Friday, June 16, 2017

I Chose Service - Mike Bucaria, Augustinian Volunteers

After graduating from college, you have lots of options. This series highlights people who chose service, and how the volunteer experience has made an impact on their lives.


Name: Mike Bucaria
Volunteer Program: Augustinian Volunteers
Location: Ventura, CA
Hometown: Rockville Centre, NY
College: Villanova University, 2014, English Major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I was always aware of the positive impact of post-grad volunteering since my mom spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteers in Omak, Washington, but I became more consciously aware during my sophomore year I went on a fall break service trip to Birmingham to work with their Habitat affiliate. There one of the construction site supervisors was a guy I went to high school with back on Long Island who was a few years older. We pieced our connection together and from there I learned that he was spending a year after graduating volunteering through AmeriCorps. This was the interaction that made me aware that spending a year volunteering post-grad was an option apart from going straight to work or grad school. Not only that, but that trip, sponsored by Villanova Campus Ministry, challenged and motivated me in ways that showed me I wanted to learn and do more to meet people and serve communities.

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on your service program? I applied to a few jobs and a few volunteer programs to keep my options open, but none of the opportunities I had seemed at all like a better choice than going with the Augustinian Volunteers. I was ultimately convinced that a volunteer year was the right choice because, through talking with friends who had also deliberated a volunteer year and family as well, I gained the perspective that a one year gap in between college and work was not as daunting as I initially thought. How long is a year? For me, I knew that as long as I did something worthwhile with my time there was no rush to get a job and just move into the seemingly endless phase of working life. And since doing something worthwhile was the baseline, I wanted to something incredibly worthwhile. And the Augustinian Volunteers allowed me to do that by living in community with other volunteers and engaging a community with meaningful service.

Share about your service placement and volunteer community experience. Having a good time in Southern California is not challenging, but living in community with other 20-somethings can be. However, my community and I all fully leaned into this experience and knew that it was as instrumental to our service's impact as our individual effort. We all wanted to live the same simple lifestyle and dive in at our service sites, and living with other people of the same mindset (not to mention budget) provided a strong context to the volunteer work itself. Plus, we experienced the positive and fun parts of our community together and not just the sections and subsets needing a little TLC, which gave us a more holistic look at our host city and our place in it.

I worked at St. Bonaventure HS in Ventura, CA for their Christian Service program. I planned service projects, helped students find volunteering opportunities pertaining to their interests, and conducted reflections to help the students think about their experiences in different ways. But, volunteers always find new ways to get involved, and I also worked in Campus Ministry helping with retreats, with student events, and (my favorite) chaperoning trips and dances.

The most impactful facet of my year was with Many Meals, a weekly opportunity to reach out to the community with dinner and the community of a dinner table. Even beyond bringing students, I found this experience unique because of the relationships volunteers could build with guests over the weeks. When I think about the aspects of my year so essential to my overall experience - living in community, being useful to the school, and connecting with both students and those we served - I cannot think about any one apart from the other.

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? The support of the Augustinian Volunteer program allowed my community and I not to be too bogged down in the challenges of moving to and living in a new city. Rather, we were able to work full time and treat our positions as they should be, with complete engagement. My first job was imbued with purpose, which is more than what a lot of people my age can say. My enjoyment also encouraged me to be more involved, which in turn increased my exposure to different professional areas of the work I was doing. But, most essentially, at three months out of college I was able to live with other young people but work in a diverse workplace, and that experience began my growth and prepared me for working alongside people other than other 23 year olds.

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? Consider all the reasons for and against doing a volunteer and then weigh each of them against the impact it will have on you beyond just the year you spend and the year or two after. I worried about maintaining friendships while moving far away, and I thought that I would miss out on too much being far from where my friends and family lived. But, with so much time ahead to work toward your personal, educational, or professional goals, why not just take a year for a productive and intense way to do something different? It really is not that long, just think about everything that happened three years ago and what a distinct time capsule that seems like compared to what you are doing now. How can that one year head start on getting a job compare to the education, capability, and personal growth you gain from an experience like a post-grad volunteer year. It is easy for me to say this in hindsight, but the cost of a spending a year in an unconventional way against the benefit of a lifetime of lessons and memories would not even be a question at this point. Come to think of it, I kind of want to apply again...

