When I was a senior at Marquette University, I started wondering….”what next?” I would soon graduate with a degree in psychology and knew I wanted to get out in the world and help. But how? Where? I had actually contemplated applying to the Peace Corps when a dear friend of mine, Eileen, told me about the Jesuit Volunteers Corps. Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC) supports organizations that provide direct service to people who are poor and marginalized by placing volunteers at schools, non-profits, and other sites around the world. My friend Eileen was killed in a drunk driving hit & run soon after she told me about JVC. I decided at that time to apply to JVC for the both of us and dedicated my year of service to her memory.
The one thing I absolutely KNEW was I wanted to get out of the cold Midwest and head south. So I applied to the JVC South and was placed in an amazing community on the near north side of Houston.
Soon I packed my 2 suitcases and moved to Houston to live with 7 others in an un-air-conditioned, run down 2 story in a poor part of town, making $65 a MONTH. Our community was known as GANO (which was the actual street we lived on). There were 5 women and 3 men and we all shared a home that year while serving in many non-profits around the city.
In JVC you live by 4 principals… community, spirituality, social justice and simple living. It was an extremely powerful growth year for me. I learned so much about who I was, who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life. After my year placement working as a caseworker for drop out prevention at Edison Middle School with Communities In Schools, I knew I wanted to stay in Texas and continue my work with inner city kids. Which I did. I eventually worked my way up to director of my own campus in the 3rd Ward at Turner Elementary School and continued my work with inner city children & families until Madi was placed in my arms and turned me into a stay-at-home mom in the summer of 1997.
I will forever treasure my JVC year and the years following as an incredible time with incredible friends who became like family.
Last month we had a 25th reunion and spent the weekend in full laughter, love and so many stories of struggle, growth and catching up. Out of the 8 Gano-ites, 5 of us were able to gather and we had one stow-away who was from the other Houston house during that year. The 6 of us along with some spouses, kids , cats and a whole lot of Shiner Bock were able to reconnect and relive those wonderful, hard, crazy, fun years. I am forever grateful to these people and others from my JVC year who continue to be some of my dearest friends.