As a JV, I taught fifth grade and coached basketball at the Gesu School in North Philadelphia. It was a challenging year: I learned the basics of teaching on the job and learned a lot about myself in the process. Teaching is difficult even when you’re focused on it as a career, and even more so when you feel like you’re unprepared and you have to learn as you go. After that year, I felt I could do just about anything.
While the experience was a challenge, I learned so much from my students and from the struggles of their families. Now, when I’m working on defending Medicaid or another program that helps people in low-income communities, they are not abstract policy matters. They are more real because of my experience in JVC, working with families who struggled to make ends meet. It also helped me understand the trauma many communities confront and overcome alongside economic challenges in declining neighborhoods.
My daughter, Julia, recently finished her year as a Jesuit Volunteer. Obviously for a parent, it is inspiring and a source of great validation when your child chooses a similar experience to your own. She took on a tough assignment, and I’m grateful she was willing to commit part of her life to service. We’re blessed to share that experience.