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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I Chose Service: Gina Fleck, Project S.E.R.V.E.

When you are preparing to graduate, 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: Gina Fleck 
Volunteer Program: Catholic Charities Project S.E.R.V.E. (currently on staff of Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry)
Location: Catholic Charities of Baltimore 
Hometown: Kintnersville, PA 
College: Mount St. Mary’s University '15, International Studies major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? It was through word of mouth! I was interning at the Maryland Catholic Conference in Annapolis and expressed my desire to do a service year in Baltimore. I thought I wanted to go to law school at the time so I could do advocacy work on the state level. I felt like I couldn’t advocate on behalf of marginalized populations or people affected by injustice if I didn’t first get to know their stories and build relationships with them, so I started looking into different post-grad service programs that offered opportunities to partake in direct service. A colleague recommended Project S.E.R.V.E.! 

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Project SERVE? I was considering going directly into law school. I took the LSAT and started a few applications and then heard about Project SERVE. I decided to do a year of post-grad service because it just felt providential. The timing could not have been better and Project SERVE fit all I was looking for: it was a year of faith-based service in Baltimore, where I had previously done several service trips through college. Ultimately, the prospect of doing a year of service filled me with an excitement and hopefulness that no other post-grad options did. I wanted to find a way to integrate my faith with my work on a daily basis, and it seemed like a great opportunity to do so!

Tell us about your service experience. My service placement was at Our Daily Bread, the largest soup kitchen in Maryland. I helped to coordinate the 40 volunteers it takes to run the lunch service every day and helped with a plethora of odds and ends. I also got to tutor men in an 18-month residential employment academy for formerly homeless or incarcerated men called Christopher Place. The CP men and I may have looked like a funny match to outsiders, but we got along swimmingly! I was completely astounded by their resilience, humor, and get-it-done attitude. My year of service made evident my own privilege and how we can all learn so much from others who are different from us. I could never have imagined how much they would teach me—I just had to dive in and allow myself the chance to grow! The experience really opened up a whole new world; what I learned was equally frustrating and exhilarating! 

My experience living in community was fantastic—I think I would have crumbled in this environment of newness had it not been for the support and discussions with my community members and our awesome coordinator, Allison. They were great guides and friends all the way through! 

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? The most wonderful gift I received from my year of service was a change of heart. A year of service afforded me the opportunity to cross over into territories and backgrounds formerly uncharted in my own life. I stretched and altered my opinions on so many issues. I was surprised and upended by the consistent generosity of people I met who were poor and in great need, but still wanted to make sure I had a good day and was doing well. I was astonished to uncover some of the gifts I didn’t know I had before the year and pleased to have a practical outlet for using them.  

My year of service also led me to my current job with a post-grad service program in Baltimore called Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry! It keeps me connected to my own year of service and helps me get others excited about the prospect of doing their own service year. I don’t think I would have found a job nearly as exciting or fulfilling if I passed up the chance to do Project S.E.R.V.E.  

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? It’s an unconventional choice for sure. Not many people you talk to will even know what it is when you describe your post-grad plans to them. Don’t worry about that! Do it, do it, do it because your heart will be forever changed. You just have to take that leap of faith. It’s a year of blessings on blessings that doesn’t end when the service year does. In the words of Mumford and Sons, “I ain't ever lived a year better spent in love.”

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I Chose Service: Lily Key, Maggie's Place

When you are preparing to graduate, 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: Lily Key
Volunteer Program: MissionCorps Member at Maggie's Place
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Hometown: Carlisle, PA
College: University of Dallas, 2014, Theology major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? From a friend who served at a maternity home after college.

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Maggie's Place? I had been not making long term commitments so that I could be free to discern and visit possible religious communities, but when I realized that it wasn't the right time for all of that for me, I looked in to doing something else. I was not attracted to working a job just for me, but wanted to use my time for others, so that's why I decided on service.

Tell us about your service experience: I served as a full-time, live-in volunteer at Maggie's Place, called a MissionCorps member, for two years. The unique thing about serving at Maggie's Place is that we live in the homes we run with the women we serve, so you get a lot of intimate contact with those you serve and are able to get to know them on a personal and human level. The actual work was very down to earth: helping the moms by holding babies, cooking, cleaning, being present, answering the phone, receiving donations, etc., but because it was all in a living environment, it stretched me more than anything I had ever done before. Being selfless and living the works of mercy was my job, and it was all the time! It has been the greatest privilege and the greatest challenge.

