From Service Learner to Program Director: An Interview with MU Alumnus and Community Partner Katie Polace
During her first semester at Marquette University, Ohio native Katie Polace unknowingly registered for a Service Learning placement that would change the course of her future career. Being new to the busy city of Milwaukee she requested a placement that would be easy to find and require a short commute so as not to overwhelm herself during her first semester. Katie was assigned to the Boys and Girls Club of Milwaukee where she fulfilled her Service Learning requirements for the first semester by assisting in various programs for the youth including homework help and open gym. Her first experience serving others in the Milwaukee community showed her the vast needs in her new environment and it also helped her pinpoint her strengths and passions, one of which was teaching. She had always had been interested in education, but had never been in a situation where she could experience what a career in the field would be like first-hand. During her second semester she was not enrolled in a Service Learning course, but still wanted to continue her work at the Boys and Girls Club. After speaking to the Director at that time, she was hired as a part-time art teacher. She continued in this teaching position until the end of her sophomore year when she was offered a job as the Assistant Site Director. Katie held her position as Assistant Site Director up until her graduation from Marquette. Upon graduation she moved to the COA Youth + Family Center and worked as the Teen Program Coordinator and later the Teen Program Manager. She continued in those roles at the COA Youth + Family Center until she decided to move to the Holton Youth + Family Center.
Katie is currently the Program Director at the Holton Youth + Family Center. Although no day is “typical” for her, she generally finds herself working with collaborative partners, managing grants, writing reports, and managing staff in the morning. She tries to set aside her time in the afternoon each day for the youth involved in her program. Though the managerial work is critical for the function of the Center, working with the youth is where Katie’s true passion lies. This passion was originally ignited during her work with youth from age five to nineteen at her first Service Learning Placement, the Boys and Girls Club. Throughout her Service Learning experience she was able to grow through immersing herself in a new environment and learn how to overcome barriers to communication and learning. When asked how her experience in Marquette’s Service Learning Program affected her career choices Katie responded by saying, “If it weren’t for Service Learning I wouldn’t have the job that I have today!” In 2004, Katie Polace entered Marquette with the intention of getting a degree in Public Relations and Journalism. Four years and countless experiences later, she graduated with degrees in Education and Journalism and found herself on the path to a career serving others in the Milwaukee area. We couldn’t be more proud of Katie, and countless other Service Learning Alumni who are making a difference in the lives of others every day!