What Do You Want To Do? As I walked across the stage during my undergraduate commencement, I realized that this was perhaps the last time I would be making a […]
What Do You Want To Do?
As I walked across the stage during my undergraduate commencement, I realized that this was perhaps the last time I would be making a major transition as far the setting of my life. I knew that I would moving back home in order to pursue a masters in counseling. I knew that the graduate process involved internships in the community. Since internships often provide professional resources as well as experience, it is not uncommon for one to begin there independent life in there area they attended school. This meant that, barring any unexpected opportunities, I would most likely settle in the greater Cleveland area.
As an undergrad I had been a part of an international service group. We traveled to several countries and engaged in both direct and second hand service. After graduation, many of the members of my cohort would join organizations like Peace Corps and now they are stationed in countries around the globe. Other co-horts moved out west and are now at the forefront of social and political movements. While the idea of international service was enticing, I always felt that I would eventually need to find a community I could become a part of.
I had put off community involvement during the summer. I had made myself busy with one final tour abroad and helping friends move in to new places or move out to far off countries. Fall rolled around and while many of my peers were beginning advanced degrees or career positions, I started submitting applications of different kind. I knew that I would be taking time off from school and so wanted to find an experience that would make use of my free time.
At first, I was excited by the response I got. Many of the request I replied to were excited about psychology background, my internship experience, and my knowledge of non-profit activities. However when I would arrive at face to face meetings, I discovered that many had hoped I would be more experienced, more financially resourced, or more professionally connected. Upon discovering I was a student, I would be offered a clerical or assistive position that required little time or skill to fill. There is certainly nothing wrong with volunteering in these positions and indeed many organizations could not function without these volunteers. But I was a 23 year old, post undergraduate student who was looking for something with a more direct impact rather than something I could feel good about doing.
All of this changed when I found myself at the office of EYEJ, on the 6th of the inter-belt building at 2800 Euclid avenue. EYEJ was one of my last stops and by this point I had convinced myself that I would give up on community involvement and devote myself completely to school and work. I remember after the requisite formalities of who I was and what my personal history looked liked, Mai Moore asking me what I wanted to do. I was not expecting the question and at the time, gave some well practiced answer about being flexible and a quick learner, so I could really do whatever EYEJ would need me to do. I braced myself for another offer to come in one hour, twice a week, to help file papers and respond to emails. Executive Director Mai Moore then clarified, by asking me what I was passionate about and what could I do for EYEJ. What skills did I have that EYEJ could use?
The question of what can you do for EYEJ would stay with me and be the theme of my involvement for the past seven months. The nature of what EYEJ does is such that almost anyone can be an integral part. The curriculums that are provided to the speakers have allowed diverse sets of individuals ranging from high school juniors and retired teachers to people various businesspersons to be effective speakers creating discussions. If a certified yoga instructor wants to include her own ideas into the topic of stress, we will help them find a way to do it.
On many of the website that recruit volunteers, the section that describes open positions if often called a needs board with open positions being “a need”. This idea that volunteers must be able to fulfill a need which can make the idea of volunteering discouraging to a volunteer with limited experience and resources. The idea that volunteers represent “a use” rather then “a need” is an almost opposite mindset. Anyone can answer the question “what can you do?”. If you have a skill and/or passionate, EYEJ has probably can find some way to use it.
EYEJ Coordinator Supervisor
Graduate Student at John Carroll University