A Year-of-Service: the Best of Both Worlds

Written by René Betance, Vincentian Volunteer of Cincinnati, Ozanam Center Coordinator, Society of St. Vincent de Paul

Graduating from Xavier’s Williams College of Business was in some ways a little confusing for someone like me. I was a Finance major at Xavier, a major that helped provide its students with skills necessary for a competitive marketplace and was comprised of very competitive folks. If any of you have taken Dr. Balyeat’s Investments class and participated in the dollar auction, you’d get an idea what Xavier’s Finance majors are made of. It seems only natural that after college we all pursue professions that match our level of competition, ambition, and mission. Many of my classmates went on to work for organizations like Fifth Third, Cincinnati Financial, Merrill Lynch, etc. and probably be competitive members of the world marketplace. There was nothing confusing about that – I didn’t see myself doing that right out of college. In addition to a major in Finance, I had minors in Theology and Peace & Justice; yeah, not really an obvious connection there. In fact, you could consider my major and minors to almost be oil and water, my head and heart.

This was the source of my confusion: should I work and have the means to eventually donate to some great non-profits in my area, or should I take a year to immerse myself in service and solidarity for those who are neglected in our society? It took a significant amount of discernment to figure out where my head and heart would be best utilized after college. But once I found the right year of service opportunity, Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati (VVC) at St. Vincent de Paul – Cincinnati, I was able to find some direction after college.

For me, VVC was the best of both worlds. In this program I was able to stay in the city in which I had begun to establish my roots. It was also obvious to me that this was not your typical year of service opportunity; I had an option of what jobs and responsibilities I wanted to pursue. I could and have applied my technical finance skills in my everyday life. I can confidently say that Dr. Pawlukiewicz’s Financial Modeling class with helped me become the go-to person for any Excel problems at St. Vincent de Paul. I can also say that while coordinating the Thanksgiving distribution, where St. Vincent de Paul gave the community 1400 Turkeys, I used Dr. Jin’s Management Operations class. I am also living out the Gifts of Our Ignatian Heritage of solidarity and kinship, service rooted in justice and love, and reflection in my everyday life by serving the West End of Cincinnati. This year of service has been the best of both worlds for me, my head and heart.

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