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I have grown immensely due to my service experience. It was certainly the most challenging position I have ever had, with many responsibilities and a lot of independence and self-direction. I grew in my knowledge of people, how they change, how to give and receive difficult feedback, the need for open and non-defensive or judgmental communication. I grew in professionalism, the ability to not take things personally, and in healthy boundaries. I learned a lot about myself! Community life brought out my strengths and weaknesses for all to see, and so became an opportunity for greater self-awareness and also humility as I have to admit my own weaknesses or be exhausted by the pressure of hiding them. Spiritually, I have come to realize that all happens only by God's Divine Providence, and He is attentive even to our smallest needs. He will provide! I could not have done any of what I did on my own strengths or skills, but only by the gifts and graces God gave me to do it. Lastly, through living with the moms at Maggie's Place, I have learned so much about poverty and people experiencing challenges that were previously unknown to me, and it has changed by whole outlook on the world.


What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? Post-graduate service is an excellent preparation for whatever comes next. I would say that I learned more in my two years (even my first year) of service than I did in four years of college about people, about myself, and many of the soft skills that are the difference between average and excellent candidates for any job. The service I did was particularly intense, living and serving in community, but any service will stretch you, making your more self-aware, more generous, and more willing to grow and be stretched in future experiences, whatever they may be. It will change the direction of your life and your outlook on the world though, so if you're comfy where you are, be forewarned!

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I Chose Service - Amanda Ceraldi, Franciscan Mission Service

When you are preparing to graduate, 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: Amanda Ceraldi
Volunteer Program: Franciscan Mission Service (FMS)
Location: Guatemala
Hometown: Pasadena, Maryland
College: The Catholic University of America '14, Theology major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I was first introduced to the possibility of post-grad service during my freshman year at Catholic U.  I saw a flyer for the long-term service fair and began thinking about having that as an option when I graduated.  After that first fair meeting different post-grad organizations I began meeting with my campus minister and dean regularly for the following three years to see how that could be my next step after graduation.

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Franciscan Mission Service? During my senior year of college I knew that I wanted to do long-term service after graduation, so I wasn’t looking into any other options.  I decided to become a missioner with FMS because I knew I wanted to go international for at least two year and I feel in love with the Franciscan charism, especially their commitment to ministry of presence. 

Tell us about your service experience. For the past two and a half years I have lived and worked at a boarding school for poor and marginalized children in Guatemala called Valle de los Angeles.  We are home to 215 boys and girls for 10 months of the year.  At Valle, I teach English to 3rd-6th graders, plan and lead short-term mission trips, tutor, volunteer with local communities throughout Guatemala, and spend as much time as possible with our precious children!  I live in a small community of FMS volunteers here at Valle, but my true community experience is with the local people I spend my days with here in Guatemala.  In addition to the 215 children I work with I have also developed deep communion-like relationships with many of their families, the staff here at the school, and other local volunteers. 

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? Outwardly, the biggest thing I have gained from my time on mission is the ability to speak Spanish.  Prior to my arrival in Guatemala I knew no Spanish!  Thankfully, after 2.5 years,  I’ve been able to pick up the language really well.  I love communicating in Spanish now!  Internally, the greatest thing I have gained is a new understanding on what it means to love and be loved.  I have loved harder and deeper than I ever thought possible and I am constantly surrounded by people who love me and call me to be my most authentic self.  Additionally, I have never felt closer to God then during my time on mission! 

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? My biggest piece of advice for someone considering post-graduate service would be to open your heart to going outside of your comfort zone.  I think that on mission and when doing service we are called to be uncomfortable and in those moments of discomfort we are able to experience God, to see His face, and love His children.  I am called outside of my comfort zone every single day and that has allowed me to experience God in ways I never thought possible!

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 8, 2017

I Chose Service - Faith Yusko, Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry

When you are preparing to graduate, 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: Faith Yusko
Volunteer Program: Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry
Location: Baltimore, MD
Hometown: West Islip, NY
College: The University of Scranton, Class of 2016. International Studies Major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I learned about post-graduate service through friends and role models of mine who have done post-graduate service.

