Non-Profit Careers Conference Reflections

I heard that the Non-Profit Careers Conference (NPCC) is worth the early return to campus, so as I senior, I finally took the plunge and signed up. As a Community-Based Learning (CBL) Intern, I thought that even if I did not have a great time, at least I could have the experience to share with my fellow Interns and CBL participants. I packed whatever business-casual clothes I could find and headed back to Mount St. James a little more than a week before my final semester of classes would begin. I am not kidding when I say that by the end of the conference, I was texting my roommates and telling everyone who asked me about it that it was by far one of my best Holy Cross experiences yet and that everyone should try to participate in it at some point during their four years here.

I am not a person who typically has so many positive things to say about experiences like this one. I am super picky and judgmental, so the fact that I loved every moment of the NPCC should be a testament to how incredibly organized and insightful it was. The participants, presenters, non-profit organizations, and conference organizers are some of the most generous, insightful, and down-right fun people that I’ve come across in my three-and-a-half years here in Worcester. The thought-provoking conversations, reflections, and spiritual insights gave me the boost that I needed to finally narrow down what should come next for me.

As a Deaf Studies and Psychology major, I’ve been struggling with my parents’ decision that I should either be an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter or a teacher of the Deaf. As someone who prefers being the speaker instead of the conveyer of information, and as someone who definitely does not want to teach (sorry, Mom!), these two paths do not fit my personality or my goals, at least at this moment in my life. At some point in the next few years will I consider them again? Absolutely. However, right now I need to make decisions for this upcoming year. That’s where the NPCC comes in.

After a week at the NPCC, some serious research, and a lot of reflection on my past internship and work experiences, I realized that I had never given any thought to public policy. How did I come to realize this? Well, anyone can do non-profit work, so I’ve learned. I thought you had to fit a certain mold and have a certain degree. I was wrong. Anyone can work in the non-profit sector, as long as they have a skill and a passion for helping others. Accountants, tech experts, data analysts, public relation coordinators, etc. all have a place in non-profit work. I didn’t know this prior to attending the conference.

Learning about the inclusivity of non-profit work made me realize that being involved in the Deaf community involves the same idea – as long as I am passionate about the cause, I can bring whatever skills I have and use them to help others. There is no specific mold or certain type of person necessary to create good, useful work. We are all capable.

I’ve performed two years of research relating to Deaf education and educational policy. My capstone for my major focused on the social implications of Deaf ASL users in mainstream schools. I always thought that this meant that my only path was to be a teacher, but now I’m realizing that there are more ways to be involved in Deaf education and the lives of Deaf students without being at the front of the classroom.

I’m not saying that if you go to the NPCC, you’ll then know exactly what your life’s work should be. I’m saying that your mind will be open to new possibilities, new opportunities, and most importantly, new ways of thinking that will change the way you approach the dreaded question: What are you doing after Holy Cross? So, if you’re a scared freshman, sophomore, or junior (sorry seniors, you’re toast!*), consider the NPCC as a great way to start the process of discernment as you consider your options for post-grad life. Whether it is a year of service, graduate school, or working in the trenches, you will find the way.


*You’re not toast. Far from it. Stop by the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning in Fenwick 321 and 322 and ask to talk to Michelle Sterk Barrett or Isabelle Jenkins. Or go to Career Planning and ask to talk to Maura Sweeney or Megan Chester. I can practically guarantee you that a conversation with them will quell your worries. It did for me.

Reflections on the Non-Profit Careers Conference by Emily Breakell

Put simply, the Non-Profit Careers Conference (NPCC) exceeded my expectations and was a productive way to spend part of winter break. Every speaker and contributor to the conference demonstrated an outstanding passion and interest in their work, which is truly amazing and comforting to see as a student considering what a fulfilling post-grad life might look like.

I was specifically interested in community organizing and political engagement, and hearing directly from a community organizer exactly what it is like to work with and advocate for others on the local level was fascinating and reinforced my interest in the relationship between non-profits and politics. Although I am in just my second year of college, the NPCC gave me a lot of insight into the benefits and challenges of working in the non-profit sector and into the diversity of opportunities available.

I have a lot to consider moving forward, but arguably the most important experience that NPCC provided me with will help me as I make important decisions: the awesome privilege of making connections with a number of students and faculty that are deeply invested in leading mission-driven, meaningful lives. It was truly outstanding to meet other Holy Cross students who engage in the community in such important and influential ways and who are considering futures that will be marked by a certain capacity for empathy.

I am impressed by the work of the Donelan Office of Community-Based Learning in continuing to challenge students like me to lead lives conscious of the needs of others, and I am extremely grateful that I could attend such a well-planned, productive, and inspiring conference.

