Alumni Spotlight: Postgrad Service – It’s not always “Peachy”

7U0B6737Traci Beach is CEO and co-founder of GiveGrowShare. With a master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and a dual degree in Finance and Television from Notre Dame (’09), Traci is well-versed in the necessity of strong communications to drive business initiatives. She previously worked as a Bloomberg News Reporter. Today, Traci is a professional freelance writer, videographer and content journalist, spending her days focused on user experience and filling information gaps.

7U0B6751Stephen Beach is COO and co-founder of GiveGrowShare. Stephen, ND ’09 (American Studies, Latino Studies, International Business) runs Craft Impact, a digital marketing agency. He has significant experience in SEO, web traffic, inbound marketing, online lead generation and B2B sales.

When Stephen graduated from Notre Dame, he volunteered in Puerto Rico for 6 months with the Puerto Rico Center for Social Concerns (PRCSC). When he returned, he wanted to share his story with more prospective volunteers. That’s how GiveGrowShare was born.

GiveGrowShare is a tech startup that aims to provide unbiased reviews and detailed descriptions of volunteer and service organizations worldwide, as well as a community-based networking platform for current, past and prospective volunteers. GiveGrowShare is partnering with Notre Dame to test its platform’s beta version and collect feedback from students, alumni, faculty and volunteer organizations.

Service isn’t always easy. In fact, many times it is quite challenging.

A lot of things can get in the way of one’s ability to ‘make a difference’ – a volunteer or service work organization may face administrative struggles, lack of funding, or hurdles in the community that may take years or decades to overcome.

But why don’t we talk about those difficulties?

You never really hear about how terrifying it is to be thrown in front of a classroom without instruction or how to put together a lesson plan. It’s rare to uncover much more than a reflection that talks about living on a small stipend or in a different environment. Facebook posts from current volunteers often neglect to share the days that made them want to cry or contemplate quitting.

A commitment to service work or volunteerism doesn’t mean you’re signing up for a guaranteed experience where you love the people you’re with and they love you and life is peachy. In order to make the best choice, a prospective volunteer should understand the whole picture, including the good and the bad days.

I had plenty of those tough days during my 6 months as a volunteer in Puerto Rico. Almost every volunteer can relate in some capacity, as lack of funding and direction when being pulled into multiple projects can be overwhelming. I’ve reflected on those challenging times and thought about how I could have gone about them differently. All kinds of ideas come to mind – but the more I think about my time as a postgrad volunteer, the happier I am that I took that route after graduating from Notre Dame and committing to the program in Puerto Rico. Even more so, I feel lucky that my experience wasn’t completely peachy. So what? No one’s experience is all peachy. That’s the reality of volunteer work. That’s the reality of life.

It took me a while to understand how much Puerto Rico helped me grow as a person and develop my career trajectory. In fact, I credit my experience in Puerto Rico for getting me my first job in Chicago and for ultimately pushing me to a career in consulting many years later.

Six months after returning from Puerto Rico, I wanted to share my experience with students at Notre Dame considering postgraduate service. I hoped to give back in some way to the organization and my alma mater. Besides a personal blog shared with close friends and family through Facebook, I couldn’t think of a way to reach a larger audience.

What made my experience different than others? How would I sum up my time there, and how could I pass on what I learned to other prospective volunteers or leaders of volunteer organizations? I grew so much as a person during my time in Puerto Rico – how could I convey how much my experience helped me develop professionally, spiritually and personally?

That’s why my wife, Traci, and I decided to create a website platform to collect stories from volunteers in these long-term volunteer or service work positions.

GiveGrowShare provides unbiased reviews and detailed descriptions of volunteer and service work organizations worldwide, as well as a community-based networking platform for current, past and prospective volunteers.

We built GiveGrowShare to shed light on some of the unknown, and really to help people find the opportunity best suited to their skills, personal goals, career aspirations and spiritual journey in life. We believe that GiveGrowShare can help the organizations with limited marketing budgets spread their message to prospective volunteers.

Here’s a GiveGrowShare – Quick Overview to learn what it is GiveGrowShare does.

I believe it is imperative that prospective volunteers make sure that they pick the opportunity best suited to them – this provides a better experience and a better outcome for the organization. They need to go into a long-term volunteer position knowing that there will be a multitude of unknown challenges, things they can’t even begin to understand until they get into the daily grind. Signing up means you are ready to embrace the hurdles.

Fr. Sorin, the founder of Notre Dame, stated, “This college will be one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country.” Notre Dame’s strong network and commitment to service make them the perfect partner to help us build this community, and this summer we are debuting our website with the Notre Dame community in partnership with the Center for Social Concerns. If you have participated in a long-term (1 month or longer) volunteer or service work position, including SSLPs, ISSLPs or postgraduate work – you’re invited to share your story and connect with prospective volunteers and other volunteer alumni on GiveGrowShare. Register and share your experience with the community today!

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for GiveGrowShare, check out the website to learn more!

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