|Out In Service—Three Stories of Philanthropy
For many, life after college is a confusing time. The scramble to find a job, the rigors of securing lodging and, in many cases, becoming accustomed to a new town are just a few of the many stresses for a new graduate. A precedent has certainly been set for the post-college life, one that is subverted in many ways by individuals that choose to work in service. Three recent alumni have joined very different organizations—but all are committed to helping make a better life for someone else.
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Sasha Birosik ’14 is currently employed as a program specialist at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Schuylkill County. She was more than eager to dedicate her life to service, but was surprised to discover how badly the area needed her help.
“Going into some of the homes and hearing some of the stories of what families and children go through on a daily basis is extremely challenging,” said Birosik. “You can’t change what they have seen; you can only hope that you can help them in the future.”
Big Brothers Big Sisters seeks to nurture children, assigning them mentors to ensure that they always have someone they can rely on for support. Birosik’s job entails finding the ideal match for each child, whether they are assigned a mentor from the community or from a local high school. Managing the influx of volunteers and children inevitably makes her day interesting—she can often be found out in the community, interviewing families and volunteers.
Birosik is, in essence, the fulcrum on which the program stands. Finding a proper match is one of the most important—and most satisfying—jobs in the organization. She may spend plenty of time working on paperwork, similar to any other office job, but her reward is smiles just as much as a paycheck.
“When you start to hear stories about what they do together and you hear the excitement in the kids' voices, nothing really beats that feeling,” said Birosik.
As Birosik sought to serve others out of college, so too did Kelly Fahnestock ’13. Her experiences with the Community Dutchmen club started her on the road to service, and soon, her psychology degree was being put to use managing logistics as lead direct care worker at Hope Springs Farm, an organization dedicated to providing an outlet to adults with intellectual disabilities. The organization operates almost exactly like a regular farm, but with participants—known as “growers”—doing activities and work, and learning domestic skills.
Fahnestock is sometimes assigned to groups of up to five individuals, an often-daunting task when it comes to accommodating five different disabilities.
“You have to know the individuals well—know what makes them tick, makes them happy, makes them motivated to work,” said Fahnestock. “You have to know their boundaries.”
Fahnestock’s previous experience with the Special Olympics helped make her the person that she is today. The compassion that she sees daily is just part of why she loves her job. Recently, she witnessed a man at the LVC Sports Center go out of his way to run with some of her growers, learning their names, and encouraging them to go further. Seeing the positive actions of others—even people outside of her program—has spurred her to work even harder to be a positive force in society.
Fahnestock is, however, far from the only individual to continue LVC’s legacy of service. Megan McGrady ’11 was largely responsible for Relay for Life being as prominent as it is today at the College. She took over as a freshman and never looked back, increasing student investment and helping give anybody at the College a chance to fight back against cancer. From a collegiate advisory team to senior manager at the American Cancer Society, McGrady believes her expertise began to develop when she was just getting started at LVC.
Managing multiple relays in New York is certainly a “different speed” for McGrady, but her experience has enabled her to slip into the role quickly.
“My leadership experiences at LVC would’ve translated to any job,” said McGrady.
LVC’s service program has motivated many to seek careers in service. Perhaps the best part of this change in the usual tradition of college is that, often, these individuals consider it more of a passion than a job. Their work is further proof that, even in a small town, there’s still a big impact to be made.