Ruined for Life, Earning the “F”, and My Last Post

September 29, 2010

So, it’s been a while. Over two months, actually. I meant to write this post in mid-August to wrap this blog up, but as JVC ended, and I began my new life as a “real person”, I got a bit distracted. Hey, it happens. But I’m back now. Well, I’m back for one last hoorah as TheVolunteacher. Here’s a quick (okay, probably not quick) rundown on what’s happened since I last wrote.

I joined about 40 Jesuit Volunteers in hiking about 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail at the beginning of August. It was intense, it was awesome, and I may actually still be sore from sleeping on the ground (or maybe it was the hiking part…). Regardless, it was a lot of fun. I had never even slept in my own backyard before, let alone gone hiking for 3 days in the wilderness of Southern Pennsylvania, but I enjoyed it. I was able to bond with some JV’s who I didn’t normally get to talk with. I got to hear more of their stories, talk sports, learn about their plans for post-JVC, and reflect on the year. It was a great experience, and one that I will never forget. I’ve attached some photos from the trail below. (As a side-note, thank you to all those who helped support me and my goal to raise $500 for JVC for this hike. Your generosity helps to ensure that great people in JVC continue to do great things for those in need, helping to make our communities, cities, and the world a better, stronger place for all).

After the hike, we arrived at Blue Ridge Summit, where it all began last August, for Dis-Orientation, JVC’s closing retreat, joining the other half of JVC-East. Here, I earned my first ever “F”. No, no, we didn’t receive grades as JV’s (we all know I’d get an A+, duh), but we officially finished our year as Jesuit Volunteers and became Former Jesuit Volunteers (FJV’s). It was an odd few days. We all knew we would be saying goodbye at the end of Dis-O, but we all kind of pretended it wasn’t actually ending. So, what did we do? We had a great time together, that’s what! We had ample free time to spend together, heard from FJV’s about post-JVC life, hung by the pool, dined on the finest of foods, and celebrated a successful year.

On Friday morning, we ate, packed, said a prayer, and said tearful, yet joyful, goodbye to one another. It was then that it hit me that JVC was over. It hit me that this amazing group of people meant a ton to me, and that we’d probably never all be together again. It hit me that my new life was starting. And it hit me that I had truly been “ruined for life” as the JV tag-line says. Not to be overly dramatic, but never again will I be able to look at the world in the same way; I know too much now. JVC has opened my eyes to so much, and made me think in ways I never really thought possible. I look back at the me that started JVC, and, really I’m the same Tom O’Keefe. But so much has changed, too.

And now, here I am, almost 2 full months into my new job at Cristo Rey Jesuit, moved into a house with good friends Nick and Rick, and making a life in the great city of Baltimore. Way back in August of 2009, I wrote of starting JVC, “It’s scary, nerve-wracking, a little bit sad and a little bit happy, but mostly it’s a truly exciting time.” I feel a lot of those same things now. But really, it’s different, and I can’t really explain the feeling, but I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And that’s a great thing.

So, I guess this is the end of TheVolunteacher. I really enjoyed writing in this space. It was a way for me to fully flesh out and reflect on what I experienced. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read it. Your support means so much.

Keep spreading the good word, remember that life is good, and stay well.

Peace,

Tom


The Intersection of Passion Street and Skills Boulevard

July 14, 2010

In the past, I’ve talked about why I went into education for my year with JVC. I found myself passionate about education and how it should be the great equalizer in our country. (Side-note: I can’t exactly remember when I realized that, while our country is based on “equal opportunity”, it doesn’t always give the same opportunities to our children, but it’s completely rocked my world since).

Anyway, this year, working as a teaching assistant at Cristo Rey, I realized that, while I was passionate about education and equal opportunity, I wasn’t suited to be a teacher. It simply isn’t my thing. (Another side-note: I am forever a bajillion times more appreciative of all teachers. It’s really hard sometimes).

I gave a lot of thought in March, April, and May about what I wanted to do when JVC ended. Should I do what I was “trained” to do and work in public relations? But what about all I had learned about and become more passionate about this year? How could I translate that into full-time (paid) work, but not teach? That, and where do my strengths lie?

