by Luke Heineman
Should you ever find yourself walking down the first floor hallway of Stokes North, there’s a fair chance that you’ll pass by the glass doors of the PULSE office. For those not acquainted with the PULSE program, those glass doors of the Stokes N125 office can seem out of place - confusing and, to those who are entering for the first time, intimidating.
As BC students begin the class selection process for next year, I strongly urge underclassmen to consider enrolling in the PULSE program. This year-long class fulfills both the Philosophy and Theology core, but it does not stop at the classroom. Founded in 1969, PULSE is a service-learning based program that requires 10-12 hours of community service a week, including commute time. The PULSE office assists students by partnering them up with one of the several placement sites connected with the program; PULSE works with over 50 partners throughout the greater Boston area that address a wide variety of needs and issues, from education to homelessness. Indeed, the uniqueness of the PULSE program derives from the connections students formulate between classroom material and the outside world they are exposed to.
I had never been enrolled in a class that encouraged me to develop a greater understanding on the purpose of life and what an ideal society should look like. Nor had I ever partaken in classroom discussion that seriously considered the question of what it means to be human. Taking PULSE changed all of that for me, but these questions were not answered in my class, and we were not expected to construct any infallible conclusions to questions like this. Instead, over the course of the year we were exposed not only to the works of the greatest thinkers of all time (Ranging from Aristotle to Aquinas and so many more), but also confronted with people and situations at our service sites that made us start to ponder potential answers to these questions.
My service experience with Tenacity, an after-school program located at a middle school in Dorchester, caused me to question just about everything I knew. Growing up in suburbia, I had never truly been exposed to social injustices. I did not fully fathom the flaws of inner city education systems. I could never possibly grasp the concept of racism intertwined with socioeconomic inequality. Through my service, new light was shed on these injustices. I was placed in a classroom in which I not only worked to assist inner-city students with their classwork, but I also discovered that I had an incredible amount to learn from them; one 6th grade girl provided me with Spanish lessons, while another boy offered me his thoughts on American slavery. My service experience became invaluable, and remained in the back of my mind as I served on PULSE council this year.
Sarah Romer MCAS ’16, a senior PULSE Council member, served at the New Victories program, which assists middle-aged men recovering from addiction. Romer's experience through her service allowed her to draw some conclusions about her understandings of society and herself; “I was really challenged to explore any biases that I hadn’t been able to brush off. I was able to explore the more naïve parts of myself and lose the sense of naivety is bliss and gain the burden of knowing about the reality of life.” These are lessons you simply cannot learn from books. Exposure to societal injustices is challenging, but rewarding. As Romer puts it; “One thing that’s interesting about the [PULSE] program is that it’s not easy. It will challenge everyone. It’s not something that you can coast through, but I think that’s the beauty of the process.”
The Bible tells us that shortly before his death Jesus went out of his way to wash the feet of his disciples, providing them with a model of service to follow (John 13:12-15). The PULSE program truly embodies the ideals of a Jesuit education as it provides opportunities to go out and perform this task of service to the members of our society who need it the most. For better or for worse, students’ lives are simply not the same afterwards. The best way to fight the hatred and intolerance we witness today may just be by serving others. Just as the glass doors of the PULSE office present a perplexing scene, service through PULSE presents a reality that both confounds and impassions students. The next time you walk by those glass doors, feel free to stop in with any questions or discover more at www.bc.edu/pulse.