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Seniors commit to volunteer work

Charlie Ducey | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Following graduation, more than 10 percent of Notre Dame’s Class of 2013 will participate in volunteer programs, ranging from teaching underprivileged grade-schoolers to building wells in the developing world.

The number of students participating in post-graduate service has increased tremendously in the past few decades, according to the Center for Social Concerns [CSC]. In 1985 2.8 percent of graduates went on to participate in service, while 10 percent of the Class of 2003 did.

Senior Aaron Lorton  plans to participate in a year of service and then attend medical school. He said he is considering several service programs, including the André House of Hospitality, which serves the poor in his hometown of Phoenix, Ariz. Lorton said he is also drawn to a specialized teaching program at the Nativity Preparatory School of New Bedford, Mass.

“I like the idea of being able to work in all facets of the students’ lives,” he said. “The program wants its volunteers to be involved in coaching, leading tutor groups and mentoring.” 

Lorton said his motivations for post-graduate service and for medical school are linked.

“The reason I want to do service is the same reason that I want to go into medicine,” he said. “It’s the feeling you get when you help someone without looking for a reward.”

Senior Matt Schirtzinger also plans to complete a year of service before enterine medical school. He said he chose to serve through AmeriCorps because the program gives him flexibility in choosing a locations.

“I’m looking at a couple of options around the central Ohio area, – tutoring in reading programs as well as outreach to people with HIV and AIDs,” he said. “The HIV outreach interested me in particular as a different but equally important approach to public health [compared to medical school].”

Schirtzinger said he is motivated by a desire to improve his local community of Columbus, Ohio.

“I like the Columbus area,” he said. “I tutored low-income students during high school and realized that there are a lot of people who don’t have the package of benefits that I had growing up, and I thought that service work would be a good way to help people to get to the same place where I am.” 

The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is another service opportunity Notre Dame graduates have gravitated towars in recent years, according to the Center for Social Concerns. Since its creation in 1994, ACE volunteers have accounted for approximately a quarter of the Notre Dame alumni involved in service directly after undergraduate studies. 

Senior Mary Pullano will be among these ACE participants. She said several undergraduate courses provoked her interest in education, as she learned about the massive inequities in the American schooling system. 

As Pullano sought to channel her interest in education into service, she said she singled out the ACE program in particular. 

“I chose ACE because of the strong preparation they provide with the Master’s in Education program,” she said. “The support from the teaching communities and emphasis on spiritual growth were also important to me,

Senior Katherine Baglini said she chose to participate in ACE because of its emphasis on fostering community.

“I think ACE stands out because of the benefit of the large ACE family and the community support, living with other first- and second-year teachers,” she said.

Baglini said she believes  even a single volunteer can implement this changed.

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” he said. “It is a steady effort, and its effects might not be easy to see in the moment. But I do think that an individual can bring about change in the world.”