The joy of service

Honestly, my first introduction to service was not one of passion and purpose as one would hope.  It was in high school, and I wanted to be inducted into National Honor Society and I also needed to fulfill my graduation requirements so service was mandatory.  The achiever in me got all of my service hours completed quickly and efficiently, but my friends did not.  So naturally, many of them asked me to accompany them on their service hours and slowly but surely I began finding joy in packing chicken meals for a school fundraiser and giving swimming lessons to little kids.

My next step was college. When choosing which college to attend, service was not even on my list of things to inquire about but, luckily, I ended up enrolling at Niagara University. Niagara University is a Vincentian university with a rich history of service to their community.  Within my first year, I was looking for community – a place to call home and I found Alpha Sigma Alpha. What truly interested me in Alpha Sigma Alpha was not only its vibrant members full of personality but, their commitment to organizations both locally and nationally that deal with children. Soon after being initiated into my chapter, I was elected Service and Giving Chairman; this is the moment that would change my relationship with service forever. As Service and Giving Chairman, I coordinated collegians’ interactions with serving their community.  We were able to fundraise for the S.June Smith Center, provide support with coaching Special Olympics bowling, walk for Breast Cancer Awareness and so much more.  Watching my fellow sisters enjoy serving their community and make lasting memories was incredibly rewarding.  My sisters would light up while dancing with Special Olympic athletes and provide warm smiles while serving meals in the community; even though they were giving of themselves they were also filling themselves back up with gratitude and light that would carry them through the semester.

Alpha Sigma Alpha ignited a passion for service in me that would lead me to the most rewarding and impactful year and half of my life.  From June 2014 until August 2015, I participated in a year of service with AmeriCorps.  During my year of service, I was placed in a high school Global Studies classroom to work with the students and teachers in a program called: AmeriCorps Builds Lives through Education (ABLE).  Working with at-risk students from some of the highest areas of poverty in the city of Buffalo made me realize that working with an urban population is right where I am supposed to be.  Throughout my year of service, I was able to build lasting relationships with students through not only the classroom but, through supporting them in flag football, Diversity Dinner and serving alongside them at Habitat for Humanity. Without serving for a year, I would not be the teacher or person I am today.  My students taught me perseverance, creativity, grit and how to care unconditionally for someone.

Overall, each piece of service led me closer to the person I am today.  Without those first mandatory service hours, I may never have appreciated the work Alpha Sigma Alpha does for our community.  Without Alpha Sigma Alpha, I may have never been able to serve with AmeriCorps and get the job I have today.  Even though these experiences have been incredible what really bonds service together is relationships.  Each part of my journey, relationships have been in the center: relationships with friends, relationships with sisters, relationships with my community, relationships with students, but most importantly my relationship with myself.  Service is an incredibly powerful tool to help ground yourself in gratitude and compassion and to identify your own strengths and weaknesses.  I challenge you to get out there and improve your community but also, improve your relationship with yourself while you are at it, the world will thank you.

–Kate McGillicuddy, Zeta Chi

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