A Lasting Partnership with Freedom House

By Laura Riley

“I feel like we are actually helping them and giving them an opportunity to have a better life.”

~ Rachel Losselyong ’15

In March 2012, toward the end of their first year at St. Norbert College, eight women decided they wanted to apply for Michels Hall Service Program for their sophomore year. They viewed the residence hall as a wonderful opportunity to not only live with their friends, but to do something good together. We were able to sit down with three of the former residents: Nicole Haupert ’15, Samantha Lensmire ’15, and Rachel Losselyong ’15.

To ensure a good fit, Michels Hall groups are interviewed prior to being partnered with an organization. The women were originally interested in Freedom House. Freedom House serves Brown County area families who find themselves in need of emergency housing. The organization forms step-by-step action plans for each family with end goals of permanent housing, employment, and stability. The women turned out to be a good fit for the organization and were the only suite partnered with Freedom House.

As the Freedom House suite, their primary duties involved providing relief to parents at the Freedom House. The women provided childcare while the parents participated in educational classes. Their volunteer efforts left an impact not only on the Freedom House residents, but on them as well. “We didn’t know what we were getting in to, but we got more out of it than we anticipated,” said Lensmire.

After a wonderful academic year in Michels Hall, the group knew for their junior year they would be splitting up based on housing options. Five of them knew without a doubt that they wanted to continue volunteering with Freedom House.

“It had become a routine and we knew it would feel weird not going. Every time after we volunteered, we felt refreshed. We were ready to do our homework and get things done. Every time we were there we saw the residents working toward a better life and we didn’t want to give that up,” said Lensmire.

One way they could continue their volunteer efforts was through an on-campus theme house. Theme Houses provide groups of students who have common educational endeavors or common co-curricular interests the opportunity to reside together in a living-learning residential environment. They allow students to purposefully define their on-campus living experience and to contribute to the greater campus community in accordance with their goals.

The group decided that whether their “Freedom House” theme house proposal was accepted or not, they would continue volunteering there. “We wanted to continue volunteering with the Freedom House because we are genuinely passionate about it. It would have been hard to leave, especially because we didn’t know who would be taking our place. When we discussed our volunteering with other Michels residents, we were able to share stories about impacting lives. Spending time there has been an eye-opening experience,” said Haupert.

IMG_0818The group’s proposal was accepted and they are currently residing in an on-campus house together. The group pictured (from left to right) includes: Rachel Losselyong, Nicole Haupert, Sara Dorow, Samantha Lensmire, and Meredith Moore. As second-year volunteers at Freedom House, they have been given more responsibilities. They are creating a training manual for future volunteers and are writing lesson plans for the childcare sessions.

“We have gotten to know the families and have a connection with them. Before leaving for the Freedom House, we used to sit and complain about how much homework we had, but going there has changed our perspective. I feel like we are actually helping them and giving them an opportunity to have a better life,” said Losselyong.

Since beginning their volunteer efforts just a year ago, the group has come to see the true impact they can have. If they don’t volunteer, childcare is not provided and the classes for the parents don’t happen. If the classes don’t happen, the families are unable to fulfill the goals of the program. The young women have gotten to know the families and they know the path they have taken to get where they are. They want to impact that path.

It is not surprising that their future plans involve giving back to their community. Haupert plans on attending medical school and wants to work at a children’s hospital. “It would be really cool to be able to impact other peoples’ lives through innovation and new medical procedures. After volunteering at Freedom House, I have a better understanding of where my future patients may come from. I don’t want to just be a doctor, I want to be understanding and gentle…a doctor who supports my patients.”

As future educators, Losselyong and Lensmire both are looking forward to impacting the lives of children every day. “Being at Freedom House has given us experience for becoming teachers. We have a better understanding of where our students may come from and the background they may have,” said Losselyong.

From Michels Hall residents to theme house volunteers, this lasting  partnership is not only having an impact on Freedom House and their mission to serve homeless families in Brown County, it is also influencing these young women.

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Staying Actively Involved with Nonprofits: Taylor DeBroux ’14

289326_10152213637829119_1552142353_o“Over the past three years, I have come to learn that the intrinsic rewards you get from working for nonprofits equals, if not surpasses, the help you give others. Knowing that you are dedicating your time to helping someone else, regardless of who it is, or how you are helping, is undeniably fulfilling.”

〜 Taylor DeBroux, St. Norbert College ’14

As a senior at St. Norbert College, Taylor DeBroux has been actively involved in service for the past three years. She has progressively become more connected with service and nonprofits each year through a variety of roles. And this year is no different.

Taylor initially got involved with service as a first-year student through the Emerging Leaders Program. As a sophomore, she committed to an academic year of service with the YMCA by living in Michels Service-Learning Hall. That decision has impacted where Taylor is today.

“During the Michels Hall orientation meeting at the beginning of the school year, residents had the opportunity to hear from all of the community partners. It was at this meeting that I learned the Boys and Girls Club of Green Bay was hiring a new employee. Since I was looking for a job, it was the perfect opportunity to apply. I am extremely grateful for this decision because being at the Club has broadened my cultural and professional knowledge so much that I still find the value in working there today, two years later.”

For her senior year, in addition to working at the Boys and Girls Club (BGC), Taylor is interning at Big Brother Big Sisters (BBBS) through her Human Services Internship class. She originally gained interest in BBBS because of how complementary it is to her work at the Boys and Girls Club. Taylor said, “BBBS allows me to gain a better understanding of the administration side of a company, whereas my position at the Boys and Girls Club deals directly with its members. I am very interested in working with the youth of Green Bay and I get to do this every day through different means and with companies that have similar goals.

By being connected to numerous nonprofits in Green Bay and by taking social work classes, Taylor has realized the importance of networking. “The supervisors who I report to at both BGC and BBBS have connections to staff at the YMCA. I have come to realize that making positive relationships with the staff I work with in every company is very beneficial from both personal and professional standpoints. ” stated Taylor.

Taylor has continually been making a difference in the Greater Green Bay community since she first stepped foot on this campus three years ago. Her dedication to the youth of Green Bay has surpassed the usual commitment to service.

“If I were to give advice to my freshman self, I would emphasize the importance of utilizing available resources and jumping into new opportunities as often as possible. I think the best way to get started in service and continue that service is to stay connected. The college offers excellent services to assist you in this. My class choices have guided my service decisions, and in turn, my service work has guided my class decisions. I see my academia and my community work as being equally important in shaping what I do today and what I will do in the future.

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By Laura Riley