JCU ALUMNI REFLECTIONS ON POST-GRADUATE SERVICE

KRISTEN O’HARE                                                                               Volunteer Program: Jesuit Volunteer Corps
Location: San Francisco, CA
What type of work did you do in your volunteer position?
Assistant Director of the Computer Training Center at San Francisco Network Ministries. I teach basic-level computer classes to low-income adults. Many of them are from the surrounding neighborhood, called the Tenderloin, which is one of the poorest areas in San Francisco. Some of the students are homeless. Some have struggled with drug and/or alcohol addictions in the past. I also staff drop-in hours, when anyone from the area can come in to use our computers. I also help with the Kids program. We have an after school program for kids in the area to help them with their homework and let them use computers. I mostly work with the Computer Training Center, but San Francisco Network Ministries does many other things as a nonprofit organization. They run a safe house for women leaving prostitution, hold memorial services for homeless people in the area that have died, offer a listening post with volunteer ministers at the local SROs, preach at various churches in the city and advocate politically for the poor and oppressed.
How did the experience change you?
I have been here only a short time (since the beginning of August), but I already can see how much of a positive impact my organization has on those that come into contact with it. I have seen the extreme poverty and homelessness that is part of urban life in a large city. Some of the people that use our services have health, mental health or addiction problems. But a lot of them are just like anyone else, except somewhere along the way though their life took a bad turn. A small amount of patience can go a long way and make such a difference in a person’s life.
What advice would you give to a JCU student considering post-graduate service?
Completing a year of service after graduation is one of the best decisions that you can make. Do not worry about being nervous or scared because it is only with taking that risk that you will get to experience something great. Also, one or two years is such a short amount of time – you have the rest of your life to work!
 
PETER RANGE                                                                                   Volunteer Program: Humility of Mary Volunteers
Location: Immokalee, FL
What type of work did you do in your volunteer position?
I chose to work for Habitat for Humanity building homes for those who otherwise wouldn’t have one. I also worked for Catholic Charities (Guadalupe Social Services) as a case worker helping people meet their emergency needs from food to help with rent. And finally, I worked at Guadalupe After School Program at Pinecrest Elementary as a first grade teacher. My second year with Humility of Mary, I was the Christian Service Coordinator at St. Martin de Porres High School in inner city Cleveland, Ohio. St. Martin’s is an innovative school which gives inner city children the chance to receive a private education they otherwise wouldn’t have had thanks to a work-study program. The students gain professional experience by working one day a week downtown and by so doing also pay for the majority of their education.
How did the experience change you?
The experience brought me closer to the poor, and by so doing closer to Christ. Ironically enough, however, the experience also brought me closer to family, friends, and the gifts of God which are all around us in our daily lives. When you work in solidarity with those who possess, material speaking, much less you are granted the gift of knowing just how blessed you are and how crucial it is not to disregard the gifts you have been given, be it money, talents, or otherwise, but how crucial it is to use these gifts for the betterment of others.
What advice would you give to a JCU student considering post-graduate service?
Just Do it. Well, first pray, and then just do it. It’s not easy to figure out where we are supposed to be or what exactly our mission in this life is – and my brothers and sisters we do have a mission – but one thing will be certain if you decide to serve: you will not be taking a year of your life away, you will be given a year of joy, pain, sorrow, triumph, and peace. And these gifts will bring you to an appreciation of life so seamless that not only will the meaning of joy be discovered, but sorrow as well – which are both tremendous gifts.
 
ERIN GREGORY                                                                                 Volunteer Program: Lalanne
Location: Cleveland, OH
What type of work did you do in your volunteer position?
I teach in an inner-city Catholic school.
How did the experience change you?
At first I was disappointed about being placed back in Cleveland because orginally I wanted to explore a new city, but I have learned that our own city has a lot of people who could benefit from service. I have learned how to see the face of Christ in others and have enjoyed living in a faith- based community.
What advice would you give to a JCU student considering post-graduate service?
Pray about it! The discernment process can be a difficult time, but don’t forget to turn to God. Also, be sure you are doing it for YOU and not because someone else wants you to. I encourage you to give it a try.
 
SCOTT EMBACHER                                                                             Volunteer Program: Urban Catholic Teacher Corps (UCTC)          Location: Boston, MA
What type of work did you do in your volunteer position?
During my volunteer years, I taught and coached at an inner city school in Boston.
How did the experience change you?
While there, I learned that in order to be a successful teacher in an impoverished area, teaching can not just be a job, but it has to be a mission. The experience taught me the complexities of urban education and the solutions needed for success.  More importantly, however, the experience made me a better person. The hope and love in the children’s eyes allowed me to grow in compassion and dedication. I learned what it took to be a true servant of God.
What advice would you give to a JCU student considering post-graduate service?
I advise JCU graduates to give post-grad service serious thought.
Sure, it would be easy to use your JCU education to land a success and money-driven job, but as one gets older (and as you can see by my bald head, I have gotten older) one needs a sense of purpose and mission in life. Completing post-grad service will give you perspective while allowing you to see another part of the country. Moreover, future employers will be impressed with your volunteer experience. Most importantly, it will allow you to “find” and “define” yourself as you move to the next stage of your life.
Where are you now? And what are you doing?
Today, I am still teaching in an inner city school in the Hough neighborhood of Cleveland. Also, I coach junior high boys’ and girls’ basketball, run an after school program, advise the student council, and chair the Geography Club. It is a busy, yet immensely rewarding lifestyle.
DREW POLLICK                                                                                 Volunteer Program: Newark Benedictine Volunteers
Location: Newark, NJ
What type of work did you do in your volunteer position?
I taught at St. Benedict’s Preparatory School and was a Houseparent in a small residence hall.
How did the experience change you?
The Rostro de Cristo program at JCU set me on course for a year of volunteer service.  My year of service with the Newark Benedictine Volunteers was a journey that unexpectedly developed my faith, compassion, character, and knowledge of the world.
What advice would you give to a JCU student considering post-graduate service?
It’s a must.  I still look back on some of the absolute highs and lows of my experience and wouldn’t trade them for anything.  As an example, I lived with 12 urban youth from Newark.  During the winter, we built an igloo on our soccer field.  As a highlight, we used my sleeping bags and wool blankets to sleep in it night after night.  It was such a hit!  It also made impacts on them that changed their performance in school, and it’s not a stretch to say perspective on life.  Be open to the opportunity to give back for all we have received.  With a degree from John Carroll University we have been blessed with a gift of an education, something to which only 1% of the world has the access and resources.