Spotlight on our Jesuit Volunteers

Every August, Civicorps has the privilege of welcoming two new Jesuit Volunteers (JV’s) into our ranks for a full year of service.

As our new volunteers cycle in, we bid farewell to the two JV’s completing their year of service.  In August 2019, we had the pleasure of on-boarding two young men at the Academy and the Job Training Center: David Jaeger and Caleb Blagys.  In March 2020, Caleb made the difficult decision to return home to the East Coast to weather the COVID-19 pandemic with his family.  David made the equally hard decision to remain in Oakland through the conclusion of his service year this August.

You may not know what a Jesuit Volunteer is and what do they do at Civicorps. In appreciation of Caleb’s service, which was abruptly cut short, and continued gratitude for David’s service, we spoke with them both to learn more.

David Jaeger

David spoke to us from the back porch of his apartment in Berkeley where he is living with other Jesuit Volunteers in an intentional community during his service year. Before moving to the East Bay to join Civicorps, David studied philosophy and religious studies at Shawnee State University in Ohio and volunteered at a hospice.

We reached Caleb in Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he is living with family after he ended his service. Caleb graduated from Fairfield University, near Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he grew up. He studied business management and marketing. During college, Caleb worked for the Fairfield Conservation Department, taught rugby skills to young students, and had an internship at Save-A-Suit, providing military veterans with business attire when they returned to the workforce.

What is a Jesuit Volunteer?

Caleb Blagys

DJ: The Jesuit Volunteer Corps was founded in Baltimore in 1975 to provide services to communities in need. Typically, Jesuit Volunteers (JVs) are recent college graduates who commit to the core values of communal living, simple living, spirituality, and social justice. JVs are placed throughout the US, in schools, hospitals, food pantries, and other social services. I was looking for things to do after graduation and I really wanted to live with people who had similar values.

CB: The Jesuit ideals and philosophies are what make it different. JV’s don’t get a paycheck. I lived in an intentional community with six other JVs [including David]. We talk to each other about our day, if we’ve had a tough day, figure out the chores around the house, and then also, how to kick back and relax in an intentional manner. The spiritual aspect is open to interpretation. Some people are Catholics, but there are also volunteers from other religions, atheists, and those who are exploring faith. I come from Catholic roots and a Jesuit education in high school and college.

What is your job at Civicorps? 

DJ: As the Service Learning Coordinator I help teachers and staff with math, English, and research tutoring, and everything from making copies to keeping the lobby clean to being a fieldtrip chaperone. I also help students find opportunities to complete their community service participation hours, and help to make sure the food pantry is stocked with nutritious snacks for our members.

CB: I ended up having the opportunity to gain experience being a Job Training Supervisor. In this role I worked with different departments (EBRPD, EBMUD, Alameda County Flood Control, and Caltrans). I would learn what they needed done and then relay that to my crew or with the other supervisors and make sure that we got the job done to their specifications.

Hardest Challenge:  

DJ: The Pandemic has been the hardest part of the year. I am trying to do my best to help in whatever small way I can.

CB: I have thought of myself as a good listener, but I wouldn’t always know what to say. I’ve learned you don’t need to say anything, but just be there and offer an ear. Sometimes that is all you can do, and that’s all you really need to do sometimes.

Most enjoyable thing(s):

DJ: Two of the most rewarding experiences that I have had were backpacking trips to Pinnacles National Park and Point Reyes with 10 Corpsmembers (CMs) each time. Look for David’s upcoming blog post on this trip!

CB: Going on a camping trip the weekend before I had to leave due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I went with CMs, David, and a staff member [Lauren Hoernig] to Pinnacles National Park. Being able to experience an extremely different environment where there’s no cell service, no cars, no lights, nothing but the people around you and the great outdoors was great. We went rock climbing. Some people were natural born rock climbers who flew up the cliff face. I was so fortunate to have been able to join them. The most challenging climb takes so much mental fortitude and persistence. And to know that I did that, but also that CMs were doing that and feeling that same sense of accomplishment was absolutely otherworldly.

Once your service ends in August, what’s next for you, David?

DJ: I’ve been accepted to the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. If things aren’t still closed in the fall, my goal is to study there for the next two years to get a master’s in philosophy.

Will you have to speak a foreign language?

DJ: The classes are in English, but it will be helpful to learn a little French, German, and Flemish.

Caleb, you made the difficult decision to leave your service in March when COVID-19 became quite serious in this country. All of us miss you. How have you been doing?

CB: I’m focusing on controlling what’s in my control and letting go of what I can’t control. Staying positive and putting one foot in front of the other. It’s important to me that wherever I end up working, they have a commitment to social responsibility and that they do their part to help others. I also want to thank the people who went on the Pinnacles camping trip and made it what it was, and to tell them to remember that experience now, in the midst of this crisis, and to know that good days like that are ahead of us also.

What’s one thing you’d tell the next Jesuit Volunteer?

DJ: Be ready to be uncomfortable. They will definitely face many uncertainties.

CB: Get your hands dirty right away and lead from the front. My guiding philosophy was I would never tell a CM to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.

What gives you hope? 

DJ: Knowing that there are people who are dedicating their lives to serving others. I’ve seen that at Civicorps. Seeing the perseverance of some human beings throughout this crisis and feeling a sense of deeper rootedness in life and in trusting life during these times.

CB: People’s willingness to listen to others. Openness to change and being a little less stubborn.

Favorite life motto/saying/experience?

DJ: “Do not be afraid.”

