“Men and Women for and with others,” is a familiar phrase for most Gonzaga students, but for Coutney Lee, this core Jesuit commitment is a way of life. Courtney, a senior Psychology major and Philosophy minor, is one of those students who has been involved in a little bit of everything: Reality Camp; as a participant, student leader, and core leader, two Mission:Possible trips , Campus Kitchens, Alexandria’s House, the Salvation Army, the Ignatian Family Teach In for Justice, and much more. For Courtney though, her involvement as a student coordinator for service immersions has given her the best gift of all: the passion to be with others. As a student coordinator, Courtney assists CCASL staff and student leaders in traveling and serving across the country and world.
When asked what service immersions have meant to her, Courtney draws on a story from her faith formation at Gonzaga: On Gonzaga University Ministry’s Cardoner Retreat, she participated in a foot washing ceremony, mirroring Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet in the Gospel of John. In the story, it is written that Jesus “removed his outer garments,” which Courtney feels is a perfect symbol for service immersions: “I believe service immersion to be the removing of your outer garment, your pre-conceptions. It is about being present, and being with, and meeting someone where they are.” Courtney also credits her faith for compelling her to care in uncomfortable ways. She recognizes that when she sees injustice, that it is not what God intended and that it is a reminder to her to always have faith. Incorporating her faith into service immersion has taught her that the only way to gain life is to give life and she has found it by living for others.
Courtney’s incredible commitment to service immersions landed her the ground breaking role as the first “Serve in South Africa” Student Coordinator. Courtney helps with planning, leads meetings, and works closely with the students who are preparing to travel to Cape Town, South Africa to serve, learn and immerse themselves in a new culture.
Courtney explains that although she loves leading with service immersions, it can be challenging. She says that the more you are leading, the easier it is to forget why you’re doing it.
“I’ve thrived most in being with people rather than leading. I don’t want to lead people, I want to empower them and it is life-giving to see other people want to empower others, too.”
Another challenging aspect of service immersion is the feeling of shame that is often present. She says that feeling shame often comes with being immersed and that you can’t grow unless you recognize it: “It is hard, but it is also the beautiful thing about being vulnerable and being with. When shame meets with empathy, it can be dissolved and peace can exist.”
As for the future of service immersions at CCASL, Courtney hopes that it will attract those who are not naturally leaders because these trips have the potential to bring that out of someone and help them to truly embrace what a Jesuit education has to offer. She also wants more integration with other programs so that students can recognize the more holistic acts of service. “I think you find yourself more when you recognize and embrace what you don’t know.”
For her contributions to CCASL, Gonzaga and Spokane, Courtney was awarded the Jason Walsh Legacy Award, one of the highest honors given by CCASL. After graduation, Courtney will be pursuing a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Theology in Seattle.
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