Fellow Story: Tess De Jong

One of my favorite parts has been networking with people I probably wouldn’t have met on my own. I’ve been handed networking opportunities and met some really cool people.” -Tess De Jong

Tess De Jong comes to Pittsburgh by way of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Tess received her degree in Geography with a minor in Economics from Calvin College. Prior to joining PULSE, she interned with Calvin College’s Service-Learning Center, *Culture is Not Optional as a Business Support Intern, and the Gilchrist Retreat Center. Additionally, Tess was a part of Ready for Life Horizons, an organization that builds relationships with people who have physical and developmental disabilities. In her free time, Tess enjoys cooking, playing sports, and completing do-it-yourself projects.  She is a part of the South Hilltop cohort, and is serving at Focus on Renewal.

Jack Hurley: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Tess De Jong: The most valuable part of the PULSE experience is having a supervisor at my placement who is invested in me and my experience. She has invited me to events outside of work, expanded my network, given me space to learn new skills and take on leadership opportunities that will benefit me in the future.

Jack: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Tess: I’m learning more about my own personality in contrast and comparison with my own housemates. I’m learning about unique experiences and strengths that I have.

Jack: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Tess: I try to spend quality time with people every single day. I got coffee with a friend last weekend, went to light-up night, and had Friendsgiving with the South Side and Jack Hurley which of course involved some intense party games.

Jack: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Tess: My day changes every day! For the most part, I go into work, take a while to get to my desk after stopping to chat with so many friendly faces, and check emails (I’m a food programs and outreach coordinator). Also, as a part of my position, I work at the food pantry and we serve roughly 100 families per month. A big part of my last month has been organizing a cooking class for teens called “Steel Chef.”

Jack: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Tess: I’m from Michigan and orientation in July was my first time in Pittsburgh… not only did the local Pittsburgh pride surprise me, but the hyper local neighborhood pride and identification surprised me, too. A lot of times, you can’t talk about Pittsburgh without specifying the neighborhood in Pittsburgh because there are many distinctions among the 90 neighborhoods.

Jack: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Tess: On the first crisp day of fall about a month into the program, I decided to take a walk and explore the city while wearing my fall vest for the first time of the season. I live in South Side and I spent all morning walking through Downtown and crossed the bridges into the North Side. I ended at the Andy Warhol Museum because it was free that day. It was nice to see angles from on foot that I’d never seen before, and it felt like I was just a fellow Pittsburgher.

Jack: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Tess: This isn’t necessarily a family recipe, but our house eats broccoli like nobody’s business. We’ve definitely cooled down a bit but we used to buy 6-10 heads of broccoli a week. Definitely a Kingsboro staple.

Jack: What is the best part of the PULSE experience?

Tess: One of my favorite parts has been networking with people I probably wouldn’t have met on my own. I’ve been handed networking opportunities and met some really cool people. I’ve never networked before really, and now I’ve been doing a bit of it. I realize it doesn’t have to be this intense thing – a small conversation can go a long way.

I also love the people and being able to share the highs and lows of this experience with other people.

 

Story by PULSE Fellow Jack Hurley.

Read more Fellow Stories about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

Fellow Story: Sirah Javier

PULSE has  inspired me to live with a greater purpose and understand the effects of our environment on the community.” -Sirah Javier

Sirah Javier, a native of Chester, New York completed her undergraduate degree at Juniata College with a major in Wildlife Conservation. During her time in school, she was involved with Wildlife Society, Pre-Veterinary Medicine, and Animal Science Club. She was also President of the Rugby Club and a Projects Committee member for Juniata College Senate. Additionally, Sirah was a Web Content Manager for Juniata College Pennington House, and interned with a variety of veterinary hospitals and clinics. She was also an intern at the Africa BioZoo in Cordoba, Mexico. In her free time, Sirah enjoys electrofishing, herpetology, and rugby.  She is a part of the South Hilltop cohort, and is serving at Green Building Alliance.

Kimberly Hunter: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Sirah Javier: I’ve learned what it really means to be a community member! It’s more than just living in a place; it includes volunteering, going to community meetings, etc., which is valuable no matter where you go. I’ve learned that immersing myself in a community takes time and living in a space wouldn’t be as fun without neighbors.

Kim: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?

