Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Non-Profit and Community Service Career Fair

Today, Loyola held its annual Non-Profit and Community Service Career Fair in McGuire Hall, highlighting more than 30 options college graduates have if interested in entering the non-profit or service sector. The fair was yet another example of Loyola`s outstanding commitment to the Jesuit ideals of community service and justice. Tables covered with brochures and newsletter sign-up lists lined the room as representatives from each organization welcomed prospective participants. By talking to a number of people from the different organizations I got the feeling that they were very proud of what they do and genuinely desire to extend their experiences to Loyola students, hoping to recruit some in the process. Loyola students are presented a great opportunity to use college degrees to make a difference in the world. This sense of opportunity also emerges from the Baltimore Sun article, "Serving Up Hope," telling of a prominent Baltimore chef who passes on his culinary skills to those with troubled lives. Galen Sampson could have used his skills to cook at top-notch restaurants but decided to take a different route and seize the opportunity to make a difference. Such a variety of service opportunities present an option for nearly everyone, as illustrated by Chef Sampson. Turning towards service as a career option is not a movement away from some other occupation; rather, a gravitation towards service-oriented work allows us to do whatever it is that we wish to do, but with a concentration on the greater good.
Many of the non-profit career service fairs offered flexibility in when and where they would work and offer career services once the service has been fulfilled. For instance, the Dominican Volunteers of the USA was one table I stopped at. This program is a 10 month to a year long program in which participants live in Dominican communities of women and men catering to those who have been marginalized by society. Once the initial 10 month to a year service portion is up, participants may reapply for the program or recieve career placement in fields such as healthcare, social work, education, and immigration assistance. Many programs offer options like these, which should certainly help to persuade some people to engage in long term service. I believe that some people probably feel that progress in their chosen career will be hindered by taking a year (especially the couple years after college) to take part in non-profit, service oriented work, a fear that may be alleviated by service organizations` aibilities to provide participants with solid jobs.
The expansiveness of the Jesuit commitment to justice really dawned on me when I walked over to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) table and began looking through their literature. Their program is divided into five divisions: East, Midwest, South, Southwest, and International. Their national office, which happens to also be the office for the East region, is located right here in Baltimore at 801 St. Paul Street. According to Catholic Network of Volunteer Services` directory of volunteer opportunities, the goal of the JVC is to "offer men and women the opportunity to work full-time for justice and peace." Again, the word "opporunity" appears, prompting potential participants to decide whether or not they want to use thier career path to make a difference and whether or not this is the one for them. For Loyola students in particular, going to a Jesuit college leading in community service and justice and being right down the road from the national office of the JVC is a great chance to use what they learn in school to change society for the better.
One last thing about the Community Service Career Fair I noticed is how broad the range of service opportunites are. Some organizations tended to those who were marginalized by society in many aspects of their lives while others concentrated on specific areas of societal problems. For instance, the program Math for America DC obviously focuses on extending education, specifically mathematical skills, to those in the DC area. Still, other groups focus primarily on other things such as assimilation into society for immigrants, children growing up in abusive households, or recovering drugs or alcohol addicts. Our opportunity to take part in these programs mirrors the opportunity that is recieved by those who are positively affected by being helped by these organizations.
Although these organizations for community service as career paths are great, perhaps there is not one for everybody. This does not necessarily mean that they are unable to contribute to the betterment of society through their work. By experiencing the career fair as a whole, an overall message came across that gave me the idea that it doesn`t matter so much what you do as how you do it. For instance, obviously a lawyer can use his/her job to represent the more down and out members of society and try to help get them back on their feet or he/she can help represent the unethical company that put those people out of jobs. The message to do whatever you can with what you have to help make society a better place for everyone really resonated in McGuire Hall this morning.
Similarly, Galen Sampson used his abilities as a top chef to help make a difference. By scouring his resume, you can see that he has been to the top of the culinary ladder only to find that it stopped short somewhere for him. To quote the article, for Sampson "it was time to switch roles." Sampson realized that he had been given a gift and with it the opportunity to share that gift with the world. He credits his faith and belief in community as the reason why he decided to change his role in life. Once he made this shift, other aspects of his life began to fall into place, as he met and married his wife Bridget, who was also involved in community service as a career. Essentially, Galen Sampsen got and continues to recieve overwhelming compensation for his work, although probably not in a lucrative sense. He became more whole as a person as he attempted to revitalize a whole society through his work.
This idea of the whole person and a whole society echoes the Jesuit ideal of the seamless garment and preferential options for the poor and marginalized. No matter how we decide to make a living, we should attempt to stick as close as possible to these ideals. As demonstrated at the community service career fair, there a plenty of opportunities out there and as proven by Galen Sampsen, the most rewarding career can be any as long as it attempts to positively change society.

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