- Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.
We first arrived at the Palatki Heritage Site in Sedona, Arizona and spent three days building trails and learning about the history of the Palatki ruins. Then, we traveled to the Grand Canyon where we learned how to work as a team while hiking, camping, and white-water rafting.
- What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.
What I came to understand the most during this trip is that something so small can make such a huge change in the world. Even just a group of college students can change an experience for thousands of people. For the next few years to come, everyone who enters the Pataki Heritage Site will be able to experience these trails that we put so much work into. I never believed that I would be able to impact people or make an impression on someone’s life, but now I know that everyone who enjoys the heritage site in the future will appreciate the work that I did even if they don’t acknowledge it. I will forever be a part of their experience, and that makes me like I’ve contributed to society and history. Not only will it be a part of their experience, but it will always be a part of the caretakers’ experience as well. They were so appreciative of work, and this truly made me feel as if I made a difference in the world even if it may just be a small difference.
I also learned that when I put my mind to something that I’m passionate about, it feels more rewarding than just work. Then, when you get a group of people together who are all passionate about the same thing, it’s easier to work as a team and share your ideas. I’m very passionate about serving people who may not have the necessary help, and I’m passionate about preserving history so that it will never be forgotten. This trip combined two of my passions perfectly. I was able to help the caretakers of this site make this piece of history beautiful and more enjoyable, and they may not have been able to do this work without our help. Hopefully, these efforts will help attract people to the site so that more and more people will continue to care about and help preserve historical landmarks like the heritage site.
It is very rewarding to know that my services may have helped bring people to the site and may have helped get people to care more about our great history. This trip helped me understand that I can actually make impact. I don’t think that every person who goes to the heritage site will think about the efforts that went into making it look the way it does, but that doesn’t matter. I know that I can change a person’s experience even if it may go unnoticed. Without the support of my group, I may never have been as passionate about the project. Their passions helped push me even more to care about our service project and how it could impact future visitors for years to come. This trip has helped me learn that if I want to continue to pursue my passions, I will need to surround myself with people who are just as passionate (if not more than) about something as I am.
- What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.
When I was standing there in the Grand Canyon, I felt microscopic. I felt as if the world was so much bigger than I ever imagined and nothing I could do would make even the slightest difference. Then, I thought back to our community service project just two days before. I thought back to the smiles on the caretakers’ faces when we finished our project early and asked if we could do more for them and the genuine gratitude they had for our work. I realized that I don’t have to change the world for everyone, but I can still change the world for someone. The trails that we paved at the Palatki Heritage Site will be used by thousands of people for years to come, and I will always be a part of their experience.
This transformation would not have been possible without my Buck-I-Serv group and leaders. Each night, after we hiked, rafted, or volunteered, we would have reflection. During these reflections, we would discuss what values and lessons we learned during the day or the week. It seemed so easy for everyone to share their transformation each night because we knew that our other group members were genuinely interested in our lives. This made working as a group easier and more enjoyable. We all knew that everyone there was not only passionate about the work, but they were passionate about each other. My other group members genuinely wanted me to succeed and transform, and this only served as a catalyst for that transformation. One night during our reflection, our group leader asked us if we would take any new lessons or memories with us in the future. I didn’t know how to answer this. I said, “I don’t think I will know what I’ll take with me until this trip is over, and I can think back to certain memories I’ve made.” This was me before my transformation. I didn’t know what I was learning, and I may not have wanted to take anything back with me. Now I know that I’ve taken every memory with me, and now I can write a whole paper about how I’ve transformed from that moment. Just being able to understand who I was at that moment, and how I wasn’t very accepting to change, makes it easier now to be able see just how much I’ve transformed and how much I use these lessons and memories to shape my future.
One of the most rewarding activities we did throughout the week was called “Five Minutes of Fame.” During this activity, one group member would volunteer to have the spotlight for five minutes. The other group members could ask this person any questions they wanted to. This got very intimate, but it was a good kind of closeness. I genuinely wanted to learn about my group members’ lives, childhoods, wishes, fears, and dreams. These conversations allowed us to get closer to one another in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. When I volunteered for my five minutes, I was able to open up to my group members like I’ve never opened up before. I felt cared for. These people asked me questions that even my best friends have never asked me before. This one activity helped me open up to people I barely knew which I never would have been able to do before this trip.
After we finished our project at the heritage site, and before starting our voyage to the canyon, we wanted to look for someone else to serve in Sedona, so we volunteered at a food pantry in Sedona. This wasn’t even on our schedule, but it is one of my favorite memories from the trip. There were only five people who worked at this pantry, and they were struggling to keep up with the need to give out food to the community, so when we told them that we could help, they were extremely excited. One of the women, Omi, was in charge of storing and packing food to give out, and a few others and I worked with her to pack food into bags. She told us that this would have taken her the whole week if she had to do it by herself, but we finished it in two hours. She could not contain her gratitude for us, and, like before, this made me feel like I’ve actually made an impact on someone’s life. I had never felt this way before. I learned that just half a day of volunteering to help someone can change their lives. I learned that not all of my efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated. Most importantly, I learned that I can make a difference, and I hope I can use this self transformation to continue to impact people in the future.
- Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.
This transformation will provide significant value to my life in many ways. First, I learned how to work in a team which is a beneficial skill to have for both my academic and professional careers. Being able to share and bond over our passions, dreams, and lives in a group will only make working together easier and more productive. I will feel comfortable sharing my own ideas and accepting the ideas of others. I also learned the importance of helping others. The caretakers of the Palatki Heritage Site would not have been able to do that trail work on their own. They would have had to wait until another group of 16 dedicated college students came along to volunteer, but it may have been years before that would happen.
Some people in this world can’t do certain things on their own; they need help from others. While I am young and able, I want to commit to helping others whether this is for my academic, personal, or professional career. I want to serve as a tutor and mentor for someone who needs help with school or with work. In my personal life, I want to continue to volunteer for people whenever I get the chance. I learned the importance of volunteering on this trip, and I will forever remember those smiles on the caretakers’ faces. I will do anything to see those smiles again from anyone I help.