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Take a Chance

February 26, 2014
Rene Pic 1

Rene is seen with two of his students at a high school fair


Rene Howard-Paez is a 2013 alum of Dominican University and Cristo Rey Volunteer in Boston. Here he shares some of his thoughts on how he discerned post-graduate life and what his experience has been like up to this point. Juniors and seniors considering next steps can truly benefit from Rene’s thoughtful reflection. 

If you are a senior reading this I wish you luck in your next endeavor. Around this time last year I was in your same shoes, deciding what to do next year. I’m sure you’re asking yourself a series of questions like: Should I pursue a job in my major field? Should I go to graduate school? Should I move home and figure it out? Should I volunteer?

This type of decision is one best made using those around you. When I was deciding what to do for the next year I began to ask everyone around me if they would discuss it with me. I spoke with Claire Noonan, who is a former volunteer. Sr. Melissa Waters and Sr. Diane Kennedy both gave me some time to bounce ideas off their heads. I ran over some possible placements with my former professor and advisor, John Jenks. Shannon Green gave me the best resources to research programs. I talked about it with my friends, my family, anyone that I had a relationship with over the last four years. Ultimately, I decided to do something different for myself. I wanted to try something completely new and put myself in a situation that might make me uncomfortable. I wanted to give myself to a cause that was larger than myself, and immerse myself in the lives of these students.

To tell you a little bit about my experience, I live in community with 5 other people in an old rectory that is actually quite big. My community mates come from all over the place – Portland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and I represent the good ol’ Midwest. Our house is about a mile from the school where I work, Cristo Rey. The school is a great place but one that is still finding its identity. The role of the volunteers in the school is a very strong and involved one. The volunteers are treated just like any other faculty or staff member, which creates an amazing culture for us to be in. Our opinion is never disregarded and responsibility is placed on us just as it is with any other working member of the school.

Officially I work in the office of admissions, but I get to wear many different hats during the day.To give you a snapshot on what a “typical” day might look like, on one of my first days I helped teach an excel class to freshman, served lunch for three periods, got asked to be the assistant coach of the women’s basketball team and did some admissions work.

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With the women’s basketball team Howard-Paez coaches

Committing to a year of service can be an amazing thing, but not always easy. There have been moments in my service where I have struggled, wondered if I committed to the right thing and stressed out a bit. These are natural emotions to experience, as this is not a typical path for a post-graduate student.

A year of ago if you would have told me I would be volunteering and living in the inner city of Boston I would have chuckled. This journey has been a peculiar and fast one, but I have not once regretted it. To be able to give yourself completely to a cause, to a school, to a group of students is beyond fulfilling. To be engulfed in social justice and to make a difference in the lives of these students is invaluable.

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