Eric Knapke is now committed to serving at Racquet Up in Detroit after realizing the possibilities of merging science with justice work.University of San Diego to pursue a degree in biochemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed my studies as a biochemistry major (I half-jokingly say that organic chemistry was the best class). Along the way, I picked up a minor in theology and religious studies, and this blend of science and theology partially plays into how I determined which placement to choose for JVC.
I was fascinated in learning about the world from the microscopic scale to the scale of world religions, and during college I ended up taking classes ranging from Biblical archaeology to molecular biology. I was also involved with immersion trips to Tijuana and El Salvador with University Ministry at USD. Over time, I realized that I could merge my interest in social justice issues through the theological-religious lens with my scientific background. This desire to synthesize science with social justice affected how I entered into discernment with JVC.
During my time at USD, there were two other distinct experiences that contributed to me packing up and moving to Detroit for the year to live in community with other volunteers. The first is that I joined a research lab working to develop a low-cost method to remove arsenic from water sources in Uganda. The second was my work as a tutor for student athletes at USD where I mainly assisted with chemistry and biology classes. Tutoring can be challenging, and necessitates patience in determining how students learn best, but witnessing the growth and improvement of my students was something that I found incredibly rewarding.
So when it came time to think about which placement might be suitable for me during JVC, I wanted to utilize my science and tutoring skills in my service. During my time as a Jesuit Volunteer at Racquet Up Detroit, I’m teaching 9th and 10th grade students in the after-school program, and although I have a lot of creative liberty in making my lesson plans, I plan to incorporate activities and lessons that help get the students excited and curious about science.
I am committed to face this new challenge and to build relationships that add to the lives of students looking to strengthen their scientific understanding. I’m hopeful that this will be a time of personal and professional growth that I’ll build upon for years to come.