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on your service program? I had considered jumping directly into the work force, but I definitely felt called to serve others through volunteering and I wanted to deepen my spiritual growth and development! 

Tell us about your service experience. I serve as a Child Care Aide in the Bon Secours Early Head Start Child Development Classroom. In my role I work as part of a team serving children ranging in age from two months to three years old and their families. This program helps support families and children so that they can develop a love of learning to carry with them throughout their lives.  My fellow volunteer community members and I live and serve in West Baltimore, and have been learning from the pillars of our program centered around practicing God's justice, learning through service with others, developing community, growing spiritually, and living simply. In addition to allowing me to share my gifts, my service year has humbled me through the community I am learning from and that I am a part of.

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I am learning different ways to apply Catholic Social Teaching and spiritual well-being practices into my everyday life. It has helped me to continue to grow spiritually after transitioning out of a Catholic undergraduate institution. 

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? Take the leap of "Faith" and you won't regret it! There are opportunities to learn and grow through service each day!

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

I Chose Service - Emily Dumont, Christian Appalachian Project

When you are preparing to graduate, 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: Emily Dumont 
Volunteer Program: AmeriCorps Member with Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) 
Location: Jackson County, KY 
Hometown: Auburn, ME 
College: Stonehill College '14, Mathematics and Religious Studies major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? Stonehill College really values service and strongly encourages their students to participate in service in some form throughout their time at the school. Through Stonehill’s alternative spring break program (The HOPE Program) and post-graduate service fair I was able to get more detailed information about possible post-graduate service opportunities.  From my freshman year I heard a lot about post-graduate service and it was always floating in my head as an option for me.  

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on CAP? My senior year of college I was considering studying actuarial science or accounting. I had also spent a lot of time debating whether or not I wanted to be a teacher and I was considering trying to find a job working in a school.  I went on an alternative spring break trip to Christian Appalachian Project’s WorkFest in March of my senior year and after that service was really the only option I was considering anymore.  Everyone I encountered at CAP seemed so passionate about the work they were doing and about sharing their experience with others. The feeling at CAP was like no other I had ever experienced and it was definitely something I wanted to be a part of.  

Tell us about your volunteer experience. I can’t say enough great things about my service placement.  From September to May I work with children in the local elementary schools. I teach fourth graders practical living classes. I teach lessons on anti-bullying, conflict resolution, consumerism, and career education. I get to work with my fellow AmeriCorps members to create lesson plans and come up with creative and engaging ways to work with our students. I also am able to do a lot of in classroom assistance helping mainly in math classes. Because math is what I am really passionate about I have been able to start a math club at one of our schools to give small groups or students a little extra attention and practice. I love the way our work in the schools is set up because each AmeriCorps member has an opportunity to work in an area that is most suited to them.  

The other major aspect of my service experience happens from June to August, although we talk about and prepare for it all year round. I work with Camp AJ, so a large part of my service is about helping to run a summer camp. My first two summers at Camp AJ I worked as a counselor. I got to learn a bunch of games and songs and cheers and my job was to play with (and supervise) children for seven weeks. I now help to plan schedules, register children for camp, train counselors, and communicate with parents. For many of our children their week at summer camp is their favorite week of the entire year.  Being a part of that experience is absolutely amazing and has definitely made the seven weeks of summer camp my favorite of the year. 

One of my favorite aspects of CAP is that the participants in their programs are all interconnected.  In my community I live with other camp volunteers as well as volunteers from the housing and elderly services programs. I love living in community and hearing about what is going on in other programs and also seeing how our programs are all weaved together.  Some of our children’s grandparents are in the elderly program and my housemates might be putting a new roof on one of our camper’s houses while they are with us. Community is a great built in support system and it also helps me to see the bigger picture that my service is a part of.  

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I feel that in my service I have learned many, many tangible skills. I have learned to write lesson plans, and use an electric drill, and just the other day I learned how to fix a fishing pole. I definitely am happy I learned those things, but I think the biggest benefits have come from the children I work with. I have learned a lot from them about perseverance and gratitude. I don’t think I ever fully appreciated all of the opportunities that were provided for me to get me to where I am today. Seeing the situations that some of our children live and learn and grow in has made me so grateful for the childhood that I had. It also has shown me how strong and resilient children are. I really believe that serving here has taught me to look at the world and my life through a different lens.