Image via MyNameMattersNot

I thought about it. A lot.

But then I went back to what we talked about at Re-Orientation and finding the intersection of what we’ve experienced this year and what we’re “going to do about it”.

So, through all that, I realized that I needed to find my own intersection for my career. I had to find the intersection of Passion Street and Skills Boulevard. And, luckily, the Corporate Sponsor Representative position at Cristo Rey was right on the corner.

So, my advice to the folks out there looking for jobs or wondering what you want to do: find what you’re passionate about, figure out what you’re good at, and find where those two things intersect. It will leave you happy and your work meaningful!


The Homestretch

July 6, 2010

As of today, I have just one month left of JVC…

Wait, let me say that again because I’m not sure I quite believe it.

As of today, I have just one month left of JVC.

No way! That’s crazy-talk. How is that possible?

Image via tpower1978

Oh, but it’s true. This year has absolutely flown by. Like wicked fast. And now, today, summer school starts and I start my new job, splitting half-time with my JV duties as a summer school theology independent study supervisor for July (I’ll start the new job full-time after Dis-Orientation at the beginning of August).

Since the school year ended on June 16, I’ve been helping to prepare for the summer programs at school, visited New York City (where I subsequently spent my entire stipend), went home to Massachusetts (where I was subsequently doted upon- “Hey, Tommy, would you like another post-golf Sam Summer? Or would you rather a Blue Moon before we sit down for the steak dinner you picked out?”), and celebrated America’s birthday with a big group of JV’s in Washington D.C.

So, it’s been a relaxingly exciting few weeks for Mr. O’Keefe.

Now, we’re nearing the end, the singing lady is clearing her throat in anticipation, and we’re about to tee off on the 18th for the 4th quarter of the 3rd period.

In one month’s time, I will be a genuine, card-carrying adult person complete with a (paid) job I care about, a commute, taxes and insurance (FEEL THE EXCITEMENT!), an income (wait, was that covered when I mentioned the job is paid?), my own place (well, shared with roommates), and the ability to do my own grocery shopping (actually, I’m really excited about that part for some reason).

I know I have a bit of a history of describing things as both “scary and exciting,” but I think this situation calls for it… again. The JVC chapter is ending, which is a bit sad, but I really can’t wait to start the next chapter. Hey, Life, bring it on!


“Why Would Anyone Wanna Leave Baltimore?”

June 16, 2010

I have some great, great news!

The Cristo Rey Jesuit Corporate Internship Program has hired me as a Corporate Sponsor Representative!

I could not be more excited for this opportunity. My time at Cristo Rey has been truly amazing, and I can’t wait to continue working at such an amazing place, and live in such a great city.

I’ll explain more about the position in a minute, but first, I think some big thank you’s are in order:

Mom and Dad– Pretty cool, huh? You’re oldest son has a job! Thank you for ALL of your love, support, and high expectations throughout the years. If there’s anyone who had unrelenting faith in me, it was you!

Friends and family– Your love and loyalty has meant so much to me through the years. Thank you!

Cristo Rey Jesuit and the people there– I wouldn’t want to stay if this year hadn’t been such a fantastic experience. Your devotion, love, and hard work inspire me every day! Thank you all!

JVC and Community- If not for JVC, I would never have had this opportunity. Also, thank you to my community, JVC Arrupe House. I’ve learned so much from you all this year. You’ve pushed me in ways I never thought possible, and your support for me has been so important to my year.

The People of Baltimore- I had no idea that I would come to love Baltimore as much as I do. Its people, places, and unique personality make it a place where I want to stay.

Okay, so, the job itself. Like I said, I’ll be working in the Corporate Internship Program as a Corporate Sponsor Representative.

The thing that makes Cristo Rey unique from other schools is the internship program. Each student, in addition to completing their college preparatory education, must work 5 days a month at local organizations like Legg Mason, Under Armour, and Mercy Hospital. In turn, these corporate sponsors, pay a portion of the student’s tuition. Recently, the Baltimore Sun covered the program wonderfully in much more detail.

My job will be as a liaison between the students, the school, and the corporate sponsors. It’s an amazing program and I’m honored and excited to be a part of it in such a great city!

