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Seniors consider post-grad service at fair

| Thursday, October 2, 2008

Almost 80 service organizations came to Notre Dame Wednesday to educate students about postgraduate service opportunities for the University’s annual service fair.

The organizations represented at the fair serve domestic and international sites and programs that involve teaching, health care, prison ministry, homelessness advocacy and much more, the Center for Social Concerns’ Student Leadership and Senior Transitions director Mike Hebbeler said.

“It’s great for the students who have all these diverse interests,” Hebbeler said. “They are bound to find something that they are interested in as an issue.”

Hebbeler said he started contacting the organizations in August to invite them to participate in the fair. He e-mailed listserves for different organizations and found other groups through networking Web sites. Many organizations were easy to contact because they have come in past years, he said.

Hebbeler said he expected about 300 students to attend the fair.

“I hope students will first and foremost come to the fair, but also visit with an open mind about the different services that meets their gifts and also provides an opportunity that will be a real learning experience and growing experience,” he said.

Hebbeler said he hopes students will find a program that interests them and that they will initiate contact with the organization because, he said, postgraduate service can be a formative experience.

“It can shape [the students] in a way that that will stay with them as they move on to medical school or to their business jobs,” he said. “It will have a lasting influence.”

About 10 percent of graduating seniors move on to postgraduate service every year, Hebbeler said.

Interested students crowded the booths at the fair and cited different reasons for pursuing service opportunities after graduation.

Senior Michael Massengale said he was at the fair largely because he is unsure of a career path.

“Service is a good way for me to dedicate time to the community and figure out what to do with my life at the same time,” Massengale said.

Senior Erin Dowd said she has always been interested in a career path that involves service.

“I would like to work with kids, but not in a classroom setting,” Dowd said.

She said she would like to find a program that offers teaching opportunities at a community center or safe haven shelter.

Senior Jenny Rolfs also said she is interested in finding a teaching program like Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) or Teach for America at the fair.

“I want to be a teacher and I think some of the programs here force you to go to places most in need of teachers,” Rolfs said.

Senior Mike McCann said he wants a chance to leave the United States and gain a new experience after graduation.

“If you go into the business world you start your life right away. With service you can continue to grow as a person,” he said. “It’s all about the experience.”

Many representatives for the service organizations said they were eager to meet and recruit Notre Dame students.

Kevin McKenna, a representative for Amigos de Jesús, a home in Honduras for impoverished children, said the group is at Notre Dame because the students have a great desire to serve.

“They really embody the spirit of service,” he said.

Sr. Karen Kelly, director of OperationTEACH, a 2-year teaching program, said Notre Dame students in particular are service-oriented.

“Notre Dame promotes service, expects service and celebrates service,” she said. “We love to get [Notre Dame students].”