Popping the "Govie Bubble:" CATS Day of Service Reflections
In a school as insular and fast-paced as SCGSAH, we students often experience the “Govie Bubble,” a sort-of disconnect from the outside world as a result of the close-knit community we call home. There’s a beauty to this bond — the subculture, inside jokes, and shared understandings — but such pleasantries can begin to feel claustrophobic if left unchecked. Thankfully, there are organizations on campus like CATS that keep Govies in touch with the outside world.
CATS (an acronym for “Connecting Arts Through Service”) is a club that provides students with opportunities to serve the greater Greenville community. Students meet once monthly for basic “housekeeping,” and are otherwise largely independent in their efforts. A weekly mailing list to members offers suggestions of ways to obtain service hours, such as ushering at the South Carolina Children’s Theater just a block away from our campus, but students are also encouraged to investigate programs that are especially meaningful to them. A special emphasis is placed upon activities that allow students to incorporate art into their contributions — such as assisting at the arts and crafts tent at an annual festival downtown, writing thank you cards to legislators for supporting the arts in SC, or musical storytelling with young students who visit our campus.
The culminating experience for CATS members is the annual “Day of Service,” where the club collectively selects multiple community organizations, and dedicates a morning to volunteer with them and learn about their work. For this year’s Day of Service, members helped at three local nonprofits. They then returned to campus for a group reflection and were tasked with demonstrating what they learned through an art form of their choice. Below you will find a few of those reflections and demonstrations.
Creative Writing junior Lex Liu wrote, “My group volunteered at Annie’s House by Sustaining Way, a house dedicated to sustainable farming and giving the surrounding community access to fresh produce. There were many tasks available, such as tilling the soil, building crop supports, cleaning up the planting fields, as well as weeding, which our group was responsible for.”
Lex’s group learned about the importance of underground-dwelling organisms, how to identify weeds vs. blossoming, native plants, and the ethics of interfering with natural processes. She and two other creative writers in her cohort at Annie’s House composed a poem in sections exploring different perspectives on weeding. It is as follows:
I pull plants from the ground, long limbs reaching for sunlight, only to be smothered by smaller brethren. My hands lift soil for creatures to crawl through, my breath brings life into limbs with impartiality. Cruel, sometimes, but not unjust, though man can not say the same. They rip roots from my arms, dictate where my creations are allowed to flourish, get mad when my fingers find their way through your perfectly kept bed. I am cruel, but not controlling of what I create. Man is kind, but believes they can control destruction, decide what survives.
You grow through the choice of who lives and dies. You, striving to succeed, to survive in an environment you have not adapted to, eject your limbs away from you in hopes of catching the sun on your fingertips. Standing at your highest peak in hopes of breathing in air not consumed by others. In hopes of rising above so many who wish to reach your heights. As your lord I apologize. I shouldn't condemn you to loss. While these smaller creatures prayed for your downfall, begging to drain your force of life. You shouldn't have to see them ripped away from the ground.
There is much moving within the reaches of the roots. The tunnelers are slick, smooth, or bearing shelled carapaces. Some will grow to depose their benefactors, but for now they lay dormant, reliant. They travel among the trails left by the fallen, whisper through the millennium grains of earth. The segmented bodies pale as sand, slipping through the ocean of soil do not discriminate in compassion. Even those who do nothing but take from the mother receive their blessing.
Spring exhales softly into the infinite rifts. The verdant takes a breath.
The Pickens County Humane Society hosted another unit of CATS members, who spent their mornings cleaning animal enclosures, laundering soiled blankets and towels, and playing with puppies! These efforts were a particularly poignant display of adaptability and commitment, as the plan was initially for SCGSAH to send volunteers to the Greenville County Animal Care, which is closer to campus, but CATS was forced to make a last minute change when the shelter was forced to quarantine due to an outbreak among their resident dogs.
Several of the students chose to demonstrate what they learned through a visual medium:
ReCraft, the first creative reuse center in South Carolina, allowed CATS students the opportunity to volunteer during the Day of Service as well. ReCraft collects donations from local businesses and households, and enlists helpers to sift through the materials for easy redistribution to “schools, festivals, makers, crafters, artists, students, and tourists from afar,” according the nonprofit’s website. Creative writing senior Grace Luebbe wrote a poem entitled “Salvage” upon completion of the Day Of Service:
We fail to value the beginnings
That misshapen, poorly painted pottery
that your child made,
Where did it come from?
Not the third grade art class,
Where did the clay come from?
Where did the acrylic paint come from?
More importantly, when the jar is half empty,
Where does it go?
You’d want to say,
“nowhere, until it is completely used.”
But we can be realistic
Nobody wants a glass half-full
when the full one costs nothing more than a dollar.
Gallons of paint thrown away every year,
Reds and blues and fushias and bisques
Mixing into a color
Nobody ever took the time to see.
It doesn’t have to be this way
Two half-full glasses make a full glass
Don’t throw out your half-reds and half-blues,
Discover purple, and continue to create.
The experiences of every CATS member varied, but on the whole, the Day of Service proved enriching and beneficial, both to the student volunteers and those they served. The South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities provides a creative haven for its students while simultaneously preparing them for what is to come. The “Govie Bubble” is routinely popped.
Creative Writing Junior