Meghan Walch

Major: Biology and Spanish
Year of Graduation: 2008

Current Position: Volunteer, through Amate House at a nonprofit called "Programa CIELO" - a community health and wellness outreach program in the Mexican-American Little Village neighborhood of Chicago, IL..  

Please give a brief description of your volunteer position.
I worked as a Community Resource Educator and spent the majority of my time in area elementary schools teaching nutrition classes to students in K-6 grades. Programa CIELO also offered a variety of health screenings at no cost to the patient.  When I wasn't at a school teaching, I spent my time in the office seeing clients who came for any number of screenings such as blood sugar, cholesterol, and/or pregnancy testing.  Community health fairs are common in that area too, so we would also go to these to offer one or two health screenings.  Finally, I would also help clients apply for Illinois Medicaid programs. 

How did you decide to volunteer after graduation & what resources did you use?
I decided to volunteer because the program/work site, Amate House and Programa CIELO, best fit the things that I considered to be important and meaningful to my life.  Before deciding to volunteer with Amate House, I in fact applied to both paying jobs and other volunteer programs.  At that time, I wasn't even sure that I wanted to volunteer. 

To help me decide, I used some very helpful resources.  I attended a volunteer fair on campus and talked with program coordinators and current volunteers from different programs, even some CSB/SJU alumni!  With a lot of help from the career assistants at Career Services, I had at least four resumes tailored to fit any possible scenario to which I might commit.  In looking for volunteer programs, I also looked at the Catholic Network Volunteer Service (CNVS) directory and talked to people who I knew who had gone on Alternative Spring Break trips that appealed to me.

What are some things to consider when thinking about volunteering?
I'd suggest considering the basics: who, what, why, where, etc.  They're basic, but they're very important!  Consider why you want to volunteer.  What you intend to put into your volunteer service and what would you like to get out of such an experience (probably not money). Consider where you want to volunteer.  Nationally, internationally, etc.  Consider who you want to volunteer with.  Do you want to volunteer working with other volunteers or would you rather volunteer more on your own? (This might also influence your living situation.)  Consider what volunteer service you what to do.

What did your volunteer experience entail on a typical day?
I lived in the neighborhood where I worked which to me made my work ever more meaningful.  I'd spend about an hour at the office, check my e-mail, prepare materials for the classes we were to teach that day and maybe see a client or two.  Then, depending on the schedule, a co-worker and I would go to a school(s) to teach our nutrition classes. Class time was spent learning about nutrition by talking, playing games, watching video clips, and creating food advertisements.  A lot of student interaction! 

My day as a volunteer didn't end there.  As an Amate House volunteer, I lived in an intentional community, which meant that I ate dinner Monday - Thursday with my community, my housemates, among doing many other intentional things.  There were eight of us total in our house, so in pairs we took turns preparing dinner for one another.  If it was my evening to cook, I'd make the short journey back across the street to start the meal.  If not, I had an hour or two to do whatever before dinner was served.

What is the most challenging part of volunteering?  What is the most rewarding part of the experience? 
Personally, the most challenging thing about my volunteer experience wasn't any part of my work, it was living in community.  Yet, at the same time it was the most rewarding part of my experience.  I lived with seven other women throughout the U.S.., who moved to Little Village in Chicago to volunteer.  We were raised differently, attended different schools, and studied different things. We had different backgrounds and were expected to live together harmoniously for ten months. This presented many challenges, but, I made some wonderful friendships and learned more about relationships than ever before.

Would you recommend students consider volunteering after graduation and what advice would you give?
Yes! Each volunteer experience is unique and, to be fair, I can only speak from my own.  However, my life has changed because of my year of service. To those interested, take time now to research the countless opportunities that exist.  It's said, and read, time and time again, but I'll say it once more, "Go to Career Services!"  They won't do it for you, but they will help a lot.  Create a resume.  Go to a volunteer fair.  Look online.  Visit places.  Talk with anyone you can who has volunteer experience to find a program that fits YOU!

What are your current career goals?
My current career goals include studying to become a Registered Nurse.  I graduated with majors in biology and Spanish, aware that one day I wanted to work in the health care field.  I decided nursing my senior year.  Even though I made this decision late in college, it gave me the opportunity to volunteer and gain experience in an area I'm now pursuing for a career goal.