Molly McVay grew up understanding she would go to college. Most of her family members and neighbors were college graduates. “All along the way, we talked about how my grades and the activities I did would come into play in college. At the time, I did not even realize that was such an advantage,” she says.
Now she and other student members of DePaul Volunteers Supporting Youth (part of the DePaul Community Service Association) are returning the favor. Every Friday afternoon they join about 60 elementary-school children at Hope Junior, an after-school program at the Marillac Social Center in East Garfield Park. The activities are simple—helping with homework, playing Capture the Flag. The goal is greater—to get the kids imaging college in their future.
“We’ll start talking about their dreams. Do they want to be a doctor, a policeman, a teacher?” she says. “To get those jobs, they need to go to college. To go to college, they need to get good grades. And that’s why studying for that spelling test matters.”
After three years volunteering, Molly is excited about the sense of community and connections that have developed between the DePaul students and the children they work with. With great affection, she talks about a boy who wasn’t interested in working with any of the DePaul volunteers until he connected with her. “He’d tell everyone he had no homework until he saw me, and then out would pop the math and the English and the science,” she says. “Now, he’s excited to work with everyone. He’s really become more open and involved.”
Molly signed up for the program because she thought it would be a good complement to her academic studies. She is double-majoring in sociology and American studies with a concentration in racial and ethnic integration and plans to become a social worker or lawyer specializing in urban youth. She’s gotten the insights she was hoping for, plus some she wasn’t expecting.
“It’s so much fun to walk in and see that the kids are excited to have us there!” she says. “To outsiders it might appear that I am helping them but often they are the ones providing me with the wisdom!”