CB: One experience and saying that absolutely sticks out for me is from JAB [Joseph “JAB” Billingsley, Civicorps’ Senior Support Services Manager]. He would come into our weekly meeting and say, “Well, it was another beautiful day at the Corps yesterday.” Like JAB said, every day at Civicorps was a beautiful day, every single day. Even the days that were most challenging, were days that I learned something and turned into a beautiful day.

What’s one thing you would say about Caleb?

DJ: His desire to see others flourish was so apparent to me—not only did he care deeply for the lives of staff and CMs, but also for the larger community.

What’s one thing you would say about David?

CB: He is a fully-fledged philosopher in every sense of the word—super insightful and gets you to take on new perspectives—and he is an expert phenomenologist-in-training.

And, we’d like to say thank you for making a commitment to service learning after college, and for advancing our mission. You guys rock! We hope that your time with Civicorps has made a difference in your life and we wish you the best going forward. Keep in touch!

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MLK 25th Annual Day of Service

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Across the country, thousands of Americans participated in service activities on January 20 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the MLK Day of Service which celebrates Dr. King’s vision of empowering individuals, strengthening communities, bridging barriers, and creating solutions to social problems. This specific federal holiday is the only holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer and improve their communities.

Civicorps had the honor to volunteer alongside Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo’s District 5’s Fruitvale Bart Area. Together, Corpsmembers, Civicorps staff and alumni helped clean up the streets. We picked up loose plastic, old furniture, recyclables, and unexpected items like a toilet. Collectively, along with other organizations including Playworks, California Waste Solutions, and Peace Starts with Me, we picked up truckloads of trash, a united community serving Oakland.

“It meant a lot to me because as we were getting done, I could see the difference we made. The streets looked better. Knowing that young kids will be able to walk down these clean streets gives me hope for my 3 year old son’s future. He being there present to witness this community effort was impactful and I am grateful for it. Plus, it was MLK Day, honoring this black historical leader made me feel good and I know he would have been proud of us doing this act of service.” – Imani Allen, Corpsmember and AmeriCorps Recipient, Civicorps

I am glad that Civicorps has the opportunity to be part of these activities honoring the legacy of MLK’s commitment to making our communities better and more equitable.” – Tessa Nicholas, Executive Director, Civicorps

In addition, a Civicorps crew was at the MLK Shoreline helping East Bay Regional Park District control traffic during their annual celebration honoring Dr. King.

“I made sure folks felt welcomed as they entered the parking lot to honor Martin Luther King Jr. This celebration brought so many people together, I was just glad to be there helping out.” – Ta-Ron Giddens, Conservation Intern and AmeriCorps Recipient, Civicorps

Even though MLK’s legacy is nationally recognized on this day every year, we are presently committed to working throughout the year to make our streets better for our communities. We were pleased to discover that Councilmember Noel Gallo’s team leads weekly clean ups that honor the spirit of community and service! So if you would like to help out and dedicate your time to volunteering, reach out to Civicorps staff and together we can serve Oakland!

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International Volunteer Day 2018

It’s International Volunteer Day!

Looking for ways to volunteer your time?  Have only a few hours to donate per year?  Come help Corpsmembers learn valuable interview skills as they prepare for graduation and look ahead to careers by serving as a Mock Interview Panelist!  Here’s what some recent panelists had to say about their experiences:

“I recognize the valuable partnership between Waste Management and Civicorps, and appreciate the focus to provide support for young adults working to overcome barriers on their path to success.  It was a great process to guide the students as they prepare to enter the workforce, allowing me to share some of my own personal stories and experiences during each mock candidate interview.  In addition to the event providing students the opportunity to practice their interview skills, it provided me a platform to sharpen my own interview skill sets.” 

– Jeff Cox, Waste Management & Civicorps Mock Interview Volunteer

“I volunteer because Civicorps youth look like me and I want to be an example of what success looks like in the real world. Civicorps produces leaders, each with their OWN leadership skills. I’m always promoting Civicorps because of the opportunities for young adults. But the opportunity to make a wage that will change your life exists in the partnership with Waste Management and Civicorps, and that is what’s needed; a streamline process with a support system in place for the transition period.”

– Ammie Brandon, Waste Management & Civicorps Mock Interview Volunteer

Have even more time to donate?  We are always looking for Academic Coaches to spend in depth time 1:1 with our students, on a variety of subjects.

SIGN UP HERE for either or both opportunities.

Civicorps is grateful to all volunteers who have helped bring success to our Corpsmembers. Academic coaches, mock interview panelists, and community volunteers, thank you for your time and commitment to Civicorps. We are also thankful to Waste Management, Beneficial State Bank, NextGen, Chevron, Enterprise and all corporate volunteers  supporting our Corpsmembers in their leadership skills.

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Mock Interview Panel

Mock Interview 

On Friday, 11 volunteers conducted mock interviews with our future graduates! We welcomed volunteers from Salesforce, The Crucible, HiveQuest, and retired individuals to help our students sharpen their interview skills.

Many students were nervous when they sat down for their first interview, but by the end, they were bursting with confidence!

“Even though the students were nervous, they came across as prepared and confident.” – Volunteer

Mock Interview Panel / Civicorps

It was also an inspiring experience for our volunteers:

“Interviewing is an important skill, so I’m happy to provide an opportunity for practice and improvement.”

“It’s vital to help youth develop skills that provide a pathway to financial stability, so I’m happy to help Civicorps students gain those skills.”

Interested in volunteering at the next Mock Interview Panel in April? Sign Up below!

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