Volunteer programs provide post-grad options for seniors
This year, 40 St. Joe’s students have committed a year of their post-graduate lives to volunteering, in cities ranging from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, to countries as far as Uganda and Ecuador. This volunteering requires spending a year, or two, in full-time service to communities in the United States or abroad.
The volunteer positions can include education, rehabilitating people who have experi- enced homelessness, working with an impoverished community, or many other ways that address the unique needs of the community.
Seniors who decide not to apply for jobs or who take a break after college can opt for one of the many post graduate volunteering opportunities.
“I now serve at Covenant House, which serves 18 through 21 year olds who have expe- rienced homelessness,” said Tara Levine ’17, a Weekly Service Intern for Campus Ministry’s Weekly Service program in her senior year.
Levine had worked constantly with people experiencing homelessness during her time at St. Joe’s and was not sure what to do after graduation. She attended the Post Graduate Volunteer Service Fair held at St. Joe’s and, of the 40 or so other volunteer programs, decided on a Covenant House site in New Jersey. Nabijah Shabazz, volunteer manager at Covenant House in Newark, emphasized the organization’s mission of serving homeless and trafficked youth.
“We see our role as empowering the youth we serve,” Shabazz said. “We develop workshops that involve resume writing and interviewing to help them start again.”
The Vincentian Mission Corps, based in St. Louis, also made a pitch for students who could volunteer in health services and education. Sister Frances, director of the Vincentian Service Corps West, works directly with the volunteers and acknowledges the difficulties of committing to be a volunteer.
“The biggest barrier is too much debt,” Sister Frances said. “But the nicest thing about doing a year of service is finding yourself and what you need to do with your life.”
Most year-long service programs also cover costs of housing and food and provide vacation days. The appeal of the service itself is only one aspect that draws possible participants to dedicate a year of their lives to volunteer service. Julian Zuzarte ’18 attended this year’s Post Graduate Volunteer Service Fair to learn about the options available that would provide him with skills he would have for the rest of his life.
“I think the best way to help myself determine a career path might be through this experiential learning in serving vulnerable, marginalized communities,” Zuzarte said.
Zuzarte’s belief that a year of service may have lasting e ects on the rest of his life is backed by research.
According a 2013 study by the Catholic Volunteer Network, which has over 18,000 alumni in its member organizations, more than two-thirds of alumni said their service was either somewhat or very important in influencing their career. The same study also found 98 percent of volunteers decided to join because of the compassion they felt towards people in need.
Zuzarte learned about several volunteer programs during the fair, but is still unsure about the idea of dedicating a year to service.
Grace Davis ’17 is currently serving with Rostro de Cristo in the Guayaquil area of Ecuador. Davis said she has encountered the harsh realities of poverty and disease during her time in the South American nation.
“My heart is being stretched, broken and opened in the best ways,” Davis said in an email correspondence. “It is a challenge to be in a position where there really isn’t much that I can do, but I am discovering the importance of presence, accompaniment and the value of walking with others on their journey.”
This volunteer fair demonstrates that finding a job is not the only option for seniors. Post-graduate volunteer programs provide a unique opportunity and perspective for those students who may want to grow more before they settle into a career.