Just two months after Liz Zelnick (Los Angeles, 2009-10) left Everytown for Gun Safety to start a new role as the Senior Policy Analyst for the Massachusetts Treasurer’s Office, she listened to breaking news about a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And after almost four years of “going toe-to-toe with the gun lobby” with Everytown, Liz found herself seeking solace in a movement she so recently had led.
“The day after the shooting when I was feeling really low. I walked outside my office and stumbled into a legislative advocacy day run by MOMS Demand Action here in Massachusetts. I saw them when I needed to see them most. It warms my heart to know that the movement is going to continue and get stronger without me.”
MOMS Demand Action is an organization that formed shortly after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school. Nearly a year after it formed, it united with what was formally known as Mayors Against Illegal Guns. This is one of the organizations that Liz landed an internship with while earning a Master’s of Public Administration at NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service just a few years after JVC.
The organization went on to merge with what is now known as Everytown for Gun Safety, a community of over 4 million people dedicated to ending gun violence and bolstered by the recent efforts of the #NeverAgain Movement. And Liz’s experience with Everytown was especially meaningful for her:
“I wanted to get up and go to work every day. I felt passionately about the work even before I started working at Everytown. I have lost friends to gun violence and my community was impacted because I had a lot of friends who went to Virginia Tech when I was younger. Gun violence has always been top of my mind and I was basically in a position to work directly on an issue, for an organization that was making the most impact in the country. I felt like it was an opportunity that I absolutely couldn’t turn down and I’m glad I didn’t. It was a really fantastic job.”
Liz’s JVC year as a community organizer with People Organized for Westside Renewal (POWER) in Los Angeles furthered this passion for advocacy. Working with tenants on the west side of LA to promote supportive housing and preservation, Liz learned both hard and soft skills that proved invaluable in her time at NYU and Everytown. And, of course, the JVC values continue to be integral to her life outside work:
“I was at a potluck once and I was chatting with this woman who I’d just met and there was a bunch of food left over. And people were just going to throw it away and we were like, whoa, whoa, whoa—we can figure out how to deal with this leftover food. Who’s taking it home? Can we donate it? Then we both looked at each other and were like, ‘did you do JVC?’”
Liz continues to fight for social change through her work with Massachusetts Treasurer Golberg, who she describes as a “trailblazer.” Her portfolio includes tackling the wage gap and improving student debt education, in addition to addressing other issues of inequity for the people of Massachusetts. And her time with JVC helped her get to the front lines of social justice.
“The thread throughout my entire career has been connecting with people. Whether organizing a community meeting around losing section-8 status or working directly with homeless veterans to get into long-term housing or advancing legislation within state government, I have connected with people. To this end, I definitely got a great deal of practice and learned a lot from my experience of JVC.”
Primary Care Nurse Practitioner
After graduating from Georgetown University, Beth Arnone
spent a year working in nursing. When applying for JVC,
she specifically asked not to be put in a nursing position.
“I was told they needed nurses badly and they convinced me to
take the position I took,” she said. “It was at a health center in South
Baltimore. I was an outreach nurse for new moms coming home”
needing postpartum care.
The clinic Arnone was based out of was run by former nuns
who were both nurse practitioners, or advanced practice nurses
who have completed coursework and clinical work beyond the
requirements of a registered nurse. She also found she really
connected with obstetrics and returned to graduate school for
midwifery, then to the Texas border for an internship.
“I had never been involved with nurse practitioners and they were
hugely influential,” Arnone said. “I went into being a midwife and
working as an independent practitioner because of that clinic. I
really wanted to work with indigent people.”
Working in a clinic run by midwife nuns in Texas, she delivered
pregnant teenagers’ babies.
“Every month we split whatever income we had,” she said. “Being
down there was a mini-JVC.”
She eventually returned to school to become a primary care nurse
practitioner and works in that today. She met her husband, Mike
Johnston, through JVC. He was a volunteer in Baltimore in 1982
and 1983, right before Beth joined. He also works in the
medical field as a physical therapist, and the couple and their
two children live in an intentional community called Liberty
Village Co-housing Community in Union Bridge, Maryland.
St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services in Camden, NJ
I had made a promise to God that if I got into medical school I
would work with the poor,” said Dr. Lesly D’Ambola, the medical
director of St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services in Camden, New
Jersey, an assistant professor at Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine
and a JV in San Jose, California, in 1982. D’Ambola was accepted into
osteopathic school on her second round of applications.