Sirah: PULSE has inspired me to live with a greater purpose and understand the effects of our environment on the community. There is a clear possibility for change and getting involved is the best way to get the ball rolling.

Kim: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Sirah: One of the most important things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m task oriented, I like fast-paced environments, and love being in a place where individuals are passionate about what they do.

Kim: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Sirah: I like that we create an environment where it is okay to make mistakes, thereby creating a positive space. Moreover, I really enjoy that the individuals in my office show genuine care for one another.  

Kim: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Sirah: Making friends! You know someone is always there for you when something goes wrong and the best thing you can have is company.

Kim: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Sirah: The first thing I typically do is say hi to everyone I see. I then go about checking my email, and I do all the tasks listed in my email. Normally, I create name tags, host education events, sit in partner meetings, attend some of our many events and go to building tours that are leaders in sustainability focus. Overall it’s really fun, and I get to learn about how individuals in society are working towards a greener future.

Kim: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Sirah: How strong this city’s efforts are toward being sustainable. It’s pretty impressive. We have political figures, builders, architects, engineers, and community members devoted to growing a  sustainable environment.

Kim: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Sirah: Chelsea and I went to an exotic pet shop tailored to aquariums.  They had a variety of coral farm, anemones, and fish that were really fascinating.

Kim: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Sirah: Chelsea makes an amazing vegetarian chili!

Kim: What is the best part of the PULSE experience?

Sirah: I’m not sure how to answer that question because I haven’t finished my PULSE year yet. So, to be continued.

 

Story by PULSE Fellow Kimberly Hunter.

Read more Fellow Stories about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

Fellow Story: Savanna Thompson

PULSE has inspired me to expand my horizons for what opportunities are out there.” -Savanna Thompson

Savanna Thompson grew up in State College, Pennsylvania and attended Geneva College where she earned a degree in Public Relations, with a minor in Sociology. At Geneva, she was a student tutor, President of PRSSA, Secretary of Genevans Choir, a mentor for the Freshmen Experience, an Sports Editor for the Cabinet Newspaper, and a Student Leader of the Student Activities Team. Prior to joining PULSE, she served as intern with Geneva’s Sport Information Department and the Greater Wichita YMCA. In her free time, she enjoys music, gardening, and crafting.  She is a part of the Northside cohort, and is serving at The Buhl Foundation.

Meera Rajput: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Savanna Thompson: The most valuable part of the experience so far is the ability to make connections both with fellows and Pittsburgh in general especially in the non-profit sector.

Meera: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?

Savanna: PULSE has inspired me to expand my horizons for what opportunities are out there. Before PULSE, I didn’t have any idea how many directions I could go with my future and now I have opportunities and a strong network to help me get there.

Meera: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Savanna: I am learning how to express my needs both personally in the house as well as what my needs are from my supervisor and service experience.

Meera: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Savanna: I really enjoy learning about how an organization runs from the top level atmosphere and what best practices are in action on an organizational level.

Meera: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Savanna: I enjoy having people to come home to! I like how quickly I became comfortable with my roommates for me to be able to share my ups and downs of the day with.

Meera: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Savanna: My days normally consist of strategic planning for the communication plan for next year as well as working with coworkers on specific and individual projects.

Meera: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Savanna: I love that Pittsburgh can feel like a small town even though it is a big city.

Meera: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Savanna: I have enjoyed exploring different coffee shops and getting to know the different personalities that come through all these different shops throughout the city.

Meera: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Savanna: I have loved all the chili we’ve made!

Meera: What is the best part of the PULSE experience?

Savanna: The best part of the PULSE experience is getting to spend time in the house I live in and getting to know the people in the house.

 

Story by PULSE Fellow Meera Rajput.

Read more Fellow Stories about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

Fellow Story: Ryan Prescott

Everybody brings something else to the table that you did not know of. It is always interesting listening to others and sharing your experience.” -Ryan Prescott

Ryan Prescott grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and attended Mercyhurst University where he earned a degree in Criminal Justice, with a concentration in Law Enforcement, while also earning a minor in Criminology. At Mercyhurst, he devoted much of his time to the Boys and Girls Club and Relay for Life. Ryan interned with both the Northeast Police Department and the Erie County Sheriff’s Office. He also presented research on the public perception of police at the American Criminal Justice Sciences conference. In his free time, Ryan enjoys camping, fishing, hanging out with friends, playing video games, and traveling.  He is a part of the South Hilltop cohort, and is serving at Venture Outdoors.

