A Different Kind of Summer

Author: Gabe Tauro

I never really expected to sign myself away to eight weeks of summer service. I thought I was going to return to California this summer and simply relax on the beach with my friends. However, something drove me to seek more from my break. I wanted to do something that would extend beyond the needs of myself. It’s clear that my time at Notre Dame has truly changed my perspective on how I should budget my time, and I wholeheartedly believe it is for the better.

Notre Dame’s mission to educate the whole person is echoed with her focus on service and care for the marginalized and underprivileged. In accordance with the Five Pillars of Holy Cross, we are to have zeal leading as servants and offering our gifts for the good of all people. This is a very accessible feat for Notre Dame students given the bounty of service opportunities available on campus and in the greater South Bend/Mishawaka area.


By talking to a few upperclassmen in my dorm, I learned about the Summer Service Learning Program or SSLP. Each year, the Center for Social Concerns allows students to immerse themselves in eight weeks of service to the underprivileged. They offer a wide variety of locations to serve sponsored by 120 Notre Dame clubs across the United States. Activities range from helping out at homeless shelters to being a camp counselor at an overnight camp for the mentally disabled. The program allows for a massive amount of versatility with regards to what you want to do and will give you a travel stipend and scholarship in exchange for your service.

Because helping the mentally disabled makes up a big part of what I am passionate about, I have decided to volunteer my time at Camp Sharing Meadows, an overnight camp in Northwest Indiana. At this camp, I will be able to blend my love of caring for the developmentally delayed with my love of theatre. The camp holds a performance every two weeks with a cast composed entirely of its campers. It will make for a new and exciting journey in a place that I am completely unfamiliar with.

The application process was quite simple. After doing some digging online, I found the sites that I wanted to serve at the most. I filled out a short application and signed up for an interview. The interview took about an hour and really gave me the chance to interact with other like-minded students in a group setting, enhancing my view and perspective on others. After the interview, the Center decides whether or not you should move onto the next step. I received my acceptance message in my email and went on to be placed at a site. I signed a contract and messaged the Notre Dame Club of Northwest Indiana regarding my placement.

Through undergoing this service project, I simply hope to round myself out as a person. Oftentimes, I don’t take the time to enjoy the world and look at all the blessings I’ve been given. There are people out there desperately looking for help, and knowing that I have the ability to do something about it makes all the difference. Devoting eight weeks of my break to service is definitely a big commitment, but the stories and lessons I hope to gain are even bigger.