Advancing the Common Good
through Community Service at Bowdoin College
Amy Ahearn '08
Amy Ahearn '08
Major: Asian Studies & English
- Success by 6 Volunteer Reader '04-'07 & Campus Coordinator '05-'07
- Common Good Day '04-'05
- Alternative Spring Break: New York City Public Schools '06
- Internship with Literacy Volunteers of Maine (McKinley Grant) Summer '06
- Curtis Memorial Library Book Bag Project (Winter Break PIC Mini Grant) Winter '06
- Community Service Council '06-'07
- Internship at Partners in Ending Hunger (Public Interest Career Fund Grant) Summer '07
- Campus Kitchens Volunteer '07
- Education and Social Justice Service Learning Course '07
- Maine Women’s Fund New Girls Network '07
- Catholic Charities of Maine American Friend Program '07
How did you first get involved in service at Bowdoin?
As a first-year student, I signed up to volunteer with the United Way’s Success by 6 program. I read at Bowdoin Children’s Center and helped kids with literacy activities at Hawthorne School. These experiences made me realize the importance of literacy, and inspired me to find an internship with an organization promoting adult literacy in Portland the summer after my sophomore year. Working in Maine’s non-profit sector, I realized how interconnected the issues facing people in poverty are. The next summer I received an internship at another Portland non-profit working on issues of hunger. My service experiences have proceeded organically, making me realize that I care—and should be concerned— about a wider spectrum of issues than I anticipated as a first-year student.
What have you gained from your service experience and working in the community?
I studied abroad in India my junior year. Immediately after returning, I was paralyzed by the overwhelming needs I had seen there and how disconnected they felt from Bowdoin life. I quickly realized how shortsighted it was to wallow in disempowerment and to believe that Bowdoin was entirely cut off from this other world. There is a strong core of people on this campus who realize the intense amount of privilege we live in everyday, and are working to diffuse this privilege. I’ve met some incredible people at Bowdoin through my community service work.
I’ve also been able to meet some amazing Maine adults through these experiences: Stella Hernandez of Literacy Volunteers of Maine, Terry Howell of Midcoast Hunger Prevention Program, Pam Jenkins at the Curtis Memorial Library, Jigna Dharod at the Muskie School for Public Service, and many others. These individuals pursue work that in small but tangible ways does make life better for kids, senior citizens, mentally disabled people, refugees, and other folks living in Maine. These are people I can look to and realize that instead of being paralyzed by the morass of social problems that exist here and abroad, there are ways to keep working. Community service work has provided me with a vehicle for both engagement and hope.
What does it mean to serve the common good?
To me, serving the Common Good is about diffusing our privileges—whether those privileges are tangible resources, or the ideas and skill sets that we have the luxury to cultivate on this campus.
Story posted on January 23, 2008
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