Santa Clara University

Alumni put faith into action

One way some alumni make use of the values and goals taught at Santa Clara University is to participate in a service program such as the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) or the Peace Corps. Alumni who recently came to campus to discuss their experiences with current students said these programs were an adventure and an opportunity to put their faith into action.

Ryan Spencer '98, said he realized from his involvement as an undergraduate in the Santa Clara Community Action Program and Campus Ministry that he enjoyed working with people, and that he didn't want to join the business world after graduating with a degree in computer science. So instead of working on software, he worked for a year with the JVC in a soup kitchen in New York City. He did everything from taking out the garbage to setting up a database.

"It was a humbling year and I really gained a lot from it," Spencer told the SCU students.

JVC workers are paid a small stipend, and usually live in group houses. Alumna Cristin Winn '98 discussed her work on Los Angeles' Skid Row helping newly-released prisoners get back into the job market.

Some alumni detailed how they experienced the hardships of daily life while living in other countries.

"You invest a lot of time and energy in everyday tasks," said Amy Fitzgerald '98, who served in JVC in Managua, Nicaragua. She recalled spending hours washing clothes on a washboard in her backyard. Fitzgerald taught in a school run by nuns in inner-city Managua, as the country was reeling from the effects of Hurricane Mitch.

Heidi von der Mahden '97 taught chemistry at a high school in Tanzania for the Peace Corps. She lived in a small village that was four hours away from the nearest town, but said her fellow teachers were friendly and welcoming.

Von der Mahden now works in a Sonoma County winery. She said employers thought her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer was a plus. "It shows employers you are dedicated and can work through challenges," she said.

-Larry Sokoloff J.D. '92
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