First Day of School


by Tiara Johnson  

The morning of September 21st was reminiscent of the first day of school. As a fresh group of 30 First Years trickled through the ERTHQ doors, we sat anxiously at the tables having the same conversation over and over again… Where are you from? What did you do before this? Why did you join the program? Kathleen proceeded to break up the day’s presentations with “1 Minute Stories” – an elevator pitch of sorts where we attempted to describe ourselves under the heat of the clock.

By the end of the week, I was able to rattle off everyone’s name, where they lived, and where they came from. At that point I knew we had a diverse crew hailing from East Coast to West Coast and even abroad coming to St. Louis, some from fresh out of high school and others years on the job. Some came for career prospects; others came for a new adventure. All these new facts about my team members intrigued me. However, I realized that I did not really know that much about everyone… I knew just the tip of the iceberg.

It wasn’t until Montana that it all got real... Once we got on the road , everyone set down their guards and slowly shared themselves. We got to know the real side of each other through intellectual conversations about everything from renewable energy, human rights, religion, and politics on the 3-day car ride to yelling Irish Gigs at the top of our lungs as we attempted to beat sunset on the trail to talks about alien life and bears by the campfire. My teammates also taught me new things. In the first week I learned how to identify trees, how to use martial art moves to take down an opponent with just a handshake, and more about hidden values of Buddhism. Perhaps the most memorable (due to frequency) were my numerous conversations about poop.

After just one week in such close proximity, it became clearly evident that we will get to know more about each other over the next 10 months than I know about some of my dear friends. We will serve together, cry together, and most importantly laugh together.


Photo by Tiara Johnson