It’s Okay to Be Selfish Sometimes

Holy Cross has some of the most motivated students around.  One of the great things about our motivation is how it reaches beyond our academic lives and into the Worcester community.  With over 96% of students having participated in some sort of service program before graduation, it’s safe to say Holy Cross  places great emphasis on serving the community.

Many students don’t realize that this service is a two-way street.  Other students do realize this mutual benefit and struggle to unpack the complications of selfishness in “charity.”  Well, I think it’s okay to be selfish sometimes.  Before you’re too off-put by this statement, hear me out.  I know we live in a culture that tends to look down upon selfishness.  And generally, selfishness is something that deserves to be looked down upon.  But when it comes to service, it’s hard to escape the fact that we can leave feeling that we’ve gotten more out of it than we’ve put in (oftentimes because this is the case).

I think it’s okay to embrace this dynamic for all its inescapability.  On a personal note, I grew up in an environment that completely sheltered me from many of the injustices I’ve learned about through my community engagement.  Although the mark I’ve left on the Worcester community is small in its reach, the mark Worcester has left on me will influence all my pursuits as I look to the future.

Social justice is something I rarely gave serious consideration before I came to Holy Cross.  But after three years of involvement in my community, social justice has become integral to my plans for after graduation.  After seeing the “gritty reality of the world,” I can’t help but feel convicted to use my opportunities and privileges toward positive change–even if it’s a small one.

So, I have to wonder if embracing the selfish aspects of service means becoming aware of the world in a way that was never possible before, then what do you have to lose?


–Rachel Greenberg ’15

CBL Spotlight: Kristen from Ascentria Care Alliance

In the spring semester of my freshman year, I began working at a new CBL site, where I first met Kristen, the Community Coordinator and Case Manager of the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program at Ascentria Care Alliance. From the very first tutoring session, I was struck by Kristen’s sincerity, unwavering positivity, leadership skills and effortless ability to connect with the clients.

Over the course of the semester, I also grew to admire Kristen for her humility, evident in the fact that she would repeatedly apologize for her “broken Spanish,” although her language skills were nearly impeccable. Week after week, Kristen took a “quiet” leadership approach when conducting group lessons or discussions, always making an effort to listen to the concerns of Holy Cross students and the clients. She worked tirelessly to create a welcoming and enjoyable environment at our sessions, making sure that both Holy Cross students and the clients felt comfortable around one another. Because of her exceptional approachability, I immediately felt less anxious in this new environment.

It was obvious that she was a “pro” at working with these vulnerable immigrant teens, who had just arrived alone in a foreign country, sometimes without any family or friends. Her friendly and calm demeanor made her a natural for the field, as the youth always sought out her advice and help when they felt frustrated or had a bad day at school. Likewise, Kristen was the first person who the clients would speak to about their various accomplishments, like receiving a good grade or winning their soccer game.

In watching Kristen skillfully navigate the highs and lows of working with such a vulnerable group of kids, I was inspired to become more deeply involved in service work. Kristen’s commitment to the clients and passion for serving everyone made me realize the importance of serving others and taking the time to get to know these clients. In having the opportunity to work alongside Kristen at my CBL site, I am beginning to understand the importance of fostering kinship and becoming a woman with others. In learning more about Kristen’s background and in working with her over this past year, I have come to realize that she truly embodies God’s idea of a community, where “no one is standing outside [God’s circle of compassion]” (Boyle, 190).

After working with Kristen for several months now, it was a humbling experience to learn more about how her faith has given her the strength to engage in service every day. Her story is particularly relatable to young individuals, including myself, who struggle to understand why cruel inequities exist in the world. It is fortunate that good-hearted people like Kristen live in our society, as she has bravely committed herself to tackle the messy injustices that most people try to ignore. Her honesty, humility and generosity are inspiring and refreshing, as these qualities are rare in our fairly individualistic and materialistic society.

In my opinion, Kristen embodies God’s ideal vision for humanity, as she hasn’t “forgotten that we belong to one another,” as Mother Teresa said (Boyle, 187). Kristen’s unwavering commitment and passion for service work over the years is a testament to her exceptional character, as she could have easily succumbed to the stress of the job. Overall, Kristen is inspiring, as she has empowered the most powerless population and has courageously accepted God’s call to service. It is clear that Kristen has discovered her God-given vocation and has lived out the mission mentioned in her favorite quote by Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

–Shea ’17

Marshall Memorial Fund Recipients

Congratulations to our Fall 2014 Marshall Memorial Fund Grant Recipients:

• Sarah Curran and Alexander Pagan-Mejia were awarded funds to purchase supplies in order to create Thanksgiving baskets for families of the Nativity School of Worcester.