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? I think my biggest piece of advice would be to be willing to take risks. If you told me a few years ago that I would be living in Eastern Kentucky working at a summer camp I would have told you that you were crazy. I never went to summer camp as a kid and probably would have cried the entire time if someone had tried to make me. I remember lying in bed the night before I was going to fly to Kentucky. I was horrified. I couldn’t figure out why I thought moving away from my family and friends was a good idea. I was scared, but I went anyway.  It was definitely the best decision I have ever made.  At CAP there have been lots of opportunities for me to do new things and step outside of my comfort zone.  I won’t say that I have taken all of them, but I try to as much as I can and I have never regretted taking a chance and trying something new.

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

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I Chose Service - Rory Magargee, Augustinian Volunteers

When you are preparing to graduate, 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: Rory Magargee
Volunteer Program: Augustinian Volunteers 
Location: (Southside) Chicago, IL
Hometown: Bryn Mawr, PA
College: Saint Joseph’s University ‘14, Finance, Risk Management and Insurance

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I first learned about a post-graduate year of service during my formative years in high school through several role models who I looked up to that decided to do a year of service upon graduation. These individuals shared their remarkable experiences with me. In high school, I made a promise to myself that I wanted to do a year of service after graduation, more specifically with the Augustinian Volunteer Program. 

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Augustinian Volunteers? In today’s society, the majority of college students are aware of two options upon graduation: to go back to school and earn an a graduate degree or to secure a job and build a career. There is however a third option, which is definitely the road less traveled, and has an extremely profound impact on not only your life, but all of the lives around you, this option is to dedicate yourself to a post-graduate volunteer program. Upon graduation, I had a job offer with a major insurance carrier located in Philadelphia. I went back and forth for a few days deciding between taking the job or executing the promise I had to myself to join the AV program after graduation as I had always gravitated towards the Augustinian Order as a result of attending an Augustinian High School. I ultimately decided to join the AVs for the simple reason that I knew it would be the biggest regret of my life had I not joined. To this day, the decision to join the AVs is by far the best decision I have ever made in my life because it forced me out of my comfort zone and I learned to become comfortable with being uncomfortable, which is such a powerful tool I carry with me wherever I go.

Tell us about your service experience. I was placed  at St. Rita High School in the South Side of Chicago. St Rita is an Augustinian High School in which over 80% of the student body is on financial aid and is located in a very rough neighborhood in Chicago. I wore many different hats at St. Rita, I worked in the Campus Ministry Department and oversaw the christian service program; I led a group of students to a local soup kitchen every Wednesday night, I was the curator for the St. Rita Shrine Chapel, I coached Flag Football and Lacrosse, I organized and oversaw multiple retreats; I led a service trip over spring break to North Carolina, however, my primary role at the school was to get to know each of the 635 students on a personal level and to support each of them as they navigated high school, the formative years of their lives. 

A major charism of the Augustinian Order is to live in community, a form of intentionally living that fosters growth in each community member through sharing every facet of day-to-day life with the members of your community. The Augustinian Volunteer program expects its participants to live in an Augustinian Community similar to each clerical Augustinian Community. My community consisted of two other Augustinian Volunteers; one coming from Minnesota and the other was from California - which led to a very unique circumstance because on a fundamental level we were all from different parts of the country with very different perspectives and childhoods. Community life was very challenging and forced each member to sacrifice things that we took for granted our entire lives. Community life forced us to truly understand each other and to support each other through our year of service and as a result, was extremely rewarding as I came out of the year as a product of my community.  

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I believe that in today’s society many people tend to forget to analyze their lives and situations. The biggest benefit of my year of service was that it was a year of reflection and self-examination. I feverishly worked towards improving myself in so many ways: spiritually, professionally, emotionally and mentally. I approached my year of service as a year of “yes”, meaning that I would say yes to anything anyone asked of me. This forced me into so many indescribable situations that I was never prepared for, but I was able to learn from these experiences and lend a helping hand to someone in need. This mentality has trickled into my personal and professional life, and I picked up a plethora of experiences with knowledge and skills that I would not have had I continued to divert these requests.