“Be careful what you promise God,” she joked, while taking a break
from working on a sunny Saturday afternoon.
D’Ambola’s route to medicine was not direct. A psychology major at
St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, she chose JVC in part for the
offer of a placement working in the mental health field.
“I loved it there and I really grew in it,” she said. She stayed in San
Jose after her volunteer year to take medical school prerequisites, and
then moved to New Jersey to work with the homeless in Jersey City.
“When I got all these (med school) rejections the first time I didn’t
care,” she said. “I was too busy to care. I didn’t need to be a doctor to
take care of people and that was a really good insight to have. I felt
like I was really helping people and touching God to deal with people
on that basic level of shelter, food and clothes. I really felt God called
Management changed at the shelter, and D’Ambola lost her job.
“I was totally heartbroken,” she said. “I really think God had other
plans for me.” Following her lay off she went on a retreat at a
Franciscan retreat center in Upstate New York.
“I felt like I died and went to heaven on that mountain,” she said. “I
heard the Holy Spirit say ‘reapply to medical school and if you don’t
get in move on with your life.’”
On this round of applications, she was accepted at three osteopathic
At Camden’s St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services, D’Ambola works
as a primary care physician with patients primarily from Puerto Rico,
Mexico and the Dominican Republic, focusing on spending time
with each patient to address his or her needs. It’s not a moneymaker,
she said, but a vocation she is called to every day. Many of the skills
she learned in JVC she uses daily, and her agency has been a JVC
placement for many years.
“Seeing God in all things, seeing God in our patients, seeing Jesus in
our patients, for me, that makes all the difference in the world,” she
said. “Am I saying I do it all the time? I try but I’m not perfect. I yell
at my patients, I get annoyed at my patients but seeing Jesus in our
patients makes all the difference.”
Country Representative for Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza
Catholic Relief Services
While a college study abroad program first introduced Matt McGarry to
living overseas, two years in Nicaragua with Jesuit Volunteers International
provided the compass for his life of service abroad.
McGarry, currently the country representative for Catholic Relief Services’
Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza program, worked at Proyecto Generando
Vida as a Jesuit Volunteer from 2000 to 2002, starting off as a “jack of all
trades” at the agency. He taught elementary school students, supported a
youth group and served lunch in a school cafeteria.
Working under the blessing of the Sisters of Zion, the nuns who founded
the program, McGarry then developed and ran a microlending program for
the women of Barrio el Recreo during the end of his first year and his entire
second year as a volunteer.
The loans went to women living in Barrio el Recreo for microbusinesses that
included selling small convenience store items out of their homes, selling
food door to door, buying bulk clothing to sell at markets and a small
“In just a year and a half we had quite a bit of success,” he said. “These
were incredible, incredible ladies and Proyecto Generando Vida was
just a fantastic opportunity for me.”
McGarry returned to the United States for graduate school at Fordham
University and then joined Catholic Relief Services after graduation.
He has lived and served in Zimbabwe, the Darfur region of Sudan,
Pakistan, Afghanistan and, for the last three years, Jerusalem. He lives
there with his wife, whom he met while both were working in Kashmir,
Afghanistan, following a devastating 2005 earthquake. The couple has
a three-year-old daughter and one-year-old son.
McGarry is based in Jerusalem but regularly travels to Catholic Relief
Services offices in Gaza and Bethlehem in the Palestinian West Bank.
The organization started in the Middle East in the 1940s by providing
humanitarian assistance to displaced communities following World
War II. Today, McGarry oversees a variety of services from food
distribution programs in the West Bank to peace building efforts
between Israeli and Palestinian students.
The experiences of Jesuit Volunteer Corps guided him through his
journeys all over the globe, he said.
“JVC was one of the most formative experiences of my life,” McGarry
said. “Particularly the lessons learned about subsidiary grassroots
approaches, cross-country dialogue, approaching the work with
humility and patience and a genuine interest in the dignity and
the inherent value of the people we are trying to serve. It’s been
foundational in my work, certainly, and in my human relations.”
Clinical Nurse Leader Student & Oncology Certified RN
Paul Freeman switched to a nursing program at Gonzaga University
during his freshman year when he realized pre-med wasn’t the
right fit. He joined JVC in 2007, working in Hartford, Connecticut,
as a case manager and food group coordinator at Immaculate Conception
Church and homeless shelter.
