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Seniors discuss plans for postgraduate service

| Friday, May 17, 2019

While a large number of graduating Notre Dame seniors may decide to enter the workforce or pursue a tertiary degree upon graduation, other seniors decide to pursue a year of service spanning an array of programs and activities.

Gemma Stanton, who is graduating with a civil engineering degree and minors in resiliency and sustainability of engineering systems and Catholic social tradition, is spending her year at Bethlehem Farm in Alderson, West Virginia.

“Their mission statement is to transform lives through service with the local community and the teaching of sustainable practices,” Stanton said. “I’m going to help volunteers who come with home repair sites — teaching them how to use tools, as well as being there to help them out on sites.”

Stanton said she chose the program at Bethlehem Farm because of its emphasis on sustainability.

“Senior year I started looking at the application processes and what stuck out to me about Bethlehem Farm was that I knew what I would be doing would be really tied to sustainability, which I knew I wanted,” she said.

This feature is also important to Stanton, as she completed coursework on this subject during her time at Notre Dame.

“An exciting thing about Bethlehem Farm is that they just got a couple of grants to do sustainability audits of houses, so they’re going to be analyzing how the homes they go into are sustainable and how we can make them better, not just safer or warmer but also more sustainable,” she said. “I think the things I’ve learned are going to be useful for having a technical background and that perspective on it. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I like solar panels,’ but I can actually do some math and figure out how many solar panels are needed to power a house.”

Maria Heiman, who studied accountancy with a minor in poverty studies, is also embarking on a year of service. Heiman will be working with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) in Minneapolis.

“I will be working with individuals experiencing homelessness and providing resources like transportation and opportunities to get them to stable housing and stable employment,” she said.

Heiman said she has always wanted to do some form of service, especially at this time in her life.

“A year of service was something that I always felt called towards. For me, I always wanted to give myself to something greater,” she said. “I thought as long as I’m young and flexible and had the opportunity, I thought if I don’t do it now, I might never do it. Living in community with others also was something that I unknowingly was looking for. Being at Notre Dame and being around people who are always cheering you on and always being there for you in that aspect was something that I was searching for and hopefully have found with JVC. Also, I would say the spirituality component, too. I am always looking to increase my faith life, so I found a great opportunity to do that within the Jesuit order that I am not as familiar with.”

Heiman’s coursework at Notre Dame also influenced her placement within the JVC, she said.

“Part of what I’m doing with my placement is starting up a financial readiness program there. Obviously my business coursework will help me in that aspect, but I think a Notre Dame education overall is what I’ll bring the most to JVC,” she said. “I am excited. I think just being able to be in a new territory and find my place in that community, not just the JVC community, but the broader region.”

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