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? The biggest piece of advice I can lend to someone considering a post-graduate service is to understand a few ideas all revolve around having an open mind and an open heart.

  • It will be the biggest challenge of your life, you will encounter many difficult scenarios that will help define the person you are and lay the foundation for who you want to become. 
  • It is important to have expectations of the experience, but understand that your expectations will not always align with your service. I had such a wonderful idea in my mind of what my year was going to look like prior to flying out to Chicago and within the first week, that idea got flipped upside down. Instead of complaining about the circumstance, I decided to be present in my placement and to meet each person I served with where they were in life. This was such a wonderful gift because it allowed me to change my perception of the person I am and what my mission is.
  • You will not have all of the answers- but you can always be part of the solution. So many times I was forced into scenarios that I was not prepared for, but through graceful service and working with others, I found ways to make it work.
  • The impact that you have on the individuals and communities you serve will pale in comparison to the impact that the individuals and communities have on your life. Not a day goes by when I don’t revisit a memory from my year of service.


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

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I Chose Service - Emmy Smith, MercyWorks Volunteer Program

When you are preparing to graduate, 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: Emmy Smith
Volunteer Program: MercyWorks Volunteer Program
Location: Chicago, IL
Hometown: Mitchell, South Dakota 
College: University of South Dakota '16, Criminal Justice and Political Science major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? For me it all started with a google search. I knew I wanted to give a year devoted to service, I just did not know where to start. Google brought me to the Catholic Volunteer Network where I was able to narrow in my search. 

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on MercyWorks? When I was deciding what was next I was between graduate school, a full-time job, and a year of service with MercyWorks. I chose MercyWorks because I wanted the chance to be challenged through experience. I was excited to live in a community invested in values that I cared about. Mostly, the professional development that a year of service offered was monumental to any other opportunity I had. 

Tell us about your service experience. My placement with MercyWorks was rooted in the heart of Chicago where I got the opportunity to work with young men age 11-14 at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls. My role as a youth care worker allowed me to meet youth where they were at to give them the best possible therapeutic treatment for them and their families. I got put on a team of hard working, dedicated men and women who were truly inspired by the mission of Speh Home, “ to give wings to Chicago’s children.” Throughout my experience I walked with youth through their daily struggles, successes, and moments of growth. Placement wise, I could not be more thankful for choosing service. There is a certain joy that comes with working with middle school boys that is only available through experience. I got to experience this joy every single day while serving in Speh home. One of my favorite examples of this joy was when one of my youth would ask for a bedtime story and to be tucked in every night. Another when another wanted to create a secret hand shake that has now grown to be 215 steps long. The boys I served made it easy to want to continue coming to work every single day. 

As for my volunteer community experience, I could talk forever about how fortunate I am to have experienced this service year with eleven of the most courageous, dynamic, and servant leader companions. Moving far from home, I did not know what to expect. It was evident from our opening ceremony that we were going to have an amazing year. The men and women I served alongside challenged me daily to grow into my best self. They encouraged me always to shoot for my dreams. Mostly, they supported me through any struggled that happened throughout my year. I am so thankful I chose MercyWorks for giving me a community for life, not just for the year we were serving. 

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? Through this experience I gained monumental personal, profession, and spiritual growth. Mercy Works truly cared about us as individuals and set me up with a network of support. I was giving a professional mentor, spiritual director, as well as the ability to network in the heart of Chicago. MercyWorks made sure to set me up with any opportunity that could help me grow or challenge my perspective, it was my job to say yes to their invitations. I look back at this year and did not know what to expect for professional growth. I am finishing this year with a better understanding of who I am professionally, and what my aspirations are as well as a network to utilize as a begin to search for what to do next. 

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service?  Do it! Do it because every single service program will allow you to flourish in ways you never thought possible. I know that it is scary the idea of not getting paid, especially with the external pressure to make money and pay off debts. However I want to challenge you and ask, how many things worth doing haven’t had a component of being scared? Any program you pick will be paying you in a priceless experience, professional growth, and personal development. You owe it to yourself to be stretched, changed, and to experience God through service.

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