An update from Essette, who earned a degree in human rights in May:

Living in the Service House has helped reinforce my commitment to community service because I’m constantly surrounded by people who have a drive to help others. When you are with people who desire to impact the world, it inspires your own dreams of making a difference, even in the smallest of ways. I’ve loved hearing about all of my housemates’ experiences; their passion for service is both moving and admirable.

During the spring 2013 semester, I spent a lot of time volunteering at a Dallas nursing home. While I initially assumed that this would not be the most exciting of services, after the first day I knew my initial judgments could not have been further from the truth. There are few things that have allowed me to appreciate the value of life, and its simplest of moments, than the conversations I’ve had with the nursing home residents. Many of the people suffer with Alzheimer’s, and watching the deterioration of their conditions has been both heartbreaking and enlightening. Through my experience I’ve learned that no matter how old a person is, everybody wants to feel as though they matter. To be noticed, heard, and understood are some of the most basic of human yearnings.

Watching the residents’ joy because someone is taking time out of their day to pay attention to them has taught me a lot about the value of service in all its forms. As I walk into the residents’ rooms and gaze at pictures from their youth, I feel as if I’m experiencing some of the most intimate moments of their past; life looked so different back then. But no matter what fashions and technologies come and go, the general human experience – the love stories, families, and friends – all look the same. The lessons I’ve learned from my time at the nursing home have been priceless; they’ve made me realize that service will always be an important part of my life.