This is Part II of a five-part series of interviews with my Jesuit Volunteer housemates in Baltimore.
When I found out that the only other guy in my house was a St. Joe’s (PA) Hawk, I admit, I panicked a little. The Hawks are Villanova’s biggest basketball rival and its counterpart in the fabled Holy War in Philadelphia. Would we be able to get along? What would it be like, not only to live with a Hawk, but to room with a Hawk too? Well, it turns out that Scott Donovan is a pretty cool dude. He’s one of those guys who has a great sense of humor, but knows exactly when to take a more serious tone. Oh, and he also currently has a moustache, plays guitar, can pull off a jean-jacket, and has been deemed “the one” by Dee-Dee, one of Stacey’s residents (when she thinks of him, she says, “Scottie-Scottie-Scottie” and looks off dreamily). So, ladies and gents, this is Scott Donovan.
You work at the St. Frances Academy Community Center. What does the Community Center do? What types of events do you run?
Well Tom, I’m glad you asked! The Community Center is located in West Baltimore, and it seeks to service the Johnston Square/Brentwood Village neighborhoods. It is part of St. Frances Academy, which is a private high school run by the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Throughout the year, the Center provides many events and services for both children and adults. Some examples include a safe Halloween party for the kids, a job fair for the adults, and an after-school program.
You’re the Assistant Director of the community center (not Assistant to the Director of course). What does a typical day look like?
After I finish milking the cow and eating breakfast, I ride my bike to work. I get there around 8:30, check my e-mail, and find out from Mr. Moore (my boss) what’s on tap for the day. Usually the mornings consist of working on whatever event is coming up on the calendar. Right now, we’re gearing up for the MLK Day job fair, so I’ve been contacting companies and agencies across the city, seeking their participation in our event. I also do a lot of street outreach with Mr. Moore, and lately we’ve been walking around the neighborhood, signing people up for the job fair. When 2:30 rolls around, I work with the 30 most wonderful little kids you could ever meet during our after-school program. This runs from Monday to Thursday until 5:30, and I am in charge of everything from passing out snacks to helping with homework, from throwing deep spirals during football games to teaching the kids some basics of reading music. At 5:30 I head home to be with my wonderful housemates!
What types of challenges do you face? What’s your favorite part of the job?
I don’t think there are any challenges having specifically to do with the carrying-out of my tasks. I have found that the challenges I face are broad, and stem from the overall situation into which I have entered this year. Sometimes I feel challenged in relating to the adults and children I work with because I come from such a different background. This might mean having trouble relating to a kid who has a difficult home life, or connecting with a jobless man who has been incarcerated multiple times. Though these encounters tend to make me uncomfortable, I try to keep in mind the idea that that is why I am here: to be uncomfortable, and to challenge my own status quo.
My favorite part of my job is working with my boss, Mr. Moore, and with the after-school kids. Mr. Moore is just one-of-a-kind, and I think we have a great workplace relationship. The kids will test my patience at times, but they all have so much potential, and I can’t wait until 2:30 rolls around every day.
Why did you decide to do JVC? Why were you interested in community organizing?
For me, JVC encompasses everything I want to be at this point in my life. As I weighed my post-grad options last year, I found myself more and more drawn to doing a year of service. Based on the service I had participated in during college, I figured moving in that direction after school is what would make me the happiest. I also realized that a year in JVC would be a different type of experience than a college-based service trip, and I wanted to find a way to really incorporate this desire into my daily life- to “walk the walk,” so-to-speak. I chose JVC specifically for it’s Four Values, and I was most attracted to the community aspect, where we are able to share and grow in our experiences together. Now, I have to say, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I didn’t know specifically what type of work I wanted to do in JVC, but I knew I wanted to do many different things. I think working in community organizing and development affords me that opportunity, as I am at a place where no two days look the same, and I am learning about the many different aspects of running a community center.
You work with Baltimore community leader, Ralph Moore. What’s that like?
Mr. Moore is a gem. He has an encyclopedic amount of knowledge regarding Baltimore and its past, and I already have learned so much from him. He never ceases to amaze me at the amount of people he knows within the city, and everyone seems to want to pick his brain (he constantly gets phone calls seeking his opinon on an issue, or he will be taken out to lunch by a friend seeking his advice). He has spent his whole life in Baltimore, and you can see that he loves this city. He has seen the rise and fall of the neighborhood where the Community Center is located, and his life’s work is a testament to his love of peace and social justice. He is a man who greatly respects, and who is greatly respected.
It also doesn’t hurt that he has an incredible sense of humor. Thus, we tend to get along just fine.
Fun Fact time!
I can solve a Rubik’s Cube in 5 minutes.