Laminating with a BA: Learning How to Make a Life in Brethren Volunteer Service

By Sarah Seibert

Photo by Sarah Seibert
Sarah Seibert’s favorite view as she heads to work at her Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) project in Roanoke, Va.

It was Thursday morning, four days into my first week at Highland Park Elementary School, and I was sitting on the floor in the office cutting out still more newly laminated classroom decorations for the teachers. The principal turned to me and said, “After you’re done with that, I have a terribly mundane and tedious job for you.”

I glanced down at my current project, uncertain he understood the monotony I was already facing. However, he must have known because he followed up his first comment with, “Not that what you’re doing now is exactly putting your college degree to work.”

His comment is worth considering. Am I using my college degree right now? Not just while laminating but more generally at this BVS project.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Seibert

I am Chief Laminator at Highland Park. I’m also on Walker duty (opening the door in the morning for students who walked to school and releasing them to their parents after dismissal) and help in Second Grade with crowd control, assignment clarifications and bathroom escorts. I theoretically coordinate the Pack-A-Snack program too but the churches and school guidance counselor know much more about it than I do. Not directly part of my job but relevant to it is my attendance at many church meetings, Bible studies, and functions throughout the week.

I graduated with a bachelor of arts in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Biblical Languages from Gordon College. Not much obvious overlap. So am I using my degree? Not if you define using as taking what I’ve learned in my classes over the past four years and building on it by further study or passing it on by teaching it to others. I don’t speak up much at the Bible studies. I haven’t read my Hebrew Bible lately, opened a commentary, or even followed a biblical studies blogger. I haven’t been able to apply what I know of Greek tenses or the geography of Israel to my work in or out of the classroom thus far, and don’t anticipate opportunities to do so in the near future.

However, as I prepared to enter college someone told me, “College is not about learning how to make a living but how to make a life.” I have been educated at a Christian Liberal Arts residential college and not everything I have learned at that place shows up on my transcript. At college, I honed my critical thinking skills, my reading and writing abilities, and my communication skills. I practiced being disciplined and diligent. I planned and organized events and review sessions.

I also had my horizons expanded and began to care about sustainability, the marginalized of society, and building bridges across racial lines. My definition of success as the prevailing culture sees it was challenged and refined. Through all of this, I wrestled with what God calls the church, and calls me as an individual, to do in response to these things.

In that light, this volunteer position at an urban school sponsored by a church that wants to be involved in its community seems to be the natural outgrowth of my college training.

Perhaps rather than me putting my degree to work, my degree has put me to work in this place for the next season of my life.

— Sarah Seibert is serving in Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS) at Highland Park Elementary School in Roanoke, Va., a position sponsored by Central Church of the Brethren in Roanoke.

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