Following Passions and Listening to Others

Today’s reflection is from Julia Siwierka.

Julia served as a 2013-14 Dominican Volunteer in New York.

From 2013-2014, I was a Dominican Volunteer on Long Island, NY ministering with The Opening Word, an adult literacy program that works with immigrant women. While there, I was a job readiness/computer instructor for the Bridge students on their way out of the program. I lived in the St. Hugh of Lincoln community located right next door to one of the three school locations. Two years after finishing the program, I still find myself thinking about that year often. Whether it was the fun times getting Carvel ice cream and playing Words with Friends or the informative times going to lectures and learning about the Amityville Motherhouse, I smile remembering those times. I am going into my third year of graduate school– Go Wichita State Shockers! I just received my Masters of Arts in Psychology this past May and am continuing on for my PhD. in Community Psychology. Ministering with The Opening Word changed the course of my life in that my overall research and hopeful practice areas are literacy and education. My previous students’ stories about their hopes for their futures and their children have inspired me to better understand and advocate for literacy among various populations. Here in Kansas, there are enormous educational disparities such that many children are being left behind. In one local elementary school,96.6% of students there come from economically disadvantaged households; 56% of these same students are below the state reading level. Between changes in curriculum, barriers in the classroom and at home, access to quality reading materials, parents’ literacy levels, and so many other factors, it is clear that something needs to be done. So not only is it important to educate kids, parents, teachers, policymakers, etc., but it’s also important to advocate for change for our young students. 

My chosen field of Community Psychology fights to help empower those who have been oppressed and offers a cohesive look at the multiple forces that affect individuals and societies. It complements the Dominican values very nicely, and it seemed like a seamless transition into this program. Over the past three years, I have learned to follow my passions, fight the actually good fight, ask questions, and wait my turn when others need to speak… and while these lessons were supported by my books over the past two years, it really only took one year in New York to commit these lessons to heart because of my students.