This summer, 28 rising sophomores engaged in service internships across the United States through the John C. Bogle ’51 Fellows in Civic Service program. Of those 28, many chose to serve in New York City and Washington D.C., exploring their interests in sustainability, government, education, law, and international development with different local partners and organizations.
Whether they were native to the area, or living there just for the summer, fellows had a unique opportunity to explore these cities through a new lens which contextualized their experience in service in the grander landscape of local history and politics. I recently caught up with a few of the students in both locations.
In New York, five Bogle Fellows were joined by Professor Jennifer Jennings, a new faculty member in the Woodrow Wilson School, for an exploration of New York City’s lower east side. Professor Jennings, who is also serving as a Faculty Mentor with Service Focus, encouraged each student to think critically about the experience and how it spoke to their personal internships and interests.
The group visited the Tenement Museum, where they learned about the way different waves of immigration impacted the the area and communities that lived there.
“Our time in New York really made clear to me the reality and importance of community and exploring the context of an issue,” said Jack Aiello `21, who is interning with UNICEF. “As we learned about the history of New York's many communities, we began to discover our own community as Bogle fellows.”
“I loved the opportunity to dive into conversations about mutual academic interests and social issues with Professor Jennings,” he continued. “Even though the day was busy and our time together flew by, Professor Jennings was sincerely interested in getting to know us. She gave me reading recommendations and advice about courses I may be interested in.”
Similarly, the four Bogle Fellows serving in Washington D.C. also gathered to think about what service meant in their experiences, and the value of having colleagues they could connect with when living in a new city. While at dinner we discussed the breadth of service they were engaging in, (from the Department of Defense to PeaceCorps), and how each opportunity enabled them to apply their academic interests to making change in the world.
Fellows also discussed what it meant to be serving in Washington D.C. during the current administration, and how location can change the types of information and conversations you can have. Together with other Princetonians, some of the fellows attended the ‘Keep Families Together March,’ where they stood with thousands of others and listened to speakers like Lin-Manuel Miranda describe the current situation in detention centers across the border and rally the international community to advocate for family reunifications.
These fellows, and the 17 others serving across the U.S., are all currently wrapping up their immersive service experiences. Many are realizing that regardless of whether its going home or to a new area, the lens of being a Princetonian changes the way you walk through the world. And now, as they prepare to return to campus and join their peers in Service Focus, the students are not only reflecting on what it means to dedicate oneself to service, but also how they can bring intellectual curiosity into new environments and carry that learning into the classroom.