I will be moving to Los Angeles, California on August 6, 2011.
Actually, this shouldn't be a surprise to most of you. I don't even know who reads this, but I'm going to hazard a guess that we know each other. So, if you know me, you know that before I graduated last fall, I had thought about doing a service year, and that in February I decided on five programs I wanted to apply to, and that in March and April, I applied to four of them, and that in May I was accepted into three, and also in May, I officially decided to become a Jesuit Volunteer.
The programs I applied to were Mission Year, Good Shepherd Volunteers, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
Why did I pick JVC?
It was a difficult decision. All of these programs are similar in some ways and then each have distinctions that set them apart. So my reasons weren't necessarily picking JVC over MY or LVC, but just when I added up all the pros for JVC, it felt right.
So what were those reasons? They're easily summed up by the four values of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
Community has always been an important aspect of my life. I've always loved my big family, my church families, my dance families. The communities I am part of are a big part of why I am the way I am. Community is important in shaping who we are, in being our support in times of struggle, allowing us to teach each other. During my year in JVC, I will be living in community with other Jesuit Volunteers.
The agencies JV's work with are all involved in some aspect of social justice. The homeless, intimate partner violence, prisons, refugees, immigrants, hunger, disease... etc. We have a responsibility to the downtrodden of our society. This is why I chose to a service year in the first place. I may try to act for social justice in my daily life, but I have never taken the time to devote my life completely to service. And now I will.
JVC is faith based, in the Jesuit Catholic tradition. The last few years I have explored a lot in my spirituality. I have come to my own decisions and had my own conversations with God, instead of relying on others to tell me what to believe. My sense of justice has also stemmed strongly from my faith. Throughout the year, we will have spiritual retreats and learn more about our spirituality as part of the JVC program.
The world has gotten so busy these days. We just have so much stuff. With JVC, I will be paid enough to get by and pay all my bills, but it will be a different lifestyle than I am even used to now. I am going to have to improve my cooking skills and learn to get by with less. As part of preparation for this, I am trying to rid myself of unnecessary junk I have. I won't be able to take much with me, so I'm packing things up, both as part of learning simplicity, as well as the fact that this is the fourth time I've moved in four years, I'm tired of moving all this crap every year.
I will be working with Urban Compass in Los Angeles. My assignment is for a year, from August 2011-August 2012. Probably the real tipping point on why I chose JVC was the particular interview I had for placement with Urban Compass. I am drawn to urban ministry, and have always been drawn to prevention programs for temptations that affect young people, especially in an urban setting: gangs, drugs, dating violence, crime, gun violence, teen pregnancy, etc. Urban Compass is a partnership between Verbum Dei High School and 112th Street Elementary School, serving the children of the Watts neighborhood in LA, one of the most economically depressed in the nation. It's an after school and summer program designed to give these kids homework help, enrichment activities, even field trips to show there is a world outside of Watts. It is also simply serves as a place for kids to go, and keep them off the streets. As my dad said when he was working on keeping after school programs in Durham--the hours between 4 to 6 are prime time for juvenile crime.
The director of the program I will be working with next year was interested in my experience growing up in Durham. I by no means grew up in the ghetto, but it's hard to escape some of the issues Durham has because of the pervasiveness. There are people I grew up with that joined gangs, some of whom are now dead or in prison. And I've known people that have died by gun violence. She was also very interested in my dance experience. I do have an interesting background--I am most trained in modern dance, but for the last four years have been very active in my ballet folklórico troupe at St. Ed's. I also know a bit about quite a lot of other types of dance: African, tap, ballet, hip-hop, lyrical, jazz... Dance for me has always been a way to connect with people, and I am so excited about teaching dance.
Next year is going to be a life changing experience. I don't expect it to be easy, I know it will be one of the most difficult things I've ever done, but I also know that it's part of my journey.
Thank you for reading. If you would like to donate to JVC, to help fund me and other volunteers and support us, please follow this link.