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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Seniors discuss plans for post-graduate service

While many graduating seniors may choose to enter the workforce or continue their higher-level education, other seniors will complete a year of service. Some service projects and partnerships are offered through the Center for Social Concerns, the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) and other partner organizations. 

About 4% of graduates will pursue service work upon graduation, while the most popular destination for post-graduate service continues to be the ACE, according to an email from associate vice president for career and professional development Ryan Willerton.

Notre Dame makes it easy for students to get involved with service and it is a great opportunity to give back to the community after college, graduating senior Josef Ernst said.

“I would encourage people that if they have at least a small inkling of a desire to do something meaningful for a year after college, and if they can financially, they definitely should because life is short and you can work the rest of your life.”

Senior Jennifer Eburuoh said service allows graduates to work with others and helps them discern their future career path and the types of work they may be interested in.

“I knew that I wanted something pretty hands-on and more person-to-person as opposed to a more traditional job which might just put me in an office,” Eburuoh said.

Eburuoh is graduating with a degree in environmental science and global affairs and will be working with the Franciscan Mission Service serving as a protection counselor for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In this position, she will serve as a liaison between different congressional offices and law firms and will also manage the hotline that refugees and asylum seekers can call to check the status of their cases or get connected to resources. 

Ernst will spend a year working with Partners in Health (Compañeros en Salud) providing healthcare to rural communities in Chiapas, Mexico. He is applying to medical school and said he was drawn to Partners in Health because of their commitment to changing the structures within healthcare. 

“[Partners in Health] is interested in treating the direct needs of patients, but also they're interested in changing the structures and the systems that lead to those poor health outcomes,” he said. “A lot of health is determined by socioeconomic factors and at the end of the day, if we're really going to help improve health, across the community, we need to work at those structures.”

In addition to service programs sponsored by various partner organizations, Notre Dame also collaborates with ACE to match tri-campus graduates with under-resourced K-12 Catholic schools across the country. The graduates serve as teachers at the schools and earn their master’s degree in education after two years of service. 

Saint Mary’s senior Paige Madden is one of 37 graduating tri-campus seniors who will be serving with ACE beginning this summer. 

At first, Madden said she was hesitant to teach and had her mind set on going to law school, but she felt she was being called to serve with ACE and is excited to see how this experience will shape her. 

I’m looking forward to learning so much about my students and finding out what they're going to teach me about myself,” she said. “That growth element was very important to me in choosing a program that was going to push me outside my limits.”

Eburuoh also said she hopes her service work will push her out of her comfort zone and that she is looking forward to establishing a new routine and meeting new people in D.C. “I’ve gotten so used to the Notre Dame normal ... so it will force me to grow, especially in the first few weeks. I’m looking forward to that change.”

For other students who may be considering a service program after college, Madden said it is important to do what you feel in your heart is right. 

“I think the biggest thing for me was just trusting your gut, and trust that you will end up where you're supposed to be and just accepting that sometimes, what you want to do might not be what you're supposed to do,” Madden said.