Thursday, May 31, 2018

A Year In Review – A Dominican Volunteer’s experience at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School in the Penn Community

DV Henry Moller
Our latest blog post comes from Dominican Volunteer Henry Moller.

Henry serves as a teacher at Immaculate Conception Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Atlanta Georgia and reflects on his year with DVUSA with gratitude.

Thank you for your service Henry and for sharing your many gifts with your students, colleagues community members,and fellow volunteers.

Dominican blessings in all your future endeavors.

As I packed my bags and prepared to board the plane on the way to the Dominican Volunteers USA opening retreat I distinctly remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?” Now, nearly a year later, in the best possible way, I am still not sure I can fully explain the answer to my question. Here is my best attempt:

Over the course of the 2017-2018 school year I have served as a teacher and a coach at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School living in the Penn Community in the Midtown neighborhood of Atlanta. Throughout this time I worked and lived with some truly incredible and inspirational people. I am so thankful for the warm welcome and hospitality I received upon arriving in the Penn Community and the continued growth and connection we developed as an intentional community focused on social justice issues and our own spirituality. Each member of the community contributed in different ways and taught me a great deal about living in harmony with brothers and sisters in Christ.

At my ministry site I was equally blessed to find inspiration and opportunities to grow professionally, personally, and spiritually. This inspiration came from the incredible faculty, staff, and administration at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit in their tireless support and constant commitment to the school’s mission of developing men and women for and with others but most of the inspiration I received came from the indescribably amazing students I interacted with daily. I am lucky enough to be returning as a full-time teacher next year at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit and truly look forward to strengthening the relationships I have forged. Being able to tell my students I would be returning for an additional year and receiving warm congratulations from them was an experience I will never forget.

Dominican Volunteers USA has been much more than a ministry/community placement program this past year. While the room and board, stipend, and placement have been great, the year would simply not have been the same without the encouragement and care shown by every member of the Dominican community. To my fellow Penn Community members, all members of the Dominican Order, Megan, Allison, and David, all the wonderful people at Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School, and to my fellow DVs, I extend a heartfelt thank you for making this year possible.

5 years ago if you had asked me if I would be open to a year of service, living in community, and exploring my faith I would have thought you had mistaken me for someone else. I am eternally grateful the me from 5 years ago grew to a point where I was willing to take a chance on what has been a wild adventure. Numerous doors have been opened to me as I continue to find myself in this wonderful thing we call life. For that, I will be forever thankful.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Names and faces

DV Sydney Boyer
Our latest blog post comes from Dominican Volunteer Sydney Boyer.

Sydney serves at the Opening Word, a literacy and job readiness center for immigrant women in Amityville New York and shares how her personal experiences with her students have reshaped her understanding of immigration.

When I talk about my year of service, friends and family are normally fascinated by my living with religious sisters. Questions typically include, “Do you have to pray every day?” and “Do you have to wear a habit?” Our conversations become so hung up on this aspect of my year of service that I hardly have the chance to talk about what I actually do and the impact my job has had on me. My year of service has been much more than living and working with the Sisters of St. Dominic (although that is a large part of it). When I leave, my fondest memories of this experience will come from the women at my job, who have inspired me to do more.

I have had the amazing opportunity to work with the Opening Word Program. The Opening Word is a literacy program that teaches English as a second language to immigrant women. My role is to empower these women to achieve higher education and/or a job by teaching them basic computer skills. In my role, I am able to work with immigrant women on a daily basis to not only forward their education, but more importantly, to walk with them on the journey of becoming a part of this country. During this year, I have encountered the pitfalls of the immigration system and have developed a passion for helping the migrant population. However, these values were not always rooted in me.

I come from a small rural town is Ohio called Canal Winchester, population: 7,905. Like any small town, I can walk into the local grocery store on Gender Road and run into at least a handful of people I know, which does not include my former classmates that now work there. In the windows of the local pizza shops hang posters of high school sports teams with kids that I have known since elementary school days. And every fall, on Friday nights, every person in the town is gathered in the bleachers to watch our Canal Winchester Indians take on another local football team from the surrounding area. And out of the 7,905 residents in Canal Winchester, 86 are Hispanic, 361 are Black and 6,459 are White. Not only that, but the median income of my town is $83,639. Sounds pretty diverse, right?

Until college, much like my peers, I believed in the stigmas surrounding immigration. This was because I was only ascertaining my knowledge from the news and from the people around me in Canal Winchester. These stigmas would still be part of my beliefs without my experiences at Xavier University that exposed me to diversity, privilege and marginalization. My experiences at Xavier are what ultimately led me to Opening Word, which has also played an important role in my understanding of immigration. This is because it has put faces and names to the struggles of immigrants we hear about daily. I feel blessed and privileged to work not for these women, but with them. They have shared with me stories that will forever be engraved on my heart. They are the ones who have inspired me to go into social work, and they are the ones that I will never stop advocating for.

Sydney and her students

Sydney and her student