Eight students from five Catholic colleges in Ohio spent 10 weeks this summer working as Catholic Community Connection Summer Fellows. The program, which just completed its third year, pairs college students with partner agencies to help the students gain valuable professional experience and build leadership skills, said Marian Rubin, CCC president.
“The program also encourages student awareness of the breadth and depth of Catholic ministries in Northeast Ohio,” Rubin added.
This year’s participants, their schools and the agency for which they worked are: Milesa Davis, a recent graduate of Notre Dame College, The Village at Marymount; Jillian Doherty, John Carroll University senior, Regina Health Center; Tobias Engel, JCU sophomore, Sisters of Charity Foundation; Mark Grabowski, JCU senior, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland; Alexis Saltis, JCU senior, Village of St. Edward; Gabrielle Sergi, JCU junior, Catholic Cemeteries Association; Karmen Sharp, Xavier University junior, Light of Hearts Villa and Chantaisa White, Ursuline College sophomore, Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
The fellows, their supervisors, mentors and CCC officials attended a closing luncheon and reception on Aug. 9 at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in downtown Cleveland.
Rubin said that CCC, an organization of Catholic-sponsored education, health care, human services and senior living ministries, fosters collaboration to respond to the needs of all people within the diocese. She said the Summer Fellows Program “offers students real-world, paid work experience at CCC partner organizations (Catholic ministries in Northeast Ohio). This competitive fellowship prepares students mentally, professionally and spiritually as they make decisions regarding their future careers and post-graduate work.”
The fellows worked Monday through Thursday under the mentorship of a professional. On Fridays, they gathered and participated in programming that included orientation to serving in Catholic ministries, professional and leadership development and elements of social justice.
Tobias, who worked at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, was supervised by Adrienne Mundorf, senior program director at the foundation, which works to increase the community’s ability to improve the lives of people living in poverty through strategic grantmaking and partnerships. Tobias reviewed requests for the Good Samaritan grant program, which responds to the community’s challenge of meeting basic needs. Sister Evelyn Flowers, CSA was his mentor.
He said his experience with the foundation was an opportunity for developing skills that can be transferred to practicing law for the good of helping others. Tobias describes his experience with the Foundation as humbling. “While I am not an expert in this field, I am so appreciative to Adrienne for her patience with me and taking the time to explain the entire process.” He was the youngest intern the foundation ever had.
Milesa, who earned her bachelor’s degree in management information systems and public relations from Notre Dame College, was a fellow last year. She returned to the Village of Marymount in Garfield Heights, where she said she enjoyed working with senior citizens.
Last summer, she helped the staff prepare for the annual gala and then was able to return as a volunteer at the event. She assisted again this year with planning and logistics for the 2019 gala.
Also last summer, Milesa also worked on “What These Hands Have Done,” a collection of photographs of residents’ hands and stories of their experiences throughout their lives. This summer she helped the team at the Village of Marymount continue the project by looking into options to publish the stories in a book.
Her mentor was Sister Mary Alice Jarosz, SSJ-TOSF, whom she described as “one of the kindest and caring individuals I have ever met. She pushes me to do my best, while also helping me to remember to embrace the mission of the Village of Marymount with everyone who I encounter.”
Jillian, who is majoring in industrial/organizational psychology and minoring in leadership development, assisted with a variety of human resource-related tasks at Regina Health Center. For example, she helped edit the employee handbook and assisted other staff members in reviewing the applications of perspective employees while working in the human resources department. She said the program also helped her develop an understanding of managing new and existing employees of an organization.
She was mentored by Sister Kathy Andrews, CSA, with whom she developed a close relationship. “She is amazing. She is always so upbeat and positive. She has a very strong devotion to the faith and is kind to everyone who she encounters. I am glad that my first ‘religious sister friend’ has been her,” Jillian said. “The sisters are amazing. I never realized the types of leadership roles they have and how they built some of the organizations from the ground.”
Karmen, who is studying health care administration at Xavier, also is a cadet in the Ohio National Guard and a member of ROTC. She is the first Xavier student to participate in the program.
Since she hopes to run a facility similar to Light of Hearts Villa some day, Karmen said she thought this would be a great opportunity to learn what is involved. She spent the summer learning about the daily operations at Light of Hearts, where she was mentored by Sister Regina Kusnir. “Every day has been different. I have been going around to each department to meet the staff and learn about what all is involved with their roles,” Karmen said, noting she has assisted with many tasks, including helping prepare meals for the residents, marketing and meeting with the staff members who provide social work. “There is a lot of behind the scenes work which takes places in a facility and since I would like to manage a facility one day, knowing every aspect which is involved is important. Everyone’s job is important when it contributes to providing high quality care for others,” she added.”
Mark, who is majoring in marketing at JCU, was the communications intern at Catholic Charities. He said he was looking for meaningful work to do this summer and wanted to have an internship where he knew that he was making a difference. He heard about the fellows program from a friend who was the Catholic Charities’ communication intern last summer.
He was responsible for various social media projects for Catholic Charities. During the first few weeks, he helped develop a content calendar of the Catholic Charities’ social media pages, to help ensure that they are used more frequently and to communicate news, special days and other opportunities. His supervisor was Samantha Mealy.
“During orientation, she shared with me that there is something different to do every day at Catholic Charities. She was definitely right,” he said.
Chantaisa, who is studying art therapy and counseling, said as an intern with the St. Vincent de Paul Society, she had the opportunity to serve those most in need. Part of her work was assisting the SVDP office staff with organizing the upcoming collections. “Every year, St. Vincent de Paul organizes a back to school collection, which invites parishes in the Cleveland area to participate. I also was in charge of calling all of the parishes to see if they are participating in the annual Blanket Sunday collection in October. There are 90 parishes that will participate. All of the blankets collected will go directly to those who are homeless,” she said.
Chantaisa said she connected with the SVDP staff. “Since day one, I felt like a valued member of the team. It was a great feeling to know that I can relate with my co-workers and they see me as an equal, even as a college student.”
Alexis, who is majoring in integrated marketing communications and Italian language studies at JCU, was the marketing and development intern at the Village of St. Edward, which has senior living facilities located Fairlawn, Wadsworth and Green.
Through her internship experience, Alexis said she learned about the elements that go into fundraising. One of the main projects she was involved with was assisting with the Village of St. Edward fundraiser, their first in several years. Proceeds will be used for a wellness garden that will include a meditation space, shuffle board and playground for residents to bring their grandchildren when they visit.
“This was my first time helping with a fundraiser this big. It has been incredible to see how involved the residents have been with this, as they want to ensure this is something which will be available for those who come to the Village of St. Edward for years to come,” she said. Her mentor was Sister Marilyn Ambrosic, OP and her supervisor was Annette Walters.
Gabrielle spent the summer working as the marketing intern with Catholic Cemeteries Association in Cleveland. Her mentor supervisor was Katie Karpinski. They worked together on various marketing projects and Gabrielle, who is majoring in integrated marketing with minors in leadership development and computer science, had a chance to express her creativity and see her work utilized through the marketing efforts of Catholic Cemeteries Association.
When she first started her internship, Gabrielle attended a bereavement workshop facilitated by Rhonda Abrams as part of her orientation. “Attending this session by Rhonda was very helpful since it gave me the opportunity to learn more about bereavement. I have had family members pass away before, but other than those experiences, I did not know too much about the process. This has helped me as I worked on my social media posts for Catholic Cemeteries and feel that I am in more of the mindset of the ministry,” she said.
Rubin said applications for the 2020 Summer Fellows Program will be available in early January. For more information on CCC or the fellows program, visit catholiccommunityconnection.org