Jessa Smith


“I never thought I would sign myself up for Canton when I was a freshman and sophomore. However, I know people who went in past years and got a lot out of the experience. When a few friends told me they wanted to sign up, I decided to sign up as well because I have been involved in ASTRA and developed a passion for service my freshman year. I knew I would not have the opportunity to do something like this in the future because it is so unique.   I really wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, and it was nice to do it with my peers who are in the same position as me. The support of my classmates was really nice to have, and it was so cool to experience the same things together.
The days of service working with those less fortunate put my problems into perspective and developed deeper compassion for those in need. Students are easily caught up in day-to-day life at Notre Dame. We always worry about school, sports, friends, upcoming dances, etc., but this trip completely separated me from all of those worries. Each day brought a new experience. I worked in the garden and also did construction at a woman’s house. People who lived in rough conditions and had very little were still so positive, and it was so inspirational to connect with these people and hear their stories. It made me realize how important it is to serve others and stop to see to what other people are going through. It’s easy to get preoccupied with our own lives in high school, but this trip helped me to keep my problems in perspective.

Doing service with my classmates was not only rewarding but also really special as we experienced self-growth together. During the trip we did a lot more than service. For two days we drove to Canton, we worked for three days, and drove another two days to return home. Throughout this trip we spent a lot of time learning more about each other and seeing all that Canton has to offer. We found beauty all around us and made every situation fun. Whether it was another one of Ben Lelinski’s jokes or Mr. Kriegl’s outbursts, it always seemed to be just what we needed at the time.
I went into the trip without high expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised. Canton is a really beautiful place with so many kind people. I left feeling inspired because it was amazing to see my friends thrive doing service they are truly passionate about. By going through this together, we formed bonds and made memories that I will never forget.”