Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My New Sight: Interviews with Brand New Volunteers!

Have you wondered what beginning a long-term service project would be like? What is hard, surprising, different, and inspiring about it? Follow the stories of Grace, Sarah, Mikaela, Ryan, Michelle, and more, in our “My New Sight” section of our blog this month.

My New Sight: Grace Carroll
Grace Carroll began serving with the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) in Biloxi, Mississippi this August. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in May 2015. In her free time she enjoys swimming, running, hiking, and, of course, Notre Dame football!

What inspired you to serve?
I have been interested in teaching since I was in elementary school. My commitment to Catholic education has only grown since high school, as a student at Notre Dame. With my desire to participate in post-grad service, as well as live in an intentional faith community, ACE was the perfect fit! As the time came to make decisions about life after graduation, I could not imagine doing anything else – I felt called by the Holy Spirit to teach with ACE in an under-resourced school somewhere in the US.

What continues to inspire you, now that you've started? 
Every single day has challenges, and every single day has small victories. However, it can be very hard to recognize those little blessings amidst the chaos, failed lesson plans, classroom management struggles, and homesickness. Prayer has sustained me, as has my ACE community and my family. I begin each day in prayer, asking God to help me see those blessings – whether that be a student mastering a concept, or witnessing students’ kindness to one another in the hallway, or an encouraging comment from a co-worker, or my students’ smiles when they see me in the stands at their volleyball game. God is everywhere. Learning to see Him in the hallways of my school in southern Mississippi is what sustains me. 

What is it like living in community with other volunteers?
I could not do it without them, especially being in a completely new community, city, state, and region. On bad days, they leave an encouraging post-it or give you a much-needed hug when you come home or send you a prayer that strikes a chord. On good days, they are your biggest cheerleaders. There's always someone to make late-night ice cream runs with, to bounce crazy classroom activity ideas off of, and to talk through struggles with. I know that community living will not be without challenges, but we strive as a house to assume good will of one another, to be honest in our communications, and to see Christ in each person. 
ACE Community in Biloxi after the first week of school

Has "simple living" been a struggle so far? 
Again, community is huge because none of us are buying new clothes or eating out multiple times per week. We love exploring the local area and trying new food places – we just are always on the lookout for economical ways to do this! I have had a more difficult time not spending money without hesitation on classroom resources and Spanish materials!

Any short stories about your work that you'd like to share?
Although I often doubt myself and my abilities as a high school teacher, I love my students. They are energetic, joyful, resilient, creative, forgiving, and kind, who never fail to make me laugh. On one of my first weekends down here, our Campus Ministry team of juniors and seniors was having their start-of-the-year retreat…at a student’s house. As one of the Campus Ministry faculty members, I found myself up at 2 AM eating s’mores with a dozen of my students at one of their houses. I couldn’t help but laugh! Welcome to Mississippi!

To learn more about serving with ACE, click here.