Last week my fellow ACEs and I had the pleasure of beginning our winter retreat by first stopping by City of Dreams in the Bayview district of San Francisco. This organization’s mission is dedicated to helping youth living in low-income housing build brighter futures through mentorship and youth development. We got to see up close all the hard work and effort the young folks of City of Dreams and local residents have put into establishing a community garden at the Oakdale Community Center. Some of the ACEs and I got our hands a little dirty and assisted with building planter beds, wheel barrowing a hefty load of soil, and watering plants. Although that morning we only got a glimpse of all the great work City of Dreams is doing, it was wonderful to see the magnificent strides this organization is making with their youth mentorship program and engaging local residents in creating their own gardens.
A couple highlights from the retreat include our discussions over the multiple layers of socialization in relation to oppression. Considering the social, political, and economic forces swirling around us that impact our daily lives, it was a particularly poignant segment of the retreat to take some time and dissect some of these complex forces on a personal level. Although we were only scratching the surface with our discussion of the cycle of socialization, examining and reflecting on what roles we have been socialized to play, how we may be affected by oppression in our own lives, and how we may participate in maintaining this cycle was powerful. I currently find myself wedged in a position where I am made aware of different pervasive social issues that call for serious attention and action, but sometimes not knowing where to begin. I found it rewarding to discuss as a group what social change is and the many different forms it can take, whether that is on a large or small scale, but ultimately interrupting forms of oppression.
Another great takeaway from the retreat was being equipped with concrete methods to affirm and challenge the service-learners we will be working with in discussion-based reflections. A part of the ACE role is facilitating reflections with students in service-learning course so they connect their experiences to larger social issues. On day two, a segment of retreat was spent collectively honing in on key facilitation skills and tips through a group role-play exercise that turned out to be actually very helpful. Not only were these tips conducive to the ACE role for the new semester where we will lead reflections, but also very applicable life skills for dealing with colorful personalities and opinions. All in all, being surrounded by compassionate and motivated peers who all share a drive for engaging in ethical public service leaves me inspired and excited for what this spring semester will bring!