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Panel discusses post-graduate service opportunities

| Tuesday, January 28, 2020

On Monday evening, a panel featuring former and current members of AmeriCorps, Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC), JVC Northwest and the Peace Corps was held in the Student Center at Saint Mary’s to discuss pursuing service as an option after graduation. The panel, titled “Discerning Your Future: Is Post-graduate Service Right For You?” was co-sponsored by Office for Civil and Social Engagement and the College Career Crossings office. 

The panelists discussed discernment and their own personal journeys deciding if doing service and volunteer work was the path for them.

“I vividly remember my discernment process and how incredibly overwhelmed and nervous I was,” Anna Herrmann, a recruiter with JVC, said. “Something that was helpful to me in my discernment process was to learn to start from a space of positivity, a space of gratitude and being able to decide what was best for me, to have options. To understand what a privilege it was to want to do something that not everyone really has the ability to do.”

JVC is a post-grad service program that has placements around the country and world. The program currently runs in 37 cities and six countries.

Herrmann said her discernment process led her to the JVC because it answered her questions about her place in the world and how best to serve people. 

“How could I best serve the world, knowing what I know about myself?” Hermann said. “Knowing that I want to be in a space of community, knowing I’m at my best when I’m serving communities, so I wanted a program that emphasized that. Knowing that I wanted to continue to grow in my faith outside of the university setting, which had really helped me to foster that. Knowing that I really wanted to work with diverse populations but I didn’t have the experience yet to say that was something I wanted to do. I wanted an experience to help me grow personally and professionally.”

For Itzxul Moreno, associate program director for ACE Teaching Fellows and a 2017 Saint Mary’s alumna, discernment really boiled down to where her “greatest joy and [her] greatest hunger met.”

“When I was an upperclassman at Saint Mary’s, I started thinking about, what is discernment for me, and where would I like to go from here,” Moreno said. “When it came time to look inward for what it was that I wanted and what I wanted to do, I knew it had to be something around helping others and being in fellowship with others.”

Chris Suriano, recruitment coordinator for JVC Northwest, said his path to service was discovered on an “alternative spring break trip” his senior year of college that opened his eyes to volunteer work.

Regarding discernment, Suriano said to “take your time, do your research, really, really think about what’s important to you, what you want to learn and where you want to make it because the opportunities are available to you.”

Andrea Tiller, a recruiter for the Peace Corps, a federal independent agency that work in sustainable development projects in 61 countries worldwide, said her own personal discernment came a little bit later than most Peace Corps volunteers.

Tiller worked in law enforcement in Michigan for 20 years before she had a “call in her heart to serve.”

“I think an important thing to ask yourself and when you’re talking to your folks, is thinking about why life is more than just a job, right?” Tiller said. “The call in my heart was about 10 years in the making, so I was feeding that, kind of scratching that itch, going to different countries, staying for a couple weeks, helping out, living with a family, learning the language, doing cultural exchange. Then come back to my office, and it just wasn’t enough. For 10 years I’d been doing this, putting a band-aid on, when I knew what I really wanted to do. Which was go somewhere for a substantial amount of time, not just a hot-minute study abroad. I wanted to build relationships that were deeper.”

After hearing stories of people answering the call to serve after college, students attending the panel then began to share their own personal discernment.

“I’m a Spanish and secondary education major,” said senior Lupe Garcilazo when discussing her motivation to pursue service. ”I want to teach but I kind of want to get a little bit more experience, like in another country, or with people that speak other languages or have other cultures different from mine.”

Junior Mary Blake said she is also discerning a post-graduate service experience.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people, and spending my time in a meaningful way,” junior Mary Blake said. “And people say if you’re not quite ready to jump into an office, or a career, this is a great way to spend some time in between.”

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