To learn more about post-grad service opportunities, check out our RESPONSE directory, listing thousands of opportunities across the United States and abroad.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I Chose Service - Claire Noonan, Apostolic Volunteers

After graduating from college, you have lots of options. This series highlights people who chose service, and how the volunteer experience has made an impact on their lives.

Name: Claire Noonan
Volunteer Program: Apostolic Volunteers (now known as Dominican Volunteers USA)
Location: Atlanta GA (1992)
Hometown: Orland Park, IL
College: Catholic University of America, '92, English and Religious Studies major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? Through my college campus ministers as well as students who graduated ahead of me.

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Apostolic Volunteers?  I looked at several programs in the RESPONSE catalog and chose the program I did because of the speed of their placement process and the personal connections I had to the sponsoring religious community.

Share about your service experience. The most important part of my experience was the community life I shared with the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters.  These women taught me the deep and fundamental spiritual wisdom and truth—I am loved, not for what I do but for that I am.  

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? Honestly, I have participation in this program to thank for almost every important part of my life today—my husband is also a alum of the program, and my ministry/job today is with another sponsored institution of the religious community that sponsored by program.  Also, I met many, many of my closest friends through the program and others like it.

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service?  Do it!! And put your whole self into it.  It will be difficult, but worth it.

To learn more about post-grad service opportunities, check out our RESPONSE directory, listing thousands of opportunities across the United States and abroad.

Monday, May 22, 2017

I Chose Service - Jennifer Kennymore, Salesian Lay Missioners

After graduating from college, you have lots of options. This series highlights people who chose service, and how the volunteer experience has made an impact on their lives.

Name: Jennifer Kennymore
Volunteer Program: Salesian Lay Missioners
Location: Mary Help of Christians Center, Tampa, FL 
Hometown: Ft. Collins, CO
College: University of Northern Colorado (BA, 2008), Colorado School of Public Health (MPH, 2010)

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I learned about the Peace Corps in High School. I thought it sounded like an amazing opportunity to give a year or two of your life to others. Eventually I decided I wanted to do some type of service related to my Catholic faith. Serving for an extended amount of time was something I felt called to do for a long time.

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Salesian Lay Missioners? For health reasons the Peace Corps was not an option for me but I still wanted to serve. I had applied to the Salesians when I graduated with my MPH but decided to postpone my year of service. Options at the time I joined were to stay at my current job, start a different job or do mission work.

Tell us about your service experience. Originally I wanted to go abroad but I knew my skills and experience would fit well with the needs in Tampa. It worked out for the best and I am so happy to be a part of the Salesian family now! My role in Tampa included being registrar at summer camp, tutoring at the boys and girls club, event coordination, retreat facilitation, socializing and helping retired Salesian priests and brothers, and more.

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? For me the biggest benefits came in spiritual growth. Being surrounded by others with the same faith and stronger faith than my own had a significant positive impact. Without my time in mission I would not have known how amazing and vast the Salesian community is. I also wouldn't have known how much work and love it takes to make a place like Mary Help feel like a home to all who visit. I learned what I (along with the support and help from a wonderful team) am truly capable of while I was on mission and that will have positive repercussions on my life for years to come.


What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? Do it and do it now! I waited and it made it harder in some ways but nonetheless do it! It will be challenging and it won't be perfect but your efforts and time will be appreciated. Also, you will make connections and and memories that last long after your time of service. Those connections and memories will last longer than a year's salary and after your year (or two) of service you will know in your heart that you had an impact and made a true difference in the lives of others.

To learn more about post-grad service opportunities, check out our RESPONSE directory, listing thousands of opportunities across the United States and abroad.