Service Learning Prepared Alum for Peace Corps

By Gabby Tassone

Six weeks after graduating Emerson in May 2012, I moved to Madagascar with the Peace Corps, where I spent 26 months teaching English and learning about—and truly living—life.

It seems a big leap—graduating from a small liberal arts college in a big city to living in a country in the Global South. Though the physical move was a 9,000-mile jump across the world, the cognitive leap was not as difficult for me because of my experiences at Emerson.

As an undergraduate student, I was very involved with Alternative Spring Break (ASB) and Jumpstart (a pre-school literacy program) through the Service Learning and Community Action Office. Much of my time in Boston was spent volunteering with service-focused students, and three of my four spring breaks were dedicated to working in high-need communities: first in Boston, then in Pensacola, FL, and finally in Taos and Santa Fe, NM.
Gabby Tassone photo
My senior year at Emerson was a transformative one in which I discovered just how important volunteering was to me. Through my time with Jumpstart, and as a leader of the ASB program in Taos, volunteering had quietly reached the same level of importance (if not more so) as the work I was doing in my journalism classes. I learned through volunteering at Emerson that my passion lies in the service of others, and so, following graduation, I pursued that passion with the Peace Corps.

As a Teaching English as a Foreign Language volunteer in Madagascar, my primary assignment was that of English language teacher. I taught several classes a week in local middle and high schools to students who could not afford shoes, and did not know where their next meal was coming from. In my two years teaching these students, I found that although the English language was important to them, it did not come close to the importance they found in our day-to-day interactions. My best work was not done by standing in front of a chalkboard, but by showing these students that they were genuinely cared for.

At Emerson, I came to understand the value of human connection, and it is because of my time with ASB and Jumpstart that I pursued the Peace Corps, and am continuing to serve others. I am now a Resident Director in Piano Row, one of Emerson College’s four residence halls, where I act as an advisor to Resident Assistants and residents, respond to emergency situations, administer judicial cases, mediate conflicts, and advise hall council.

I hope that before I leave Boston again to pursue a graduate degree in New York, I can pass on my love for people and my commitment to service that was fostered and encouraged here at my alma mater.

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