A friend of mine told me she operates with the mindset that “service is the rent we pay for living.” I love this idea. For me, service is not individual events, volunteer opportunities, or something to add to a resume. Instead, service is my duty to my human family. It is all I have to offer of myself in exchange for the wonder and amazement of the universe I share with others. I find that more often than helping others or being an agent for change, service is an avenue for me to know myself deeper, to understand my connection to others and to learn.
As an undergraduate at USD, I volunteered through the CSL/CASA office as a tutor at Carson Elementary. In this role, I was able to sit and read with children, have my Spanish critiqued and bettered with the honest input of these children, and develop a passion for working in schools. I also traveled to Thailand with several other students to live with the Lahu tribe of Northern Thailand, help build a community rice bank and provide funds to keep a Burmese children’s refugee center running. For the first time, I was able to serve my community on an international scale. This opened the door for me to continue to seek out service opportunities as part of my love for travel, which transformed into working with orphans in Guadalajara, tutoring students in Madrid and being mindful of my impact as a global citizen.
After graduation, I joined Teach For America and taught high school in New Orleans. I had no idea that this “job” would turn into the greatest opportunity to be of service to my community. I quickly learned that being a teacher also means being a therapist, a coach, a parent figure, a mentor, a friend and so much more. The disparity in public education in our country is the social issue that I am most passionate about addressing. Through service to my community I have learned how I can address this issue — as a teacher. Somewhere between lesson planning, attending court as an advocate for my students, breaking up fights and requiring my students to sit down and dialogue in peace circles, and living the demands of being a single parent, my purpose in living became clear: I exist to be of service to others in making their existence as peaceful and mindful as possible.
Leaving New Orleans to return to San Diego was a difficult decision, but I know that the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies is where I can learn to apply my passion for peacebuilding though education. Service has lead me to this path and I am able to continue serving my community (“paying rent”) with CASA. Advising undergraduates in their service work and helping to run an after school tutoring program are helping me to stay grounded in service and world of education.
– Natalie Zanzucchi ‘07, ‘12 MA Peace and Justice Studies candidate
Natalie’s essay was submitted in response to the USD Torero Store’s National Student Day essay contest, which asked students to describe their social responsibility. Photos by Nick Abadilla.