Tuesday, October 3, 2017

I Chose Service: Jenette Vogt, Christian Appalachian Project

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: Jenette Vogt 
Volunteer Program: Christian Appalachian Project
Location: Jackson County, Kentucky 
Hometown: Sigel, IL
College: Eastern Illinois University '15, Adult and Community Education major

How did you first learn about post-graduate service? For as long as I can remember, I have known about people going on mission trips. Most of these people were religious life or older adults who had retired. I didn’t find out about post-graduate service until my senior year of college. I was thinking about volunteering for a few months after I graduated and my campus minister told me about yearlong service programs that I should consider.   

What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on your service program? I started looking for programs in the Catholic Volunteer Network booklet and I was open to all the programs in there. I was fortunate enough to be supported by my parents, willing to move anywhere, and financially stable which opened the doors to many great programs. I heard about the Christian Appalachian Project through my Newman Center at EIU. My Newman community has been attending an Alternative Spring Break trip down in Kentucky for several years now. While I went on other Alternative Spring Break trips, I had heard great things about CAP. Because my friends had such meaningful experiences at CAP, I thought that I would check out their program first. I did a little research, filled out the application, and went down for a perspective interview. The perspective interview was my deciding factor to volunteer for a year with CAP. Spending a few days in Kentucky with other volunteers, getting to see where I would live, and meeting the people I would work with was a great experience. I knew the minute I left after those few short days that I would never regret deciding to serve with the Christian Appalachian Project for a year. 

Share about your service placement and volunteer community experience. My service placement is at Camp Andrew Jackson. Throughout the year, I have been working with the youth of Jackson and Owsley County in their elementary schools. I work in the schools four days a week assisting teachers and trying to help the students learn. Most of my time is spent teaching math to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Sometimes I go into the classroom and work in small groups with the students, while other times I may pull one or two students out for individualized help. I also have had the opportunity to teach Anti-Bullying and Consumerism to the fourth graders in Owsley County and Jackson County. My favorite part of this service placement has been the amount of time we get to spend in the schools. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get to work with these students multiple times a week and to have had the chance to see them grow over the past nine months.

Living in community this year was nothing like I expected. I grew up in a big family so I thought I knew what it was like to live with eight other people under the same roof. The thing about family is they have to love you no matter what. Living in an intentional community meant we would all have to communicate on what we expected out of each other. Community dinners, chores, and many other things were discussed at our first couple house meetings. It was great getting to know all of my housemates those first couple months. If you ever really want to get to know strangers, move into a house with them. You learn things very quickly about each other. Overall, I have met some of the most amazing people this year, and I know our friendships will continue long after my time here in Kentucky is finished. 

What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I think my spiritual growth is the biggest thing I have gained this year. For the first time in my life, my faith was completely up to me. My parents and campus ministers were not here to guide me through my faith journey. I could either stop practicing my faith altogether or jump in even farther and push myself to grow. I decided to continue to learn and develop my faith. I really tried to push myself by attending daily mass when I get the chance and dedicating more time to daily prayer. 

What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? Do it! I promise you will not regret it. This year of service was the best decision I could have made. The student loans, careers, apartments, and everything else you worry about after college will all be there when you are finished serving. Whether you want to volunteer for a few weeks, a few months, or even a year, I encourage you to do take the plunge and do it.  Saint Teresa of Calcutta said it best “If we pray, we will believe; If we believe, we will love; If we love, we will serve.” Now is your chance to do it!

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