Service at Princeton

November 8, 2017
Peyton Lawrenz

Princeton's informal motto is "Princeton in the Nation's Service and the Service of Humanity." Revised last year to unite part of former President Woodrow Wilson’s “In the Nation’s Service” speech given on the 150th anniversary of the University with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s (Class of 1976) call in her 2014 Alumni Day speech for the University to expand its commitment to include all of “humanity,” the motto reflects the University’s dedication to service. Though "informal," I have always felt that this motto imbues Princeton students with a particular understanding of the duties that we collectively bear to commune amongst each other, sharing our knowledge dedicating our time and energy to our peers and communities. The language and values surrounding this commitment pervade student culture and student attitudes, promoting a culture of dedication to others. 
At Princeton, some of my most valuable experiences have manifested through my engagement with different forms of service. 
For the past two years I have volunteered as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor with a Student Volunteers Council group, El Centro, which runs through the Pace Center for Civic Engagement. Although many of the students are immigrants who have come from diverse cultures and countries, they are all united in their passionate drive and desire to become a part of their communities; to find ways to communicate across intolerance and insensitivity; and to improve their access to opportunities in this country. This kind of service keeps me grounded. It reminds me to dedicate my energy to others and it affords me with perspective.
Serving a community outside of my own provides me with the space to reflect on the privileges we are afforded as students and reminds me to constantly check and question the way I am prioritizing my time and energy. However, service manifests in multiple forms. Service is the act of giving and of dedicating your time, energy, values and knowledge to others, and these acts, too, can provide important value within our campus community. 
Student leaders include Residential College Advisers (RCAs) and Assistant Residential College Advisers (ARCAs), Outdoor Action leaders and Community Action leaders; peer leaders across campus include Sexual Harassment/Assault Advising, Resources & Education (SHARE) Peers, Peer Health Advisors (PHAs), LGBTQIA Peer Educators, Carl Fields Center Fellows, Peer Academic Advisors (PAAs), and many others; student group leaders, and student government officers dedicate their time and energy to the Princeton community in equally meaningful ways. As an RCA and a leader in several student groups, I have found great value in providing guidance to younger students and working to model community values.
Service, in all its forms, has been a formative part of my Princeton experience, and I have found great value in the various roles that I play on campus, contributing to the Princeton community and to my peers. 
Princeton’s informal motto informs each choice that I make as a member of this campus. These choices reflect values, and in each choice and each decision I make, I either reinforce those values or diminish them.