Why I Serve: Cullen Clougherty '19

It is difficult to find the words to accurately portray why I serve, and why it seems as if the rest of my life will be geared towards serving others. I have written this post five different times and have deleted every one of them because none properly explained my feelings about the Service & Solidarity program I am so lucky to be a part of, the places I have been, and the people I have met along this journey.

Cullen Clougherty '19I have been fortunate to participate on two trips to Detroit, and South Dakota; and lead two others to New Orleans and Kentucky. I could write a hundred pages about how each trip affected me and shaped me, and how they were all unique in their own way.

Each place and each person I have met has touched my soul in ways that I did not think were possible. I saw the importance of helping those who may need a hand, or were dealt a difficult hand in life. On each trip, I was also overwhelmed by the importance of the other aspect of our program, solidarity.

The way that I explain solidarity to others is helping your brothers and sisters who may need a hand in a time of need. When this definition was told to me, the person said that all of the seven billion-plus people on this planet are all our brothers and sisters, and we should look out for them, no matter what. This is what our service trips do, and why they are unique. We both serve those in need while simultaneously standing in solidarity with them and getting to them as our own kin.

During my sophomore year, I was added last minute to the SBA South Dakota trip which would travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and work with the Oglala Lakota people and an organization named Re-Member. I had no idea what to expect when I boarded our plane from Boston to Rapid City, South Dakota, and what transpired that week has forever changed me.

The Re-Member program was different than any other trip that I had previously participated on, as it was essentially half service and half cultural immersion. We spent three days in various reservation communities working on construction projects. The other days of our week were dedicated to learning about the history of the Lakota people, and the toll that government oppression has taken over hundreds of years. Hearing the first-hand stories from natives, and the daily struggles they face in one of the poorest counties in America rocked me to my core, and made me angry at the injustice that had, and continues to occur.

After experiencing many different struggles and issues on the trips that I have been a part of, and countless examples of service and solidarity, I finally found a piece of what I was looking for. On the third day of our SBA South Dakota trip, I told the director of Re-Member that I wanted to come back over the summer to work for a few weeks. I am not a religious person, but I felt that there was a higher power calling me to do so. I knew that I needed to come back to the “rez” because it was where I belonged for the time being. This feeling was a culmination of everything that I have seen and learned along my journey these past three years on my service trips, during leader training, and from my brothers and sisters around me.

I don't have the words to describe why I decided to spend last summer, and will return again this summer to work on the rez as a construction manager at Re-Member, or why I plan to move out there for the foreseeable future after graduation. I struggle to explain to my friends and family why I give up my winter and spring breaks for these experiences, returning to school early to help lead my peers, and to serve and stand with our brothers and sisters in their times of need.

But I know that it is what I am being called to do.

Someone once told me, “No expectations, just possibilities.” To me there is no better quote to describe the Service & Solidarity Program here at Saint Anselm, because there are no expectations of what your experience will be while on a trip. There are just endless possibilities.