“After joining JVC, I remember one or two of my classmates asking me why
I would want to join,” he said. “Essentially, they said I should worry about
losing my skills and, of course, there’s the whole money aspect to taking a
year off. It was definitely a privilege to be able to volunteer. JVC gives you
an opportunity to grow in other skills that are very pertinent to nursing.”
After his volunteer year he went to work in a blood and marrow transplant
unit in Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, a job that was
particularly suited to some of the healing ministry he learned in JVC.
“Working as a JV in a homeless shelter was a good experience because I
worked with people going through difficult times and was learning how to
develop relationships over time,” he said. “This is important in oncology
and especially in blood and marrow transplant because those patients are
often there for weeks or months to receive care.”
He is now working toward a master’s in clinical nurse leadership at
Marquette University, where he met a spiritual director who helped give
him perspective on how nursing is tied to JV ministry.
“He was saying it’s important to think of healing as a ministry of peace,
helping people find peace within themselves and their bodies,”
Dr. Scott Early Franklin 81 Freeman said.
Office of Domestic Social Development
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Approaching college graduation, Tom Mulloy knew he wanted to do
something with his Spanish skills that didn’t involve sitting in an office
reading, writing and translating. So he joined Jesuit Volunteer Corps and
moved to San Diego.
“Jesuit Volunteer Corps represented an opportunity for a kid from
Southeastern Pennsylvania — an area without a big immigrant
community— to build a deeper relationship with the Spanish-speaking
community, to work with people to build better lives for themselves
and their families,” said Mulloy, who is currently the domestic policy
advisor for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in
“That’s what drew me toward not only JVC but to San Diego. There
was an allure to being around people who felt similar concern and
similar passion and intensity in dealing with these issues.”
As a Jesuit Volunteer, Mulloy worked at the Sherman Heights
Community Center. He coordinated activities with senior citizens for
the first half of the day and helped run an after-school program for
middle school students during the afternoon.
After Jesuit Volunteer Corps, he worked for the two and a half years as
a counselor and case manager in a drug and alcohol abuse program
for Hispanic youth. Mulloy said at that point he thought about going
back to school for a social work degree but also realized clearly
“how policy making can help or hurt people. That’s where I decided to go.
I still felt really strongly about this call for social work but to work on the
justice side and on system change.”
He worked for four years on Capitol Hill before starting his current
position, where he advocates for labor and economic policy, social
welfare policy and affordable housing.
“I’ve been trying to make my best effort to be a voice for folks who usually
don’t have a voice at the policy making table,” he said. “But I also work
with communities that are underrepresented to empower them. A lot of
time you look at the system and think the system doesn’t work and heavily
favors powerful interests and lots of money and wealth. In many cases
that is true but we have to organize and educate and get involved in the
process. I like to work to empower folks.”
The lessons learned during his year as a Jesuit Volunteer are with him
daily, he said, providing “Policy advocacy at its best is social justice,” Mulloy said. “It is
finding a better way to create a more equitable, fair and just society for
everyone. Certainly the philosophy and the values and the mission of
Jesuit Volunteer Corps continue to animate me.”
Child Protection Case Management Coaching Program
International Rescue Committee
Reflecting from her home in Beirut, Lebanon, Colleen Fitzgerald can say
definitively that getting rejected from Jesuit Volunteers International
was a blessing in disguise. “I think that actually the best thing for
me and the way I developed myself professionally was through my
domestic JV placement” as a case manager at a San Diego domestic
violence shelter, Fitzgerald said. “It built my skills as a case manager
and then when I started working internationally I think it helped that I
was a more experienced professional.”
“The idea of faith in action was also really inspiring to me,” she said.
“I was talking about all these things in the classroom while studying
political science and human rights and public service. I really wanted to
put those ideas in action and that led me to Jesuit Volunteer Corps.”
After JVC, she moved to Boston to work in a residential substanceabuse
treatment program for a year and then enrolled at Boston College
for a master’s degree in social work. The school offers a unique global
practice program. “I still had this dream of working internationally and
there were points when I didn’t think it would amount to anything but
I still wanted to give it a shot,” she said. “I loved social work and it is so
closely aligned with the values promoted through JVC.”
