Student learns about giving back during service learning experience in Houston, Texas

By Journalism I student Emily Zhang

“It was really hot, like, it was outrageously hot,” said junior Jessie Goldberg when describing her week-long service learning trip from the past summer.

She had spent a week in Houston’s 90-degree weather with sweat pouring down her back as she was taking nails out of walls, installing insulation and chopping cucumbers for the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Service learning in Houston, Texas, was very rewarding for Goldberg. Not only did she accomplish much for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, she was also able to connect deeper with her Jewish religion.

A conversation with Goldberg reveals that she was able to participate in the service learning trip through the Wexner Service Corps – an organization that focuses on developing leaders in the Jewish community – which she joined this year.

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Goldberg said, “My sister was a part of it last year, and she learned [about] it because my aunt’s niece is one of the people who are very involved with this organization.”

During our conversation, Goldberg recalls that a friend, who is also very involved with the organization, had excitedly announced that they were going to Houston on a private jet. Goldberg commented that it was nice to be on a private jet due to the lack of having to wait in line for security.

When her service group first arrived, they were informed on what the situation for the people in Houston was like. The people in Houston didn’t have a weeks notice, or even a days notice on how much rain they were going to get; they had about an hour.

The first organization the service group helped with was “Undies for Everyone,” a nonprofit organization.

Goldberg said that people always say to donate toys, but, “Undies for Everyone” saw the need for kids impacted by the hurricane to have underwear. Her group worked with the organization and packed underwear.

The service group then went to two locations to rebuild homes from scratch.

Goldberg said, “We were taking nails out of walls, and putting in insolation and stuff like that and we were sweating buckets, but it felt really good [to be making a big impact].”

On the last day of the trip, Goldberg and her service group helped out at “Houston FoodBank,” one of the largest food banks in America, and provided a total of 19,211 meals.

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As our interview winds down, Goldberg notes that the service learning trip to Houston was quite an accomplishment for her, but she got more out of the experience than just a sense of giving back.

Before this trip, she said, “The only thing that connected [her] to Judaism before going on this trip was going to synagogue, and going to Hebrew School.”

Each night, Goldberg would return to the hotel the group stayed at and had breakout sessions.

“We basically talked about our day and there were things from the Torah that we would do,” said Goldberg. “We mostly talked about how what we did related to Judaism.”

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Goldberg also mentioned during the interview that before going on the service learning trip, she didn’t have many Jewish friends, but she came back with some of her best friends.

In her service group, she knew some of the people from Hebrew School, but throughout the trip, she has been able to “Make new friends that [she] wouldn’t have meet otherwise.”

Goldberg’s experience in Houston is one she looks back on with pride. From connecting deeper with her religion and making new friends, to constructing houses and preparing meals, she has set the bar high on her bucket list. And because the Wexner Service Corps is a year-long organization, Goldberg will continue to help out various organizations throughout the year.