“What did you do this summer?”
It’s what faculty members always ask when students return in the fall. Many students work to save money for the coming year, but they also manage to squeeze in some adventures. The following students spent part of their summer gaining training as activists, learning to navigate big cities, and volunteering in the community. In the process, they clarified career objectives and gained valuable real-world employment skills.
Windy City Nanny
Caitlin McAlhaney ’14, an elementary education major, had a different kind of big-city adventure while practicing her skills teaching children. For the third summer in a row, she worked as a nanny for an aunt who lives in Chicago, IL. Caitlin said, “I had the kids, ages 7 and 9, from 8-6 every weekday and I took them on ‘field trips,’ as the kids liked to call them. One of my favorites was the Aurora Fire Museum. We were able to see fire trucks from the early 1900s and the kids were able to play with an original hand-pumped fire engine – which they loved.” She also loved the Naperville Carillon, “one of country’s only carillons, a set of large bells located in a tower taller than the Statue of Liberty.”
What was the most valuable part of the experience for Caitlin? “Learning how to navigate a new place by myself,” she said. “The first summer I went, I had never flown by myself or even been to Chicago. This summer I was not hesitant at all in going to events and places downtown Chicago and I had complete faith in my navigation abilities. Since I want to move to Europe after graduation, I value the ‘city knowledge’ I have gathered since being .”
Caitlin recommends that every student try to spend a summer in a new place, because, “you learn things about yourself that you would never know staying within your comfort zones. I never thought I could be completely comfortable navigating a place larger than my hometown (Greenville, SC), but since working in Chicago over the summer, I can see myself living in a city that size. This has been a very rewarding opportunity and I encourage everyone to step outside their comfort zone and explore a new city or place.”
Patience with Patients
Katie Martin ’15, Psychology major with a minor in philosophy, volunteered at AccessHealth Spartanburg (AHS). AHS connects uninsured low-income people with health care professionals who have donated their time for the betterment of the community. The organization also helps its clients learn about healthier lifestyle choices. Katie’s big project for AHS was writing a curriculum for a nutrition class for AHS clients. For that project, she spent a lot of time researching accurate information on nutrition and diet. She also conducted home-health care visits, interacting one-on-one with AHS clients to learn about their health-care needs. Katie says, “Throughout my experience at AccessHealth Spartanburg, the most important lesson I learned was to exercise patience at all times. When interacting with the AHS clients, it was important for me to understand that regardless of their attitude or mindset, our encounter would go much more smoothly if I was patient with both them and myself.”
Katie’s volunteer experience was part of the Bonner Leaders program at Converse. The mission of the Bonner program is to help end poverty through non-profit organizations. The program provides on-campus housing and meals to students who agree to volunteer with community organizations. Participating students also receive a $1,000 grant toward the next year’s tuition. Katie said, “My advice to other Converse students who are interested in volunteering would be to take that next step and do it! It is one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences a college student can have!”
Domestic Violence Advocate
Anja Golden ’15 also found her summer opportunity through the Bonner Program. She volunteered at Spartanburg’s SAFE Homes-Rape Crisis Coalition. Part of its mission is to provide services for people affected by domestic and sexual violence. She volunteered around 35 hours a week at SH-RCC’s emergency women’s shelter and their office at the county courthouse. She explained, “I assist victims’ advocates with shelter intakes, providing shelter clients with resources, informing clients about Orders of Protection, and preparing clients for court hearings.” The experience was a good fit for Anja’s skills and interests. She said, “It has been pretty exciting for me because I am passionate about helping victims of domestic and sexual violence. I’m double majoring in Philosophy and Psychology and double minoring in Women’s Studies and English, so I have been able to apply and relate my studies to my service this summer. I’m not sure what my future holds as far as a career, but I’m definitely keeping work like this in mind.”
Peace Corps Prep
Religion major Carmanita Turner ’14 spent a lot of time this summer completing the lengthy process of applying for a position in the Peace Corps. She has been nominated, which means that she moves to the next step in the selection process. She hopes to be leaving for an overseas adventure in August 2014. When she wasn’t filling out paperwork and securing recommendations, Carmanita was working at Walmart and the Converse College library, saving her dollars for senior year.