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Graduating seniors set to enter into service work

News Writer | Wednesday, May 16, 2012


While many graduates prepare to enter the traditional work force, roughly 10 percent of the class of 2012 are set to pursue service work after graduation. Graduating senior Annie Boyle is one such student looking to make the leap into something different. 

Boyle said her experiences at Notre Dame helped her decide to volunteer after graduation. 

“I have committed to a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) in the Northwest. I’ll be working at a Catholic Charities organization in Spokane, Wash.,” she said. “My Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) had perhaps the greatest influence on my decision to commit to post-grad service.” 

Boyle’s SSLP took her to a camp for children and teens with physical disabilities for eight weeks. She said the atmosphere at Notre Dame and the opportunity to interact with service-oriented individuals was also influential. 

“The kids that I met during my SSLP exhibited more positive energy than most individuals that I know. Each had a great capacity for finding joy in life’s everyday activities, despite the physical challenges that these activities often posed,” Boyle said. “They became my own little role models for living in gratitude.” 

Boyle said she looks forward to the sense of community in the JVC.  

“I’m looking forward to meeting and learning from people with different life experiences than my own,” she said. “I’ll be living with five to six other volunteers.” 

Boyle said her work with the JVC will help her prepare for other challenges and positions in life as she continues to be engaged with social issues. 

“I think that a year, or more, of full-time service allows grads not only to deepen their awareness of social issues and work toward positive change, but also to achieve a better understanding of their personal strengths and values,” she said. 

Erica Michelle Severson, a 2011 graduate who works as a patient navigator for breast cancer patients with the Redeemer Ministry Corps, said her choice to enter volunteer service gave her time to discern a future career in medicine, dentistry or other allied health fields.

“Professional school is a very large commitment, so before I put a large amount of time and money into it, I wanted to be sure of the profession I chose,” she said. “Doing service is also a fabulous way to learn more about yourself in an environment you normally wouldn’t be exposed to.” 

Severson said the mission of Redeemer Ministry Corps is to “Care, Comfort and Heal.” Volunteers serve in ministries throughout the Holy Redeemer Health System and the local community, she said. 

Spending the summer after her sophomore year in an Summer Service Learning Project (SSLP) at Matthew 25, a free medical and dental clinic in Indiana, helped her with the decision, she said.

 “I felt honored to help serve so many patients and provide them with comfort during their suffering,” she said. “The experience allowed me to witness the trials of those who are uninsured and develop a greater understanding of poverty.” 

Severson said she plans to return to school for a masters program before pursuing dental school.

 “After my experience working in a health system, I want to coordinate positive changes in healthcare,” she said. “I would love to found a non-profit organization or work for one in the future.” 

She said graduates entering volunteer service should be patient and flexible, especially as their job tasks change throughout the year. 

“Every action you perform might not be the most valuable or significant contribution, but it is necessary to perform to the work you’re doing,” Severson said. “Remember this year is a learning experience.”

 Many seniors who are participating in service work after graduation discerned their path of volunteerism with the help of the Center for Social Concerns (CSC). 

Michael Hebbeler, director of Student Leadership and Senior Transitions at the CSC, said the Senior Transitions Program is designed to assist students who hope to integrate social concerns into their postgraduate careers. 

“The CSC is committed to helping students discern their vocation, whether it’s through seminar immersions, summer service-learning programs, theological reflection, the study of Catholic Social Teaching or local volunteer service,” he said. 

Hebbeler said a special commencement ceremony will be held in honor of students entering volunteer service on May 19 in the Leighton Concert Hall of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Speakers will include University President Fr. John Jenkins, Bill Lies, CSC executive director and Katie Bergin, a 1994 graduate who volunteered with the Holy Cross in Chile. 

Hebbeler said students entering post-graduate service work should be open to where the experience may take them. 

“Recognize that the greatest challenges and sorrows just might lead to the greatest growth, to celebrate the joys, and to trust,” he said.