By Marley Dubrow
I joined the Nashman Center my second year at GW, and I’ll be honest; part of me was really just hoping that Obama would show up to one of our days of service. While I have yet to meet and befriend Barack or Michelle, my time at the Nashman Center has been anything but wasted. Over the past year, my beliefs have been tested, my reality reshaped, and my values strengthened. More importantly than organizing or resume building, I’ve been gifted every day with the opportunity to meet and talk with a multitude of intelligent, kind, and curious people who are all impassioned, all driven, but not all equal. I have never been included in so many sensitive, and at times uncomfortable, conversations in my life. Previously, I had been observant and communicative, but also complacent. The Nashman Center and the people it attracts have pushed me to think from different perspectives and explore opinions that I had never considered. I would construct a reality for a life I never lived in the hopes that I could better understand the hardships of my peers. I have and continue to recognize the flaws in my own thinking, and I am indebted to the Nashman community for giving me the space to grow.
Working at the Nashman Center brought to light resources to engage with problems that sat in my periphery, particularly the question of poverty and inequity in D.C. Coming to the capital, and the Foggy Bottom area particularly, the disassociation between what I saw and what I thought I knew had never been so pronounced. To this day, the most striking image to me is the walk up E Street. To one side, Elliott School stands filled with promising, bright students looking to tackle global issues – “global citizen” is a phrase often heard throughout its halls. However, in that romanticizing of foreign affairs, we at times overlook the benches just across the street filled with individuals cocooned in blankets, surrounded by bags holdings their life’s belongings. It is a scene of inequality that has come to define the E Street landscape. That walk is, for me, the most unsettling image about GW. But the Nashman Center offers solace in the wake of these dichotomous images around campus and in the greater D.C. area. They recognize the hardships of the community and find avenues for students and their service to have direct impacts. Whether it be our annual Days of Service or our year-long service opportunities like EngageDC and Jumpstart, our office supports programs that not only benefit the community but that teach and promote a lifelong commitment to service.
Most importantly, I have learned that lasting change occurs in increments. I may not have all the solutions, but I am starting to ask the right questions. I am increasingly perceptive to my environment, and I am more inclined and prepared to take action. It’s about finding the voices in a room or on a campus and recognizing pockets of silence as more than empty space. It’s about finding your own voice and knowing that it matters; that your ideas, opinions, and experiences all hold value. Perhaps not on a global scale as most GW students strive for, but on a personal scale. They should matter because they matter to you. They shape your world and in doing so have a direct impact on the world around you. I have learned to trust my voice, my instinct, and take criticisms as opportunities for self-improvement. Offices like the Nashman Center give rise to addressing the inequalities that still persist in our country and certainly in D.C. Service isn’t a question of time, resources or belief, but instead a question of calling on the social consciousness that we all exist in. Service is personal, it creates community, and it is one of the most fulfilling acts you can take part in.
This is what my time at the Nashman Center has taught me. I plan to continue my work with the office, and I hope that others may read this and join me.