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Seniors seek opportunities to serve

Meghan Thomassen | Thursday, September 27, 2012

For seniors networking with representatives from national and international service programs Wednesday night at the Post-Graduate Service Fair, volunteer work after graduation can be more than a “year off.”

Michael Hebbeler, director for student leadership and senior transitions at the CSC, said the fair, hosted by the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) in the Joyce Center, offered another option for students looking for jobs from every college.

“It’s a full-time job,” Hebbeler said. “It’s a misconception that it’s a year off and you’re kind of volunteering here and there. [The programs] are looking for students in all disciplines, there is accounting work to be done, there’s environmental work to be done, there’s counseling [and] education. Students of all majors should be able to find something that fits their skill set, their passions.”

Hebbeler was the conduit between the graduate service world and the student body. He said the fair was primarily for seniors looking for opportunities to serve after graduatioy.

“[There are] post-graduate opportunities ranging from health care to education to ministry,” Hebbeler said. “In the programs, [you’re] living in community, living simply, living on a small stipend, but engaged in work that promotes the common good that really carries out the mission of the University in a very direct way.”

He said the international and large programs are the most competitive for applicants. The full-time positions range from small stipends to salaries, and from living in community to living alone, he said.

“But all of the organizations are focused on work of peace and justice in a very direct way,” Hebbeler said. “We welcome all these programs, There are bigger programs, [such as] Teach for America, [Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE)], Peace Corps, and we also really value the small programs who do very good work in their smaller communities.”

He said the fair benefited students looking for a variety of choices.

“There’s something for everybody,” he said. You can find your niche, the community you want to live with, the work you want to do, whether you want a large program or a small program.”

Volunteers typically commit one to two years to work 40 or more hours per week, Hebbeler said.

He said the time spent serving others guides students as they discern their skillsets in the community and in the business world.

“Students find themselves,” he said. “They mature, they grow in wisdom, they grow in skill set and they are more marketable for jobs after this or applying to grad school. Oftentimes this experience makes them a better and more competitive applicant. Of course we don’t promote it for the resume, but practically speaking it does help.”

The programs intend to help students serve outside of their comfort zone, he said.

“In the end, the real intention is students wanting to live out the mission of the University in a direct and fulfilling way, in relationship with other populations that will stretch them,” Hebbeler said. “These are oftentimes not comfortable positions, but because of that they will grow.”