Duhawks DuServe: Checking in with Valder Award Students

Mary AgnoliAs part of our DuServe campaign to log 175,000 service hours, here is a highlight from one of our Valder Award recipient students, serving in Chicago this summer.
Mike Valder (’62) created the Valder Award in 1988 in memory of his late brother Robert Valder (’60) who was a civil rights activist. What started as an award in name and in a financial contribution to a student’s tuition, transformed to an 8-10 week summer experience working at a social justice organization.  Juniors going into their senior year have worked at places such as The National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice (currently IWJ), Network (a Catholic Social justice Lobby in DC), Catholic worker houses and farms, immigration and refugee service organizations, and community organizing agencies.
This summer, Hannah Way (’15) (Rockford, Ill.), an English Literature and Religious Studies major, is interning at the Brother David Darst Center in Chicago, Ill.
“The Darst Center provides high school and college students the opportunity to explore issues of social justice through an urban immersion retreat.  My main role as intern has been to help facilitate these retreats, to help students understand and digest their encounters with some important realities like homelessness, hunger, and racism.  While on retreat, I have the opportunity to visit our partner agencies—organizations around the city that deal with issues of social justice on a daily basis.  I may be talking with young men my own age who have gone through the criminal justice system or men who are experiencing homelessness; I may be helping organize our local food pantry or tutoring young students.  But with each visit, I get to be both a student and a facilitator—I experience and learn about the people at these sites, and I must find the words to explain and help others reflect on their own experience.
Working at the Darst Center has taught me to be more intentional in the way that I live, the way that I speak, and the way that I interact with those I know and those I don’t.  Each individual who I have met this summer has shared a part of their story with me, and often I find that this story is dramatically different from the stories the media tells—not to mention, it has forced me to look at my own biases, prejudices, and tendencies to stereotype others.  Ultimately, I have learned that in order to make any lasting change, any systemic change, I cannot just know about a person—I have to know them.”
Mary Agnoli (’15) (Davenport, Iowa), an English Literature and International Studies major, is completing a unique internship with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services in Washington, D.C.
 “When initially applying for this scholarship, I was driven by a desire to serve refugee and immigrant populations. However, I never imagined my Valder placement would lead me to Washington, D.C., where I would work for an organization that influences domestic policy, provides nationwide services, and is a leading force in advocacy for these individuals. Although perhaps not participating in a conventional form of "service" this summer, interning within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Migration and Refugee Services has been simply life changing. I specifically worked for their Children's Services division, which mainly serves the youth fleeing Central America, who you have likely been reading about in the news. Through participating in a wide variety of projects, attending the National Migration Conference, and hearing youths' direct testimonies, my worldview has been stretched, outlook humbled, and passion for advocating for this population heighted. Above all, I have developed a whole new understanding of the Church's call to serve the most vulnerable.”

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