• Naomi-Ann Gaspard and Jessica Rodriguez were awarded funds to coordinate a college visit for the members of Girl’s CHOICE.

• Anthony Criscitiello and Mary Patrice Hamilton were awarded funds to establish a honeybee hive on campus for educational and research purposes.

• Rebecca Sewell was awarded funds to purchase supplies for the Girls, Inc. “College Shower.” The “College Shower” is an event that celebrates the life transition of students beginning college.

• Kristen Paadre and Abbey Wilkman were awarded funds to purchase thank you gifts from the Holy Cross bookstore for eight middle school girls participating in an educational research project at St. Peter Central Catholic School.

• Professor Bridget Franco was awarded funds to support the purchase of supplies and refreshments for her Spanish 305 CBL site visits with the Latino Elders Program and the “Third Day” Program at St. Peter’s Assumption Center.

• Andrea Gendron was awarded funds to purchase supplies for activities with the WPS Transition Program and the WPS Deafblind/Low Vision/Blind Department.

Personal Connection through CBL

Every fall for the past three years, I have helped high school students write their college essays as my CBL site. When I started working for this program, I had the mindset that most Holy Cross students have while doing community service – I thought that I was going to make a huge impact on all of their lives. I was wrong. I know this sounds cheesy, but the students have taught me so much more about life and what’s important than I can even begin to teach them.

Before working with these students I thought I was a strong person who could overcome any challenge that may get in my way. However, I have never really been in a position yet, especially during my childhood, that I needed to deal with a very difficult situation. In the course of my time at this CBL site, I’ve read about 60 college essays, and every single one of them has proven to me what true strength is.

I have worked with a student who lived in a one-room shack in India with 10 people and no running water. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two students who came to the U.S. from Iraq during the war. I’ve gotten to know a student who has struggled to tell his family that he is gay. I’ve worked with a student who was homeless for three years. I’ve talked at length with a student who lived in a Refugee camp in Nepal. And those are only a few examples of the amazing people I have worked with over the years at my site. Despite these incredible challenges, all of them are so determined to rise above their difficult situations and make better lives for themselves through education.

I have found that the key to CBL is being open to really getting to know the population you are interacting with on a weekly basis. The more that I’ve learned about the students on a personal level, the more I’ve been able to critically look at myself and think about how I want to live my own life.


Kristen Kelley, ’15

A CBL Intern’s Advice on Mindfulness

Wow! I cannot believe I am typing this blog post as a senior CBL Intern. Where has the time gone? Even as an experienced CBL student, I still feel as though there are always things that I could use a refresher on, or at least an opportunity to examine things in a new light. Do you sometimes feel this way?

For this post, I am going to discuss the topic of mental presence and engagement during CBL site visits. As the semester becomes hectic, it becomes more difficult to really appreciate the time I put into my CBL site, because even when I am physically engaged at the site, my mind can be elsewhere. I think it is safe to say that other CBL students may feel this way as well, especially now that we are fully immersed in papers, exams, and various on-campus activities.

“When is that paper due? What am I even writing that paper about? What time are office hours? Did I remind my roommate that I am not going to be back until late tonight?” The crazy stream of consciousness that is constantly churning in a Holy Cross student’s mind can be hard to suppress or even fully appreciate.

After years of participating in CBL opportunities, I still sometimes struggle to be mentally engaged at all times. So, what is a busy student to do? My recommendation is to practice mindfulness at your CBL site.

What does this mean? It means allowing yourself to focus specifically on each task as it happens, instead of worrying about upcoming tasks, whether they are a product of your site or of your impending work schedule. Focus on the math problem that you are helping a high school student to solve, or the donation collection that you are in the midst of organizing. Once you break down the experience into smaller pieces, you are able to more fully absorb events as they occur and you will ultimately learn how to fully appreciate them.

CBL Inspires Me to Seek Further Answers

This summer, my partner, Matthew Watson’16, and I, Cindy Nguyen’15, will be conducting research through the Mellon Summer Research Program on how to establish a community garden. One factor that pushed me to make this initiative was the experience I had at a CBL site. I think this proves that having the component of hands on experience does in fact encourage one to seek further academic development, as well as reflecting upon one’s own beliefs and values (too often we like to remain within our set view of the world).
The research will try to answer three questions:

  • Why a garden? – Why should we choose the medium of a garden as a vehicle of expression?
  • Why a community garden? – By incorporating the community into this garden project, in what ways does Holy Cross and local organizations benefit?
  • What type of garden? – In order to determine what agricultural methods the garden will use, we must decide what crops to plant, what agricultural techniques will be used, and answer other physically and spatially oriented questions.

