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: Lucy Miller
Volunteer Program: Maggie'sPlace
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
College: Gonzaga University, 2013, English/Creative Writing
How did you first learn about post-graduate service? I actually wasn't looking for a post-grad service opportunity. I had plenty of friends who were applying for JVC and the Peace Corps but I was initially drawn to Maggie's Place because of the mission: serving homeless pregnant women in crisis. The Pacific Northwest Students for Life Regional Coordinator originally got me in touch with Maggie's Place when I asked her about places I could work full-time with women in crisis pregnancies after I graduated.
What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on Maggie's Place? I had also applied and been accepted to ASU for a Master's degree in Education. I ultimately decided on serving with Maggie's Place for two reasons: 1) the Master's degree was going to be very expensive, and 2) my interview with Maggie's Place involved a visit to the homes, and I felt almost immediately upon my arrival that that was where I supposed to spend the next year or more. I felt at home, at peace, and excited about the opportunity. I knew it would be hard but I was ready for the challenge, and the community was incredibly supportive.
What was your service experience like? I often tell people that my years of service with Maggie's Place were some of the most formative in my life. It was an intense, immersive experience of giving of self, living simply, being in community, and just loving others. Over the length of my service, I lived and worked with over 50 pregnant women and their babies and around 20 other volunteers (not all at once!). I was given the immense privilege of loving these women and their families during some of the hardest times in their lives. Sometimes this love was heartbreaking, like when a mom fell back in to bad habits or made poor choices during her stay, and sometimes it was full of joy, like when one of my contact moms told me that living at Maggie's Place had been a little slice of heaven.
What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I grew in leadership, assertiveness, compassionate boldness, conflict management, my understanding of poverty, professionalism, my Catholic faith, and so much more. I thank God every day that He brought me to service at Maggie's Place because of the woman I am today because of it. I certainly never thought I would have to do some of the things that I did at Maggie's Place, like taking moms drug testing; having conversations with grown women about sex, healthy relationships, and natural family planning; rocking babies to sleep at 2am so their moms could get some much-needed sleep; living in community with 10 other women, over half of them pregnant or parenting an infant, and all the daily struggles that accompany that; literally running a home; supervising my peers and helping them grow into the best versions of themselves; and so much more. I think my years of service were like having an internship, entry-level position, and missionary role all at once and multiplied by 1000. Sometimes I look back and wonder how on earth I managed so many responsibilities at once and at the age of 21.
What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? I think if you are considering post-grad service, then think about when else in your life you will be able to commit to something so immersive and so worthwhile. It is a time to be challenged and stretched and to give of yourself completely to others, and you honestly receive so much in return for those sacrifices. You will learn a lot about how to work with people, manage high-stress situations and responsibilities, and balance a big workload. I think most volunteers come out of their service with very employable skills and experiences that others who immediately entered the workforce don't have. Plus, I have made life-long friends who share my same values and have gone through those hard experiences with me, and those relationships to me are priceless.
To learn more about post-grad service opportunities, check out our RESPONSE directory, listing thousands of opportunities across the United States and abroad.