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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame graduates pursue paths of service beyond campus boundaries

Graduates commit to meaningful service opportunities

While many Notre Dame seniors opt to enter the workforce or pursue further education upon graduation, others choose to embark on a year of service involving various programs and endeavors. In the graduating class of 2023, five percent entered into service.

Approximately 40 graduating Notre Dame students will be working for Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) after graduation. ACE is a program spanning two years, during which graduating tri-campus students teach in underprivileged Catholic schools across the nation and live in housing with other students within the program. Each cohort also receives their master's in education by the end of the program.

“Once I started working with the South Bend community and seeing everything going on there, that had a big factor on my decision. It felt like two years to do something I was passionate about and to discover this new experience and through helping other people,” senior Ava Kolb said. Kolb will be teaching fifth grade in Denver, Colorado through ACE.

Kolb is graduating with a degree in psychology and program of liberal studies. She found out about the program her sophomore year after someone came into one of her classes to speak about it. Kolb is active within the South Bend community by regularly tutoring school aged children and has started a recess program at Coquillard Elementary school.

“I think that these next two years will provide me with so many opportunities to grow, not only in professional skills that could apply to many different fields, but just in my understanding of myself in these different communities. I could totally see myself getting really attached to the school and community,” Kolb said.

Senior Joy Agwu will graduate with a bachelor's degree in philosophy with a minor in constitutional studies. She will be teaching middle school social studies in Louisville, Kentucky through ACE.

“I eventually want to go into some type of education policy or education law. So, eventually, I do want to go to law school. But I figured before going into policy, it might be an asset to have experience with education. And for me, my middle school and elementary school experiences were so formative,” Agwu said.

Agwu said the teachers she's learned from were some of her biggest supporters, one of which will attend her college graduation, her middle school social studies teacher.

“I look forward to getting to chat with my kids about the world, getting asked all sorts of questions and to answer them in a way that isn't biased, but provoking them to think about the world for themselves. It is going to be really fun, but also incredibly challenging,” Agwu said.

Senior Sean Kelley will be heading to Phoenix, Arizona to teach fourth grade. Kelley is graduating with bachelor's degrees in French and anthropology and a minor in theology.

“Giving back is one of the most important things we can do. As people with faith, [we] are people that want to see the better in the world, [and] we have to make sure we are that better in the world. For a long time, I thought that meant joining the Peace Corps, but COVID hit, and the idea of being out of the country was a little questionable. But I definitely knew I wanted to do something after college before the workforce,” Kelley said.

During his time at Notre Dame, Kelley served as resident assistant in Sorin College, tutored elementary school children in South Bend and served as an intern with ACE this academic year. As an intern, he went around to different dorms and classes on campus speaking about ACE.

“My pitch was always this: When I was younger, and by younger, I mean last year, I would pray and say, ‘God, I want clarity. I want to know where I am going.’ And I had to learn that clarity is not what I needed, what I needed was strength to face the unknown. I think that is just something that ACE provides, knowing that you are not putting yourself above others, but you do not know exactly how you are going to do it because it is beyond the horizon. These next two years serve as discernment. That just gives me strength,” Kelley said.

Notre Dame graduates will also be serving with a variety of other organizations including Teach for America, Jesuit Service Corps and the Peace Corps.

Senior Gavin Sullivan will graduate with a bachelor's degree in pre-professional studies and served as an resident assistant in Pangborn Hall. Sullivan plans to combine his passion for medicine and service by spending the next year with the Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (NPH) in the Dominican Republic. NPH is an organization that serves orphaned and abandoned children across the Caribbean and Latin America. Sullivan will be helping with the surgical center.

“I think it is important to realize that we are going in not as a savior, but to serve the community. And in doing so, we will also be fulfilled by their knowledge and experience. Service is two sided,” Sullivan said.