Core Team leaders are backbone of MOVE
Student volunteers tell of enriching experiences taking responsibility for serving constituents in greater Burlington and beyond
Saint Michael’s College’s well-established Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts (MOVE) program through Edmundite Campus Ministry provides students with an abundance of service opportunities. Several current MOVE Core Team leaders recently shared their perspective on the experience of being a Core Team leader, and how it has changed them and their St. Mike’s experience.
These leaders’ variety of experiences reflects how MOVE includes several different service programs addressing different needs both in greater Burlington and the wider world. through domestic and international service trips. St. Mike’s students have the opportunity become a leader of one of these programs
Vicky Castillo ‘20 leads MOVE’s newest program, created almost three years ago, the Civil Rights Alliance. She began her journey with the program’s first major event in the spring of her first year: a weekend service trip to Columbus, Ohio, to participate in a protest. Her experience on this trip was transformational. Going forward, she knew that the current program leaders were graduating and the program would need new leaders to continue. “I didn’t know exactly what leading the program would be like, but I knew that work would address issues I was passionate about,” Castillo says. So, she decided to apply, and has been a leader of the program since her sophomore year. “It is a lot of work, but if you’re passionate about it it’s totally worth it,” she says of being a Core Team leader. “You’re contributing to your own community, and there would be a lot lost if you didn’t do what you were doing.” Vicky credits her Core Team experience for, in her words, “How much I’ve grown in my leadership ability, from planning and organization to reaching out to others and building something out of nothing.”
Hannah Skibitski ‘20 has been a Core Team leader for the Service Trip Committee since her junior year. She applied for and attended a service trip to South Dakota in May of 2018, which is where she says she “fell in love with service.” The leader of her trip encouraged her to apply to lead a trip herself, and the following year she led a trip to Immokalee, Florida. “Service trips are a great way to get out and experience different parts of the country, but they’re also a great way to broaden your St. Mike’s experience and see different perspectives,” she says. On what she’s gained from being a Core Team leader, Skibitski says that “that leadership experience is invaluable. You’re asked to almost play the role of a staff member in taking a group of students off campus to supervise them as they experience a different part of the country, and you get to share your service experience and inspire others to engage in service as well.”
Lindsey Duquette holds Core Team leader positions for both the Service Trip Committee and Little Brother Little Sister (LBLS), a mentorship program. “There are so many reasons to be a Core Team leader. Having something that you work so hard on and can take pride in is so meaningful, and giving others a platform to develop love for service is so important,” Duqette says. Though leading two programs can be a lot of work for Duquette, she says that everyone in MOVE is supportive and ready to help leaders keep up with their responsibilities. For LBLS, Duquette describes leader responsibilities as recruiting and interviewing possible new mentors, meeting with guidance counselors at partner schools to match kids with mentors, as well as keeping updated on what’s going on in mentees’ lives, keeping up a constant email exchange between team members, and being a resource for participants in the program.
“LBLS is an opportunity to connect with the community outside St. Mike’s, and to be a role model and a constant, steady, positive presence in a child’s life. You get to see how much they grow over your time together and come to care for you, which is really incredible,” she says.
Brennan Foley ‘20 also leads Little Brother Little Sister. He became a core team leader the second semester as a first-year, and so as a senior now has been a leader and mentor for over three years. Foley greatly values the relationships he’s developed and the skills he’s learned, especially relationship-building, through his work with this program. “I chose LBLS because I wanted to have a four-year connection with a student, and as an education major, I wanted to develop my skills in building relationships with students,” he says. Not only has he been able to form a strong bond with his mentee, but also with other mentors he has gotten to know over their four years of involvement in the program. “I wish I could tell people not to be afraid of the commitment of a four-year relationship with a mentee, or not to fear that they won’t be able to keep up with it,” Foley says. “Everyone in MOVE is so supportive and makes it so easy. Anyone can participate and be a mentor.”
Sarah Donahue also leads two programs: Senior Citizen Games, and the reforming program currently known as After School Games. Donahue explains that After School Games is in the process of changing community partners and redesigning their program, and next year will have an entirely different name. Going forward the program will be working with Colchester Middle School, volunteering with an improv group and a homework help group. “It’s been more challenging than I would have thought,” Donahue admits of being a Core Team leader.
“I used to look at upperclassmen Core Team leaders and think they made it look so easy, but there really is a lot that goes into it.” That being said, Donahue maintains that being a Core Team leader is an exciting, rewarding, and worthwhile experience. “When things go right it’s the best feeling,” she says. “It’s an amazing thing when you know what you are doing is having a positive impact on a community.” From her experience as a Core Team leader, Donahue says she has developed her leadership skills and become more educated about issues of social justice, and she has become more passionate about advocating for social justice. “It is a lot of hard work but at the end of the day it’s also a really fun, meaningful experience that makes my heart happy, and I want everyone to be able to experience the sense of pride that I do as a Core Team leader,” Donahue says.
Melissa Lezama ‘20 happened upon volunteer opportunities with Burlington’s Lund Family Center by chance her freshman year, but has now been a Core Team leader for the program for three years. “I knew I wanted to participate in service, but playing for the women’s rugby team my freshman year, Lund was the only program that fit in with my schedule. So I tried it and I fell in love with it,” she says. Responsibilities for leading Lund include planning activities and crafts for the children to do when they visit, keeping a constant chain of communication in terms of scheduling, and maintaining the program’s budget. Describing what she’s gained from leading the program, Lezama says, “Being at Lund has given me such a different perspective on how to raise children and such a greater appreciation for mothers.”
The Lund Center, MOVE’s second oldest service program partnership after Correctional Volleyball, is a residential facility for single mothers in recovery stages from mental health or addiction struggles. “It’s crazy to see these single mothers raise children on their own in addition to everything else that they are going through,” Lezama says. Lezama’s favorite thing about being a leader for the program is that it forces her to make a weekly commitment. “Being a Core Team leader holds me accountable to be there for them, so that when I go there I know the women and have established trust with them.”
St. Mike’s Core Team leaders demonstrate passion and dedication to the work they do, says MOVE Director Lara Scott, who considers them the backbone of MOVE.