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Alumni Spotlight: Stepping Into the Unknown – Living, Serving, Thinking, and Collaborating

After departing from my year of service my cup was filled to the brim. Even though my cup was filled, I asked myself a very important question. The question was, “How will I continue to live out the tenets that I adopted during my year of service?” At the time, I was really searching for a way to do meaningful work in my professional field. I am an IT professional after all, and I asked myself “How can I combine compassionate service and IT together?” To my surprise, a few months after my volunteer year ended, I discovered a job at a nonprofit that advocates for international education and exchange working to advance policies and practices that ensure a more interconnected, peaceful world today and for generations to come. I was hired as the Event Technology Specialist at the organization and my role consists of designing the conferences, websites, mobile app, and project management. Through my role I am able to incorporate social justice by designing technological components that bring people together and increase diversity and inclusion via international education programs. I reflected on my experience of traveling to the high desert of the Southwest to serve alongside the Navajo people as a teaching assistant, and I realized that sometimes there are opportunities right in front of us that align with our needs, and we just need to take the time to observe them and follow suit.

One promise I made to myself was that I would try my best to keep in touch with the Mercy community after my volunteer year was over. Since I have departed St. Michaels, AZ in 2018 I have made a regular yearly visit to spend time with my former students, colleagues, and friends. Each and every time I revisit there are more changes that I witness, and these changes show me that nothing ever stands still in our world. Revisiting my community helps me align and ground myself. My former volunteer site hasn’t had volunteers in three years, but the spirit of Mercy is still strong and the staff are still genuinely dedicated. The beauty of the high desert amazes me each and every time I visit the Navajo Nation. Many of my friends have views on their land that are a treat for the eyes. The Navajo people have endured so much, and yet are surrounded by so much beauty.

When I think about what impacted me the most from my MVC experience it was going way outside of my comfort zone. This is something that many humans fear doing in their lifetimes, but I find that we end up transforming in more ways than we could even begin to imagine when we take a step into the unknown. 

As a result of taking a step into the unknown I was able to work with some amazing students that taught me more than I could have ever imagined about special needs and those who are born with disabilities. 

As a result of taking a step into the unknown, I was able to feel and breathe the beautiful essence of Navajo culture and to see into the everyday lifestyle of the Navajo people. 

As a result of taking a step into the unknown, I was able to learn new ways of living, serving, thinking, and collaborating with the greater community that surrounds me.

As a result of taking a step into the unknown, my life has been forever changed and I encourage everyone to follow their life journey. You never know where your path will take you.

Ronnie Townsend: St. Michaels Alumnus

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