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A Transformative Passion

Teaching English as a second language: a Spring Hill College senior shares her life-changing story.

What does it mean to teach English to students from China, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Mexico?

For Cecilia Von Mann, a Spring Hill College senior, her dedication to this kind of teaching through the College's Foley Center has meant living out her passion for service and justice. It was this focus through the Center that drew her to Spring Hill and started her journey as a champion for its work. "Spring Hill students serve the Mobile community in every aspect, and it makes us into the leaders dedicated to service that Spring Hill sets out for us to be," said Von Mann.

Spring Hill College's Albert S. Foley, SJ Community Service Center, led by Erik Goldschmidt, PhD, coordinates the service work of more than 400 Spring Hill College students through partnerships with nearly 50 nonprofit organizations to provide 27,000 + service hours each year. Students work with healthcare providers, special needs organizations, elderly care facilities, education programs for both children and adults and many other programs that provide for the needs of the underserved and marginalized in the Mobile community.

"I think the Foley Center is one of the essential parts at Spring Hill. I believe that the Center is living out the college's mission and commitment to service and justice,” commented Von Mann.

Her continuing commitment to the Center shaped her College experience in ways she never thought possible.

"I know that I have grown through the Foley Center and I believe that all those involved have the opportunity to better and more fully understand the world around us."

It's an experience that, for her, went beyond the classroom. She's formed valuable friendships with her students over the years that not only helped her teach them based on understanding their unique needs but also created special, lasting bonds. "In fact, I have two students who have become best friends, one from China and the other Venezuela, who can only use this common language to speak with one another, and I am really happy that I can help provide the tools to make relationships like these happen," Von Mann explained. "Whether it be through texting them or taking them out to dinner, I am truly able to call them my friends and not just my students." The experience also led her to launch a first-ever social media campaign for the Center to help boost retention and increase awareness of the program. "I wanted to help break down the barriers between the teachers and students as well as inform the community about the great program we have," she explained. "The page was a combination of informational and personal that included testimonies from several of my students discussing why they wanted to learn English and what the program means to them."

With less than 100 days until graduation, Von Mann shared that her experience with the Foley Center has blossomed into an enduring passion for service. "I know that after I leave this beautiful campus, I will continue to dedicate my life to giving back to others. I have learned that people are more similar than they are different."

Within the Foley Center are a wealth of unique stories and experiences like Von Mann's. Visit the website to read, share and appreciate the efforts and exceptional work of the students, faculty and staff that define this 27-year-old Spring Hill College center for mission and transformative service. 


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