She started an international internship in Jordan in January 2011, at the
dawn of the Arab Spring with democratic uprisings throughout the
Middle East. Following the internship with the International Medical
Corps, the agency offered her a job working in Libya during the country’s
Arab Spring and subsequent violent conflict. During her year and a half
there, Fitzgerald helped develop a child protection program that was part of
the emergency response to the conflict.
She moved to Lebanon in August 2013, where she now works with
the International Rescue Committee, training child protection social
workers who work mainly with Lebanon’s Palestinian and Syrian refugee
communities. Lebanon’s population is 4 million; 1.5 million are refugees and
about half of the refugee community are children.
“Rather than direct assistance to refugees we are trying to build capacity for
the local communities so they can support vulnerable children; especially
refugees,” she said. “We transmit best practice standards set at the global
level and coach and mentor social workers here.”
Fitzgerald does not directly counsel refugees through the nationwide Child
Protection Case Management Coaching Program. She travels throughout
Lebanon training social workers from organizations including the Lebanese
Ministry of Social Affairs, United Nations agencies and various NGOs in a
job she calls “really, really rewarding.” The ultimate goal is the protection of
Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian children and families.
“I counsel social workers to really improve their skills so they can support
the area for the long term,” she said. “It’s much better this way. We talk a lot
about sustainability and how we can improve their system.”
Her alma mater, the Boston College School of Social Work, awarded her with
its 2015 Distinguished Recent Alumni Award for her work abroad. Pursuing
meaningful work in a place where the needs is very great, Fitzgerald is
exactly where she wants to be. For that she credits the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.
As a JV in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1990, working for
a local community-organizing group as well as at a
homeless shelter for men in Immaculate Conception
Church, Dr. Ronald Willy, a Marquette graduate, had no
ambition to enter medical school. He also never thought he
would join the military.
“It was just the opposite,” said Willy, who also worked for two
years on the staff of JVC. “I was anti-military.”
Willy is now a radiologist stationed with the U.S. Navy
in Okinawa, Japan. He joined the Navy for the medical
scholarship and initially planned to be an ophthalmologist,
but a severe color vision deficiency in his own eyesight forced
him to choose another specialty or leave clinical medicine
altogether. He trained in radiology and spends his working
hours looking at x-rays and CT and MRI scans at a hospital
he compared to a U.S. community hospital for active duty
military, their families and local retirees.
“I think the most important component of JVC that I take
with me into the hospital every day is the priority of
individual dignity and worth,” he said. “The work of
JVC volunteers forces them to encounter, interact and
ultimately (hopefully) truly know individual people
who have been disregarded or disenfranchised. This
human contact should foster a greater desire for
justice. In medicine, similar encounters happen, when
physicians meet patients who are ill or unwell; and this
human contact and interaction usually fosters the quest
for diagnosis and treatment. JVC and medicine are
similar in that they both strive to respect the primacy,
and foster the dignity of individual human beings.”
Urgent Care Department at the Codman Square Health Center
Dr. Elizabeth Maziarka is now the medical director of the urgent
care department at the Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester,
a community-based outpatient health and justice service center that
includes programs like a charter school and social services in addition
to the free standing clinic.
She knew as a 10-year-old she wanted to be a doctor.
“I was always interested in science and math and the human body
and the connection people have with each other,” she said. “Not
only the physical aspect, but also the mental connections.”
After graduating from Marquette University, she joined JVC in 1989
in Washington, D.C. There, she worked at the Columbia Road Health Services
providing medical, lab and pharmacy support to a patient population made
up primarily of El Salvadoran war refugees. Since then she has worked in
Chicago as a mental health therapist, attended medical school, focusing on
family medicine, and did her residency working with the Native American
She moved to the Boston suburbs with her husband, and now works
with a patient population consisting of approximately 40 percent from
Haiti and the rest from the surrounding neighborhood of Dorchester,
including many patients of African descent. Within this diverse group,
87 percent live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
“I was excited I could pursue my dream of integration of medicine
and culture,” she said. “Medicine is not about having someone take
a pill. It is asking, What is life like? What are your stressors? How
does it affect your health? All those issues are important.”
Chief of Staff
Office of U.S. Congressman Luis V. Gutierrez
Susan Collins currently is the chief of staff for U.S. Congressman Luis
Gutierrez, the senior member of the Illinois delegation in the U.S. House of
Representative and a champion of immigration reform.