One of the things that inspired me was a class I took as a freshman, which was a food philosophy course called, “I am, Therefore I Eat,” (recently became a CBL course) taught by Professor Borghini. The class gave me the tools to start critically thinking about the topic of food, and led me to volunteer for the Community Harvest Project. This organization is a non-profit, which grows, tends, and produces fresh vegetables and fruits in order to assist with the alarming hunger issues in Worcester County. I first learned about the non-profit organization through interning at the Community-Based Learning department at my school. The department’s mission is to encourage students to take the theories they learn in class and try to critically apply them with hands-on experience. I did just that… It should be noted that when I did volunteer for the Community Harvest Project, I was a junior; yet, the knowledge I have gained from the class as a freshman resonated within me. The different ideas, theories, and discussions from a few semesters ago came back to me.
My time at Community Harvest Project showed me that farming is similar to a form of art—it is intricate in many ways. The method you use must be executed accordingly, or else your crops will fail. The way you act on it, requires a delicate hand, as well as pride for your work. It is so exhausting and sometimes redundant that you almost want to give up, similar to a painter who can’t seem to get that one aspect of his work the way he likes it. Moreover, it requires knowledge about your surroundings because you might just stumble upon some friendly—or not so friendly—creatures. Lastly, farming is unpredictable, which requires you to reevaluate and do some experimenting.

Frustrating as it seems, there is a beauty to it. The idea of growing and harvesting produce is something to take great pride in, as the work is not easy, and it takes a tremendous effort and devotion in order to have a successful season. In addition, working with other people and being in touch with the environment results in something deeper. The engagement and the awareness you gain from forming relations with strangers, acquaintances, or friends can create a unique bond and learning experience. You find something about yourself, and you discover something new about the world. Oftentimes in our mundane routine, we tend to ignore the dysfunctional and flawed parts of our lives because we like to feel ‘comfortable.’ Thus, tending a garden, side-by-side, to produce something so fundamentally valuable in our daily lives creates a positive sense of unity and harmony.
I am positive that through this journey I will discover new answers and develop a new way of thinking. Essentially, academics and experience go hand-in-hand as it forces us to constantly have an open mind and critically examine the world as a whole.

Community Harvest Project Awards Holy Cross the “Higher Education Partner of the Year” Award

Higher Education Partner of the Year:  College of Holy Cross

The College of the Holy Cross was recognized for their multi-faceted partnership with Community Harvest Project.  Over the course of 2013 they supported us with interns that assisted with our summer operations and completed special projects furthering our mission.  A group of students from their Non-Profits Career Conference formatted a survey to be implemented this summer which will allow us to capture feedback from our partner organizations that we have never had before.  They also were a key supporter of our “Teaching Garden” through the Working for Worcester Program.

CBL Project highlighted in the Telegram & Gazette

Cristal Steuer wrote the following about a CBL project conducted in Amy Wolfson and Pat Bizzell’s Liberal Arts, Leadership, and Social Change class:

In a column for the “Business Matters” section in the Telegram & Gazette, Aaron Nicodemus writes about eight seniors at the College of Holy Cross who  interviewed local business and community leaders four years ago as freshmen, then recently re-interviewed them as college seniors. “The students learned bits of wisdom and advice that, hopefully, will help them build successful careers. They also learned about some incredible life stories and accomplishments of ordinary people living and working here in Worcester,” he wrote.

Michelle Sterk Barrett,  director of the Donelan Office of Community Based Learning at Holy Cross, told the Telegram & Gazette, “In this particular class, the students asked their first-year Montserrat professors, Amy Wolfson and Patricia Bizzell, if they could reconvene again as seniors,” she said “They were seeking the opportunity to collectively reflect upon their experience of attending a rigorous, Jesuit, liberal arts college and what it taught them about leadership, diversity and social change. … In particular, the assignment required that they learn more about the path this person followed to success, the qualities he/she sees in an effective leader, and the extent to which she/he sees gender and diversity playing into leadership functions.”

Interviews ranged from Tim Garvin, the president and CEO of United Way of Central Massachusetts, to Ann Lisi, CEO of The Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

Students in the class include Kelly Burke, Lauren Chin, Henry Callegary, David Odell, Carmen Ana Alvarez, Jonathan Casseus, Stephanie Okpoebo, and Jeffrey Reppucci.

This “Holy Cross in the News” item by Cristal Steuer.