Post-Graduate Service: The Norbertine Volunteer Community

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With this year’s commencement just around the corner, it’s no surprise to hear everyone talking about their plans for after graduation. Don’t have your post-grad life figured out just yet? You’re not alone. Before you work yourself into a frenzy and go full-on panic mode, let’s talk about an option you might not have considered yet: post-graduate service. Earlier this year, I had the chance to visit the Norbertine Volunteer Community (NVC) and interview Rachel Muhs, a resident at the NVC, about her experience.

Sponsored by St. Norbert Abbey and founded in 2008, the NVC is a post-graduate service program for young adults that offers full time internships with local non-profit agencies and schools. As a faith based program, the three pillars of the NVC are service, community, and spirituality. Their list of community partners ranges from Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary to Bellin Health, from the Green Bay Area Catholic Education System to the Brown County Jail and Juvenile Detention Center Ministry. Essentially, there’s a program to fit everyone looking into post-graduate service at the NVC. For Rachel Muhs, the community partner she chose to work with is the Treatment Foster Care Program through the American Foundations for Counseling Services (AFCS). The AFCS Foster Care Program aims to provide a healthy out of home placement for children who have been victims of abuse or neglect or have delinquency issues.

“We work with the children and the families they are placed with to provide support, a treatment plan, and the level of stability the children need.” Rachel says, “This is greatly important, because many of the children that are referred to our Foster Care Program need stability, guidance, routine, and, often times, out of home placement to help them heal from what has happened in their past.”

When Rachel graduated from St. Norbert College in May 2012 she had a B.A. in sociology with a human services concentration as well as a B.A. in business administration. After her parents told her about meeting NVC director Ellen Mommaerts, Rachel decided to to look into the programs that the NVC offered. Her love for volunteering led her to enroll in the program shortly after.

One of the reasons being involved in a post-graduate service program is so rewarding is because it can allow you to do the work that you are really passionate about. When talking about her service work, Rachel explains “I am always excited about being able to give back to the community and continue to learn.” Her background in social work and passion for working with families led Rachel to choose AFCS as her main community partner. She says “It’s a good match for me because I enjoy working with children, as well as helping others find their strengths and learn how to use them to become more successful in life. I try to give individuals the benefit of the doubt and help them process past situations that may be affecting their current actions.”

Not only does post-graduate service often allow participants to follow their passions, it also helps them prepare for future careers. When discussing her service work through AFCS, Rachel claims “My volunteer work is helping me continue to develop the skills I need to be a successful social worker; such as interviewing, assessments, and treatment plans. It is helping me prepare for how to handle difficult situations that I may come across  in my future work.” Through the NVC and AFCS, Rachel is able to help out with bi-monthly home visits to check on the children she works with. She also helps complete independent living assessments  for children who are about to age out of the system and train prospective foster parents who are looking to become involved with AFCS. Since Rachel began her work through the NVC and AFCS she has also passed the exam needed to obtain her Advanced Practice Social Work license.

Yet another great aspect of post-graduate service programs like the NVC is the community aspect. NVC residents live in a shared home where they focus on creating an intentional community among each other– even preparing meals together every evening. The extra built in support system of co-workers and peers is something that Rachel comments on, stating “I enjoy working with my co-workers and learning what I can from them. I learned that when I am unsure to always talk to a co-worker or supervisor and run ideas past them.”

Overall, post-graduate service programs like the NVC can help open numerous doors for your future by preparing you with the skills you need to advance in a career you are passionate about. You can learn more about the NVC and the programs they offer by visiting their website. If you’re interested in exploring other post-graduate services or unsure whether or not post-graduate service is for you, you can visit the Career Services website.  For more information about becoming an AFCS mentor like Rachel visit the American Foundation Online.

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