Plus, as Bodie Broadus said in The Wire, “”Why would anyone ever wanna leave Baltimore? That’s what I’m asking.”


Planting Seeds

June 2, 2010

I’m a pretty results-oriented guy. I like to see the benefits of what I’ve done relatively soon after working on it, and if I can’t see those results, I get a bit frustrated.

That’s why, at times this year, it’s been frustrating to be a teacher. You don’t always see results quickly. Sure, I’ve helped students get a good grade on this or that assignment, but ultimately, as a teacher, you don’t always see results today, tomorrow, next month, or even this year.

So, I find myself continually asking myself, “What real difference can I make?

Recently, I was bemoaning this to a friend of mine. She, however, was unimpressed. She said simply, “The fact that you are there is making a difference, Tom. You’re planting seeds. You probably won’t see whether those seeds grow, but they will. You are making a difference by planting, nurturing, and loving these seeds.”

She helped me realize that you don’t need to see the direct results in order to make a difference. Every little bit helps in the lives of children, and, no matter how frustrated I get, I need to realize that what I’m doing isn’t going to solve every problem, but it just might kick-start some growth into those seeds.

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Also, in cased you missed it, I’m fundraising for the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and hiking the Appalachian Trail to travel to Dis-Orientation, our retreat to end our year of service. For my blog post and more information about it, CLICK HERE, or to go directly to the fundraising page, CLICK HERE. Thanks everyone! -Tom


My Birthday Gift

May 27, 2010

Tomorrow, May 28, 2010, is my birthday.

Most years, when my parents ask me what I would like for my birthday, I don’t have very many good ideas (sorry guys!). I’m not real big on gifts, and we usually just enjoy a special homemade dinner or a meal at O’Connor’s and my mother’s delicious delicious chocolate cake.

This year, however, I know what I would like. I actually need your help, to be honest.

JVC's Four Values: Spirituality, Simple living, Community, and Social Justice

Each year, the Jesuit Volunteer Corps East invites each of its participants to hike part of the Appalachian Trail to travel to Dis-Orientation, our closing retreat in August. It’s a great end of the year tradition, but, more importantly, it’s a crucial fundraiser for the JVC. In order to take part, each hiker must raise $500 in support of JVC.

I’m asking for your help in raising this money.

This fundraising effort will help JVC continue its mission to offer the opportunity for people like me to work for justice and peace around the world during a year of service. It helps to defray the cost for our job placements, provide the support we need through retreats and field visits from staff, and cover health insurance expenses. This fundraising not only allows for my experience, but it also allows for agencies like Cristo Rey Jesuit to save around $20,000 a year, money that can go directly to the people we serve.

I’ve had an amazing experience with JVC. It’s allowed me to work at a place like Cristo Rey Jesuit, it’s opened my eyes to the people and issues around me, and it’s introduced me to countless people who are just as passionate as I am about working for social justice.

This experience has shaped who I am, and I’ve been lucky to have the chance to play a part in shaping the lives of the students I teach. Now, I want to make sure that this work continues far after I’ve left JVC.

I know times may be difficult right now, but this is not just an opportunity for you to help only me. I’m also asking you to help future Jesuit Volunteers and, most importantly, the people they will serve.

For my birthday, please consider supporting me, future Jesuit Volunteers, and, most of all, the people we serve through this opportunity. It would really mean a lot!

To donate, CLICK THIS LINK to be taken to the Hike to Dis-O Fundraising Page. From there, click the link shown, then click “Make a Donation”. Select “Donate toward a Team or Individual’s goal” and search for “Thomas O’Keefe”. Select my name, click next, and then fill out the required fields. (I know it seems like a ton of steps, but it’s really very easy!)

You can also send donations to the JVC office at:
801 St. Paul St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
Checks should be made out to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps with my name in the Memo section.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at
TomOKeefe1 [@] gmail . com.

Thank you for all of your love and support!

Peace,

-Tom

P.S. Special thanks to Mike Schaffer for the idea!


The Sound of What’s Happening.

May 17, 2010

Stop.

Listen to it.

What do you hear?