A nonsense acronym? No, a great acronym! WCSBST stands for Whitman College Spring Break Service Trips, a group of volunteer service trips Whitman’s Student Engagement Center puts on every spring break. Along with its pre-fall-semester SCOREs, SBSTs are a wonderful way to serve the larger community in a meaningful way and meet some great Whitties at the same time.
Back in November, I applied to SBSTs to join the Urban Education trip, which the application described as a trip which “will work in and beyond the classroom with a number of education-related organizations and non-profits to explore how public policy, resource allocation, pedagogy or philosophy of education and other topics impact the education system’s ability to improve students’ lives and promote an equitable society. The primary community partner for the week is The Emerson School, a public charter school in the heart of downtown Portland.” I was ecstatic. I wanted to learn more about urban education, and it was in my home-area of Portland, a community which I really wanted to give back to. When I was accepted to the trip, I was doubly excited–but I had no idea of the impact the trip would have on me.
We met on an unsurprisingly drizzly Saturday in SE Portland, at a local church where we spent the week. After a few hours of board games and get-to-know-you-activities (we’d only met as a group a few times), we went over our schedule for the week. It was packed. I began to worry that we’d never get anything done because we’d be running around at insanely high speeds all the time. Then we made bagels, colored, did more group bonding, and went to bed. The next day we went to get to know our new environment. Being the good Whitties that we are, we spent most of the day in Powell’s City of Books. It was glorious. New books in hand, we returned “home” and settled in for another night of reflection and preparation. On Monday, the real work began.