Thursday, September 6, 2012

Take A Year To Volunteer

This story was originally prepared for the Dominican University Service Fair.


Volunteers at Wicker Park Fest
What are you going to do with your life?  What career do you want?  How are you going to get there?  These questions have been chasing us ever since we were in high school and they can be very overwhelming, especially to those of us who don't know what we want in life.  My senior year at Dominican University, it seemed like a race amongst those graduating to see who would get their dream job first or who would at least have a job before they graduated.

To give you a little taste of who I am, I have never felt like I was a part of that race.  For one thing, while many others applied to jobs that they hoped would become careers one day, I still tried to figure out what I wanted to do in life.  I had no dream job or any real vision for my future.  At Dominican, I was continually challenged (by a mentor of mine) to consider doing a year of volunteering.  In my case, after a lot of prayer, I believed that I was called to do just that.  Now, whether you feel "called" or not, a year of volunteer work is a great way to transition into the work place while learning about yourself outside of school and also giving back to the community.

Shelter Interim Housing participants pictured with Case Manager
When I finally graduated, I took my newly found freedom and joined the Franciscan Outreach Volunteers (FOV).  This organization provides services to the homeless in the Chicagoland area.  Me and my eleven other roommates (also part of FOV) are divided up at two work sites: the Marquard Center soup kitchen and the Franciscan House homeless shelter.  When I started at the homeless shelter I had no idea what to expect or what I even wanted to get out of my year long experience.  But I can certainly tell you that after only two months, I have had more hands on job experience than I would have ever gotten at another job.  Franciscan House's homeless shelter houses 210 men and 40 women.  My job is to make sure that the night runs smooth and peaceful in the women's dorm.

Confrontation is definitely the biggest thing that I am learning, right now, about how to handle.  Women, in general, are dramatic, but put 40 of them together and I'm surprised that there are any quiet nights.  My duty, as dorm monitor, is to treat everyone with fairness, patience, and provide structure.  It is hard sometimes not choosing sides when an argument breaks out, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to hear each side out and make a just judgement.
Carissa on the Community Night photo scavenger hunt

I am so appreciative for this volunteer experience.  It is definitely shaping my character and building up my assertiveness, patience, and humbleness (all of which are key skills to have in the work place).  Not only do I have to have the confidence to confront people, but I also have to have the humility to admit when I am wrong.  My interactions with the guests have really made me thankful for the support of my family, my home, my education, and also for my alone time.

My question to you is this:  What are you going to do with your life?  When you graduate, ask yourself if you really want to rush into finding a job or go back to school right away.  Take a year to volunteer!  Serving others is one of the most fulfilling jobs you can ever have.  You get hands on job experience, lifelong stories, and the time to find out who you really are outside of college.

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