By S-L Street Team Member Tyler Nicholson

As a longtime part of the S-L family (3 years and counting!) sometimes it can be difficult to take a step back and think about how, and why, I ended up here in the first place. I’ve occupied different student-leader roles throughout my time in the program, some of them multiple times, and I feel like I am constantly reflecting on what those roles have meant for my own growth and development as a person. I do not, however, reflect on how important my entrance point to the program is-my time as a student in a S-L course.

When I was a freshman, I came into my courses lacking direction. I had a vague idea of what I liked to do, what field I was interested in pursuing, and a what was important to me regarding values. I still had so much figuring out to do that when I discovered my First-Year Writing course had a Service-Learning component, I was very skeptical. I found myself suddenly wondering not only what Service-Learning was and what it would entail, but also whether or not it was something I was even interested in.

I spent quite a few days with my fingers hovering above the ‘add/drop’ button thinking it might be in my best interest to take a writing course without a service-learning component. However, my gut told me to stick it out, and at least see what service would look like. I spoke to my course’s Service-Learning Teaching Assistant about my service site, and after a conversation with her, I decided to stay in the course.

Walking into the John D. O’Bryant school on my first day to serve at 826 Boston’s Writer’s Room was wildly different from any of my past experiences. I had never worked with high schoolers before. My high school was relatively small, so walking through streams of lockers and bustling students was a new experience in and of itself. Frankly, I was a little scared of messing up, or that I wouldn’t have any idea how to help.

On my first day, I made a lasting connection with a student that I still think back to frequently. I was extremely nervous approaching students, but I walked up to one student who was sitting on a couch alone, staring off in the distance blankly. Initially, our conversation was clunky. I didn’t really know how to make the conversation flow, and she could tell I was trying to coax answers out of her.

Once we took a detour from her paper and into college talk, we both really started to open up. We were both able to laugh about how we didn’t like math, reflect on being the first people from our families to go to college, and share our aspirations for research and medicine when we graduate. I would work with her numerous times in the coming weeks, and we built a great working relationship. I saw her grow as a writer as the weeks progressed and she gained more experience, and I also got to grow as a tutor and gain more confidence.

After my experience with 826 Boston, I never looked back. It made me realize the importance I put on service and working with students. It influenced my decision to be a teaching assistant for two Service-Learning courses and my decision to take my first Co-Op. I had the opportunity to co-op at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in their Learning Lab, where I helped teach Boston Public School students biology. My time in the program has been focused on bolstering Northeastern’s service in communities based on the needs identified by the communities themselves. My primary motivation is being mindful of the different assets that these communities have to offer themselves and not just their assets for Northeastern’s consumption. I’m motivated by the desire for these communities to be afforded with better resources, since we pull so much from them.

I am so thankful for that first experience at the Writer’s room, and for every experience I have had within the S-L program since then.

Learn more about 826 Boston and their programs here!

Adapted from 2/28/2019 S-LOG Post.