AmericCorps volunteer Tanner Emerson Shares work at Dubuque’s Lantern Center

Tanner Emerson, an AmeriCorps student volunteer, shares her experiences and gratitude for working at the Presentation Lantern Center. Her reflection is true example of how Presentation Sisters are spreading the legacy of Nano through the many relationships and partnerships they build. The impact and transformation one receives is immeasurable.

Hello, Presentation Community! My name is Tanner Emerson and I have had the honor of serving at the Presentation Lantern Center as an AmeriCorps student volunteer since February. I have had the opportunity to work as the interim hospitality and scheduling coordinator, meet weekly with a consistent student match, fill in as a substitute tutor and develop relationships with all students and tutors the center welcomes.

At the Lantern Center, I have been able to witness and participate in daily advocacy for immigrant inclusion. On a community level, I have joined Sarah Gieseke in attending local speakers and organizational meetings and, on an individual level, I have had the humbling experience of being a regular English tutor with one of the many students the center serves. Sociology is my major at Loras – I am interested in “big picture” issues overarching peoples from coast to coast and across borders, but I am naturally a listener and I crave meaningful interpersonal relationships. The Lantern Center has allowed for me to grow in each realm.

Both my mom and my sister are rock star advocates for education. My sister teaches eighth grade reading and my mom serves students in all grades as a paraprofessional in the same elementary school I once attended. However, I never have thought of myself as a teacher until having experienced being a tutor at the Lantern Center. I will never forget when my student match said to me, “You are a very good teacher!” only after our first lesson together. She didn’t know I feel most loved through words of affirmation and that her simple statement gave me so much comfort. Every lesson we meet, she continues to affirm me – I am so grateful.

At the center, I have learned what it means to embody Thomas Merton’s words, “no man is an island.” Nationality, borders, language and lawful status all seem so abstract when placed next to our common humanity. We are united with our Creator; therefore, we are united with one another. It is as simple as that.

As a senior in college, I have grown somewhat numb to it being a year of “lasts.” There comes a point when you just become ready for the next thing. That being said, as I am now completing my final hours with the Lantern Center, I am quite saddened to be parting ways. The Lantern Center provides hospitality to those who are new to the Dubuque community and the United States, but I, too, have been a recipient of this profound hospitality that Sarah Gieseke, the volunteers and the students all exude. It has been a great blessing to be welcomed into this very special community that I now find myself deeply immersed in. I would not trade my sadness in leaving for the ways in which my heart has grown because I have had the gift of spending so much time here.

I now have a serious interest in responding to the needs of newcomers to the United States and a passion for listening to their stories. I hope that, no matter what my next formal position might be, wherever I am, I am able to help contribute to an atmosphere of hospitality and intentionality as the students, tutors and Sarah have taught me and welcomed me with.

Sincerely Tanner Emerson