To cap off the final installation of this reflection series, I thought who better end it than these two amazing ladies who have dedicated countless hours and effort to put on an amazing ARW experience for all of us. They are walking, breathing, laughing, poking, dancing, and living warm fuzzies 🙂
Oh ARW, parting is such sweet sorrow…
What? Four years ago, we stumbled upon an opportunity called Alternative Reading Week (ARW). Little did we know that it would take over our lives (in the best way possible #CCPlove5ever). So what exactly was so magical about ARW that made us stick around for so long? We’ve obviously each had different experiences, but they’re similar in a lot of ways! What connected both of us so strongly to ARW was the opportunity it gave us to become part of such a great community, and to expand our own communities at UofT. Our experiences working with amazing student and community leaders have taught us a lot of things we wouldn’t have learned while sitting in a class room. Really, our entire Centre for Community Partnerships (CCP) experience has been a constant learning process – we’ve learned about ourselves, about others, and about all of the amazing communities around us.
Everything we know, we learned at the CCP (literally everything #truestory). In all seriousness, though, the self-discovery that has happened here has influenced every part of our lives. Over the last two years especially, as our involvement with the program has deepened, we have really come to understand the value of reflection. Not only does reflection allow you to integrate the experiences you have had into learning, but it also allows you to use that learning to challenge your own assumptions and explore new directions for growth. After lots, and we mean lots, of self-reflection, and a mildly concerning obsession with StrengthsQuest, we’ve been able to clarify important aspects of ourselves like our strengths, values and goals. Most importantly, we have come to see ourselves as individuals who are part of one big and connected whole, through our connection with our communities. And what would those communities be without the superfantabulawesome people with whom we’ve shared laughter, stories, and tears? We are endlessly grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from such inspiring and passionate people. A huge part of our self-growth came from being exposed to so many different and diverse perspectives, and practicing how to be respectful and inclusive of people and situations we are not familiar with. It is hard to separate learning about others from learning about the community, especially when so much of that learning happens within the community. We’ve experienced firsthand the value of experiential learning – there is so much growth that can happen outside of the classroom (so put those books down)! Above all, we’ve really learned to appreciate the strength and power in community-based initiatives and movements that comes from starting with what we have, instead of what needs to be fixed.
We’ve learned so much over the past four years and it’s really influenced how we approach everything we do, as well as our goals for the future. After becoming so integrated within the Toronto community, we are really excited to explore new possibilities to take more active roles in our own communities. We can volunteer with community organizations, become more civically engaged – heck, we can even run for City Councillor if we want (#jodyandkaylahformayor)! Beyond getting directly engaged in community initiatives ourselves, we can also play a role in connecting people to each other, to the physical space around them, and to the great resources and support services that each community has to offer. We’ve both seen firsthand the unbelievable things that people can do when they work together to create the amazing communities that they envision. Regardless of the concrete actions that we take on in the future, we’ll both stay open-minded and welcome new experiences that will give us the opportunity to learn more about ourselves, our communities, and how we relate to our communities. Whether the steps we take now are big or small, we both know that the Centre for Community Partnerships has helped us grow into the people we are today (#socheesy). Thank you Kaylah and Jody for…(the list is WAY too long!) EVERYTHING! ❤