry, trips there usually end with some awesome philanthropic experience. While we were waiting for everyone to get ready to go to our service site, several of the students began to speak about an observation they made during lunch. Noticing a growing level of unrest in the group of students, I walked over and asked what was bothering them. Without delay, one student quickly expressed anger at the amount of food thrown away at lunch and that all we were doing was promoting waste. Seeing this as a perfect “teachable moment”, I quickly reigned in her anger and tried to focus it on change. What could you do, we do as a class, or we do as Summerbridge to offset this food waste? With that question the floodgates of wonderful ideas opened.

She finally understood the message I had been hinting at the past few days, one person can make a difference. Ideas of making sure she did not waste any food at lunch or at home first came to her mind. However, she did not stop there.

As a class we could make posters trying to get others at SBC to notice the problem. “Perfect,” I responded. “Is there anything else you can do?” She took this question and thought about it for a few seconds. Her face then immediately lit up as if the biggest Hollywood celebrity had walked into the room. She quickly followed that line of thinking into an idea that will be incorporated into SBC in the coming weeks. “Why can’t we have a food drive with SBC?! And the food can go to East End!” she exclaimed. She quickly followed up with questions of what she needed to do to get this started, and since then, as a class we’ve been working towards incorporating a food drive within all of SBC. One look cemented in my memory was the light in her eyes as she found out that yes, she does have the power to channel positive change within her own hands. The world is at her feet, as it is all of ours.

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