One of her first tastes of the immigrant experience came as a Jesuit Volunteer
in the border town of Brownsville, Texas, working in a trailer outside a
family detention center.
“When I first started, the detention center was like an airplane hangar with
a cement floor, cots completely wide open, very refugee like,” she said.
“The whole reason they were in there is they had a minor with them when
crossing the border. It could be a 20-year-old brother with a 16-year-old
brother, a mom with a young daughter. My project served this population
She joined Jesuit Volunteer Corps following a year of service in 1989
in Nicaragua through a Georgetown University program. There, she
helped women in a small mountain village start their own bread-baking
In Texas she worked to reunite family members and on asylum cases.
“It was really exciting and very rewarding,” she said. “You were out in the
middle of nowhere and you were their only hope for any kind of help at all.”
She lived in South Texas for more than a decade, working with immigrant
“I had a lot of experience doing direct service to immigrants,” she said.
“Working with recently arrived immigrant families you get so frustrated.
They are so limited in their legal status it felt like a huge blockade to
being helpful to them.”
In 2001 she applied and was accepted for a fellowship with Gutierrez.
“He’s the one I sought out,” she said. “His inner-city Chicago
constituents are practically all Latino and he is very well known
nationally if you work on immigration and especially if you speak
She went from fellow to legislative assistant to chief of staff.
“It was a weird mix for me working for progressive grassroots
nonprofits to come to a job on Capitol Hill,” she said. “It’s incredible
when you’re in a position of power like this. We haven’t achieved
legalization for the undocumented but we have achieved legal status
for DREAMers (undocumented immigrants brought to the United
States as children) and legal status for parents of U.S. citizens. I’m in the
total thick of that.”
As Rep. Gutierrez’s chief of staff, Collins is responsible for the day-today
operations of his office, including mentoring and supervising staff
based in Chicago and Washington, D.C. She is the principal point of
contact between Rep. Gutierrez and other members of Congress, federal
agencies and his constituents in Illinois’ fourth congressional district.
She also helps direct his legislative agenda, including the successful
effort passing the DREAM Act in the House in 2010.
Collins also works to educate congressional offices and community
groups throughout the country on how to successfully defend families
and individuals against deportation, and has personally intervened
in hundreds of individual immigrant and deportation cases on Rep.
Collins said that Jesuit Volunteer Corps was “absolutely central” to her
interest in working on and championing immigration issues. The skills
she developed living in a Jesuit Volunteer community have helped to
make her a better policy maker and policy thinker, she said.
“There is no other thing in my life that set me on this course than my
two years of volunteer work and Jesuit Volunteer Corps was right in
that,” Collins said.
Chief Medical Officer
Lynn Community Health Center
Since he was in junior high school, Dr. Scott Early knew he
wanted to be a doctor. When he didn’t get into medical school,
he applied for the JVC, willing to go anywhere that wasn’t in
the Southern United States.
“The impression in my mind was that that was the last place I
wanted to be,” Early said. “Then they told me a health center in a
little town in Louisiana needs someone just like you.”
Early spent 1981 working in the Teche Action Clinic, a federally
funded health care center on Bayou Teche in Franklin, Louisiana. He
worked in a laboratory as well as a nearby hospital, though the
lessons that remain had less to do with the mechanics of health
care than the politics of providing care for those who could not pay.
“I participated in lobbying efforts to keep the health center open”
during a political movement to close the centers, he said. “It was an
amazing year that taught me stuff I never would have learned in
He was accepted into medical school following JVC, training as a
family doctor and accepting a job at a small community health center
in Rhode Island. There, he started an innovative residency program
that trained young doctors in a community health setting.
He moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1993, and by the next
year, the first class of residents at the community health center
“It truly transformed heath care in Lawrence,” Early said. “It’s a poor
city with a population of about 75,000, mostly Dominicans. Prior to
this it was a tiny struggling organization with about 9,000 patients.
We were always looking for money and had trouble keeping
doctors. It was really not able to meet a fraction of the demand.
We attracted a lot of people who wanted to teach at the health center,”
because of the residency program.
Five former residents of the program were also former JVs, Early said.
“We were unabashed about social justice,” he said. “We were training
physicians who wanted to work in that model.”
After nearly 17 years there, he left to work as the chief medical officer
at the Lynn Community Health Center in Lynn, Massachusetts.
“We’re coming up close to 40,000 patients and we’re still growing,” he said.