by Alex Blount
Staff Writer, ‘14, Religion Major
“What is this new service program they’re advertising?” I asked myself when I first discovered the Servant Scholar program. Upon finding out more about the program and its requirements, I knew I didn’t want to commit to eighteen hours of classes over two years on top of my preexisting major and minor.
The more I thought about it, however, the more I wanted to apply. Now, a year and a half later, having gone through the application process, deciding on a service site, partaking in the classes, and, most importantly, getting to be a part of Circles of Troup County (my service site), I could not be more excited about changing my mind and applying.
Admittedly, though I had a desire to serve from my Christian faith, this desire is still sometimes pitted against my indolence. I realized that I would benefit from committing to serving in this program. In learning about servant leadership, reading books like From Brokenness to Community, and being a part of my service site, not only has my perspective changed, but my indolence has also slowly begun to dissipate. My desire to be with people emerged. Working at Circles has changed my view of service from “doing for” to “doing with.” Being a part of Servant Scholars has encouraged me to combat my indolence so that my desire to serve can come to fruition.
Circles of Troup County works for two years with its participants trapped in poverty to teach them skills to reach self-determined goals. For twelve weeks, participants meet to learn these skills. For the remaining time, the participants, or “circle leaders,” are paired with between two and four middle class “allies.” These allies connect circle leaders to resources, providing assistance in the process of rising from poverty.
This aid does not come in the common, disconnected form of monetary donations. The allies help not from the other side of a desk or through the slot in a donation can; allies work with the circle leaders to help them achieve their goals.
I along with five of our Servant Scholars help with childcare each week. So far, Circles has only had mothers apply and participate; fathers either do not attend or have left the program. Therefore, some of these kids do not have a good male role model. Three of our five scholars are males, so we are able to provide a positive male example to these children. Additionally, two of our scholars are creating a weekly curriculum to teach kids practical skills such as how to give a proper handshake, the importance of eye contact, and more.
After a year, we have seen some of these kids go from quiet and shy to participating and interacting with the others. Kids who avoided eye contact before, now make eye contact, a skill I had taken for granted as a middle-class male. Though small, I have see improvements in the lives of the kids we served.
My experience with Circles has been eye-opening. I have learned the need to be with, instead of doing things for, people. Not only have I been challenged to serve, but my perspective towards service has changed. Instead of participating in a disconnected service, I now participate in people’s lives. That is how change will happen.