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Melissa Johansen's Grand Prize Winning Reflective Essay

Melissa Johansen was awarded $250 for this essay reflecting on her Celebration of Learning experience.

My Spanish Senior Inquiry project gave me the opportunity to investigate the lack of mental health services for Latinos in the U.S., but in the process I learned quite a bit about myself.  This project has truly been one of the experiences that tied together many of my college experiences.  Throughout the process of this project, I know that I gained some new skills, but for me it was far more significant that I was able to use, refine, and practice skills that I already had but did not fully realize that I had.  Essentially, working on this project proved to me that I have indeed learned a great deal over the past four years at Augustana.  Completion of this project made me confident that I have skills in researching effectively, analyzing what I read, formulating arguments, and writing clearly.  I also had the opportunity to further develop my reading and writing skills in Spanish.  Most importantly, this project gave me the reassurance that I have the ability to apply these skills I have in a practical manner in a real world situation beyond the classroom.  I have the knowledge and capability needed to take what I learned in one context and utilize it in a different context.  Finally, the long process of this project and the sometimes seemingly impossible task of tying everything together taught me the characteristic of perseverance.  Although there were many frustrating moments, nothing worth doing will be easy, and in the end perseverance led to the rewarding satisfaction of a finished project.    

Through this project, I was able to explore a number of my interests in more depth.  The open ended nature of the Spanish Senior Inquiry project allowed me to choose a topic that tied together many of my interests including religion, psychology, Latinos, and human rights.  While I find each of these interesting individually, finding and making connections between these areas fascinated me.  My liberal arts education has helped me to realize the importance of making connections between issues, and this project has especially demonstrated that practically everything is interconnected in some way.  I always appreciate the opportunity to further study the ways in which the world is connected, and examining these issues from different perspectives allowed for a deeper more meaningful understanding. 

There is certainly a potential for my project to have a positive impact on the community if it were to reach a larger audience beyond Augustana.  I do acknowledge that the proposal in my project will not solve the lack of mental health services for Latinos in the U.S., but it is one option that could help us take a step in the right direction.  If my project reached a larger community, it would at the very least help increase awareness about the issue.  Hopefully my project could serve as a starting point for further research and discussion on the issue which would eventually lead to the implementation of some sort of program to improve the mental health services offered to Latinos.

While this project did not provide me with any clear answers on what exactly I am called to do, it certainly helped strengthen my sense of who I am called to be.  I am a person who deeply cares about the well being of all people and therefore I am concerned about injustices that exist in the world.  This project gave me the opportunity to investigate one injustice with the intention to more completely understand the issue, discern possible solutions, and present the information I found in a manner that would allow other people to learn about the issue and what action could be taken.  Through the research and writing of this project, my continual passion for the subject intensified my recognition that I am meant to be a person that works for social justice for those people who may not have a voice.  I probably will not directly deal with the injustice I addressed in my project, but it is clear to me that I need to be a person who is concerned with ways in which political and social systems create injustices, and I will without doubt continue to address social injustices.  No matter where my life goes from here, I will always remember this project and how it influenced my sense of the skills and passions I have and how I am meant to use these skills and passions.