Learning to Listen

by Marisa Kohut, Student & Volunteer Group Facilitator

I started participating in Open Circle in September 2017, when I decided to break out of the engineering/grad student bubble and learn more about myself.  Open Circle has given me a positive space to learn how to listen at a greater depth, allowing me to find and be my best self.

My first time engaging with Open Circle was through the Becoming Yourself series.  This series taught me to listen to my inner life and how to use my inner self to guide me in my day to day life.  During this course, I noticed Marybeth's ability to listen and create a comfortable space for growth to occur.  One moment in particular that has shaped me this past year is when she asked us "how would you speak to your friends during difficult times" and then she asked, "how do you speak to yourself in difficult times?" Comparing my responses to both of these questions allowed me to notice how I need to be kinder to myself and I have since aimed to talk to myself like I would to my friends.

I was intrigued with what I learned from this experience and decided to continue learning from Jeff in the Personal Discovery Course, where he also demonstrated careful listening skills.  I truly enjoyed being a part of these courses as they have helped me discover my values and lead a life that abides by them.

Students sign up for weekly volunteer groups at our Volunteer fair.  Each year, more than 300 students give 10,000 hours serving at afterschool and nutrition programs for children and youth, shelters, and homes for adults with disability

Last fall I joined a weekly volunteer group with Open Circle.  I serve the community by mentoring high school students at Pathway to Education.  Now, as a facilitator for a weekly volunteer group, I regularly attend leadership training emetings where I have been able to grow my experience from listening to myself to listening to others.  This has contributed to the sense of community I feel when being around my fellow volunteers and with the youth at Pathways to Education.  When working with the students, I carefully listen to their concerns and difficulties and provide them with support accordingly.  By attending weekly, I have been able to develop meaningful connections with them.  My contribution to the community is noticeable as students walk into the tutoring center and are excited to share their accomplishments with me or are looking for me to assist them to tackle a problem.  Each week after the youth leave, I facilitate a reflection activity with our group of volunteers, and that has provided me with the space to recognize and appreciate the contribution we are making in the community.

Thanks for Open Circle, I now treat myself with more kindness, have more meaningful connections with everyone in my life, and I am inspired to continue having an impact on my community.  Moving forward, I believe the ability to listen will continue to support me on life's journey and be the foundation of my successin my career.