Bridge Service and Learning with Service Focus

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Students perform a healthy home assessment with staff from Isles, Inc. in Trenton, NJ as part of a course with the Community-Based Learning Initiative.

The biggest gift I’ve received from Service Focus is the ability to rethink the way I “do Princeton” and the way I do what I love. Alongside more than 70 of my classmates, I have been able to chart my own path to connect service and learning here at the University.

For me, Service Focus began over the summer working with The New Food Economy—a non-profit publication based in New York City that explores “the forces shaping how and what we eat.” This was an eye-opening experience for me. Not only was it my first internship, but it also helped me witness how journalism could be a form of social justice. As a budding journalist myself with a dream of one day pursuing writing as a profession, I was excited to see how my summer would influence my life at Princeton.

Back on campus as a sophomore, I became part of the Service Focus Food Justice Cohort. Under the guidance of Professor Tessa Desmond, I’ve been able to engage with food in ways that have guided my academic, career-related, and personal paths in unexpected ways.

It was on a Service Focus field trip we took to Carversville Farm where I learned about the Pennsylvania-based Haitian chef Altenor Vaval, who I ended up profiling for The New Food Economy’s series on immigrants working in food. It was through Tessa’s class—American Agrarians—that I learned about agrarianism outside of, but very close to campus (also known as the “orange bubble”), and the importance of thinking and living locally for the sake of our health and our spiritual well-being. I not only got to hold chickens and eat delicious homemade yogurt and bread, but I also got to read some of the greatest agrarian thinkers with people who inspire me to live life a little more slowly in the otherwise hectic environment Princeton can be.

Every day I try to practice slowness in my writing and living, and I can happily say that through Service Focus I was able to pursue various food-related writing projects over the course of the year. I’ve also learned not to take food for granted, and know the importance of great minds—like those of the peers and professors around you—in shaping the kind of path you want to take here at Princeton. I’ll always be grateful for that.

Service Focus is a collaboration of the Office of the Dean of the College, the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, and the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Follow #ServiceFocus on social media or visit focus.princeton.edu to learn more.

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Jimin Kang '21