Why did you decide to become a Dominican Volunteer?
I attended Dominican University in River Forest Illinois. My major was in Spanish Studies and my two miners were Theology and Social Justice & Civic Engagement. At my university, I was shaped by the importance of service, social justice, and the Dominican way of life. I knew I wanted to put them into practice and serve my community. Dominican Volunteers USA offered a way to do that and a way to grow.
What was the most surprising thing during your volunteer time?
When I came to my ministry to teach English as a second language With the Tolton Center in Chicago I didn't know what to expect. The people that surprised me most were my students. I was surprised at how welcoming they were to me as a new teacher. I was moved by their willingness to share their powerful and profound life experiences. And I was impressed by their strong desire to learn and embrace United States culture.
One story illustrates my students’ generosity. After teaching for only a few weeks, one of my students gave me an apple, a symbol for a teacher. I was moved by this simple gesture of love, and appreciation from my students.
What was the one thing you wish you could change?
As an English as a Second Language teaching assistant, I serve many immigrants and people who are undocumented. Through their stories and experiences, I receive a firsthand look of the injustices of the United States immigration system, as well as the many obstacles my students must overcome. I wish that I could do more to fix this unjust and broken system. I remind myself that teaching English is a needed service that makes a substantial difference in in the lives of my students.
How this year changed you?
One year into the program, I now have a better understanding of struggles people go through in learning English and American culture. I have cultivated long-lasting relationships and friendships with people different than myself both in my community, and in my ministry. I have learned so much from Sister Beth Murphy, and Sister Martha Marie Kirbach, two sisters who dedicate their lives to serving others.
What would you say to volunteers of 2015-16?
I would say keep an open mind. You are embarking on a life-changing journey in your community and your ministry. Be open to wherever that journey may lead you.