Monday, February 8, 2016

It Made a Difference for That One

by Maryann Slater
Programs Relationship Associate

Elks scholars now have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. These trips will offer the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and the chance for Elks scholars and Elks to connect with their Elks Family across the country. To read more posts about the service trips, click here.

I live for the light bulb moments. You know, when you can see someone’s perspective change, or they are finally able to understand something they haven’t been able to understand. While I am honored to serve alongside my fellow Elks scholars on the Elks Scholar Service Trips, my favorite part of the trips is observing and facilitating the scholars’ light bulb moments throughout the week.

For example, scholars share things such as, “The person I met today who is experiencing homelessness has a college degree–I never realized that homelessness can happen to anyone.” Or, “I never thought about how important it is to just make eye contact with people who are on the streets. I never really understood how experiencing homelessness can make someone feel invisible.” These lessons stay with the scholars long after the service trip ends.

The Elks Scholar Service Trips exist to offer Elks scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve in the name of the Elks, and to connect with their Elks family. Today’s Elks scholars can be tomorrow’s Elks if they are able to see the benefits of membership by engaging with Elks members in service.

Programming and reflections are a big part of an Elks Scholar Service Trip and are based on the premise of “The Active Citizen Continuum” which is a part of the Break Away: the Alternative Break Connection, Inc. resources. This continuum categorizes citizens into different categories based upon one’s level of concern for community and societal issues ranging from the least engaged citizen, a member, to the most engaged who prioritizes community in his/her values and life choices, an active citizen.

The Active Citizen Continuum
While it is my hope that all of the students will leave the trip as active citizens, so touched by their experience that they simply can’t continue to stand by and allow those around them to suffer, I understand that each person will manifest this in his/her own way beyond the trip. I always hope to hear about at least one scholar who becomes actively involved within the Elks or his/her community beyond the trip.

Have you ever heard The Starfish Story? It tells the story of a young man who is picking up starfish one by one and throwing them back into the ocean so that they won’t die. An observer comments that he will never be able save all of the starfish and that he can’t possibly make a difference, to which the young man replies, “It made a difference for that one.”

The Starfish Story

The Starfish Story has taken on a new meaning for me since I started working at the Elks National Foundation. I used to look at its message in terms of the individuals I was serving, but now I look at in terms of our scholars’ perspectives and involvement in their communities beyond the Elks Scholar Service Trips.
Because the Elks National Foundation invests so intentionally in its scholars through initiatives like the Elks Scholar Service Trips, the ENF is able to multiply the “one,” by allowing up to 20 scholars, three times per year to take part in an immersive service experience. Scholars not only become transformed through their service experiences, but they also become invested in the Order, as they truly feel welcomed into the Elks Family through meeting local Elks members.

Since returning from the Winter 2016 Trip, I’ve been so thankful to hear about many of our scholars’ changed perspectives and renewed dedication to their communities. Patrick Clerkin will be joining us on the Spring 2016 Elks Scholar Service Trip and using his experience from the Winter 2016 Trip to lead as the Elks Scholar Leader in Washington, D.C. Timothy Diovanni is volunteering with a homeless shelter in Midtown Manhattan this weekend, an opportunity he has pursued because of his experience on the trip. Jessica Phan is getting involved with Pomona College’s Alternative Service Break program this semester. Van Truong volunteered at her sponsoring Lodge, Port Orange, Fla. Lodge No. 2723 just a few days after returning from the Winter 2016 Trip.
Van with members of the Port Orange, Fla., Lodge No. 2723
serving together on Martin Luther King Jr., Day
But I didn’t have to wait until after the trip to see our scholars stepping up to live out what they learned during the trip.

The last day of the Winter Trip, we got to see the Golden Gate Bridge and explore San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf. The scholars had packed their lunches, but many of them returned at the end of the two hours of free time at Fisherman’s Wharf and shared that they had gotten to hand their lunches out to people experiencing homelessness after choosing to buy their own meals. I think it’s safe to say, they’re already making a difference “for that one.”

Game Faces–our scholars are serious about service!
Maryann Slater
Programs Relationship Associate 

We know Elks scholars are dedicated to service. Elks scholars now have the opportunity to come together in service with their Elks scholar peers. In 2015-16, the Elks National Foundation will offer three Elks Scholar Service Trips for up to 20 Elks scholars each. They are scheduled for the summer, winter and spring in locations from coast to coast. These trips provide scholars the opportunity to learn about societal issues, serve those in need in the name of the Elks, and connect with their Elks Family from across the country. For more information about the trips, click here.

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