Jack Shomberg: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Ryan Prescott: Honestly, I think the networking opportunities and outreach we have available are the most valuable. The amount of support surrounding my every decision is very comforting. The Program Coordinator’s are constantly trying to nudge you in the right direction or are nudging you to the right people.

Jack: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?

Ryan: PULSE has me thinking with a community-oriented approach. Also, serving as a community liaison for Venture Outdoors helps me think about the bigger picture.

Jack: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Ryan: I am learning that I can be more of an extrovert when needed and not being shy. Almost like adventuring into new territory.

Jack: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Ryan: I really enjoy outreach and working with kids. I was somewhat new to working with kids, so I did not know how well I would like it. I now look forward to the after school programs every day. Seeing the kids get all excited when you show up to go outside and do activities is worthwhile. It really makes going into service every day amazing!

Jack: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Ryan: I have enjoyed living in a larger house with more roommates. There is always someone home at any given time, which is nice if you had a stressful day and need to vent.

Jack: Describe a typical day at your nonprofit partnership.

Ryan: Typically, I start off with either a meeting with my supervisor or a meeting somewhere in Pittsburgh. I travel a lot with Venture Outdoors. After that, I am usually in the office for only a few hours and then I am off to lead my after-school activities for youth in the South Hilltop area. I mostly serve with Brashear Association, A Giving Heart, and Phillips.

Jack: What surprised you most about Pittsburgh?

Ryan: I was really surprised at how crazy some of these drivers are here. I didn’t know the Pittsburgh left was a thing. Also, you have to be more of an aggressive driver because people don’t just let you in, you have to force your way in.

Jack: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Ryan: The most interesting/fun adventure I have had this far is probably with one of my after-school programs. We do an activity called bike rodeo at Venture Outdoors. It is basically just an obstacle course for youth on bikes. This was the most fun because I taught a little girl named Sienna how to ride a bike. Seeing the reaction on her face after she did it all by herself honestly made my week.

Jack: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Ryan: Anything breakfast or anything on the grill.

Jack: What is the best part of the PULSE experience?

Ryan: The best part of my PULSE experience so far is meeting the other PULSE Fellows. Everybody brings something else to the table that you did not know of. It is always interesting listening to others and sharing your experience.

 

Story by PULSE Fellow Jack Shomberg.

Read more Fellow Stories about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

Fellow Story: Meera Rajput

I think the most valuable part of the PULSE experience for me is seeing Pittsburgh in a new perspective.” -Meera Rajput

Meera Rajput, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, grew up in a small suburb called Huntington Valley just outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She received a B.S. in Psychology with a Minor in Economics. At her time at the University of Pittsburgh, she was involved in many activities including Asha for Education, where she helped host events that highlight the educational issues and poverty that underprivileged children in India face. She also was involved in Psi Chi, an Honors Psychology Society, and Behavioral Economics Club, which looked at the intersection of psychology and economics in the consumer market. Outside of Pitt, she served as an undergraduate intern at the Women’s Law Project, a public interest legal center devoted to protecting and advancing the rights of women. Meera’s hobbies include reading novels, writing short stories, watching movies, running, and eventually, learning to play the guitar.  She is a part of the Northside cohort, and is serving at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.

Abbey Schulz: What has been the most valuable part of the PULSE experience so far?

Meera Rajput: I think the most valuable part of the PULSE experience for me is seeing Pittsburgh in a new perspective. Even though I have lived here for four years, this experience has exposed me to the greater community of Pittsburgh  and I have been better able to engage with community members.

Abbey: How has PULSE inspired you to live/think/act differently?

Meera: PULSE has encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone.  At times, I have difficulty introducing myself and talking to new people,  but PULSE has given me the ability to network, ask questions, and engage with new people.

Abbey: Tell me something you are learning about yourself through PULSE.

Meera: I consider myself to be a good listener, , but this experience has taught me how to listen more constructively and without inserting my own beliefs or solutions to what people have to say. It is especially critical in my nonprofit to leave any previous notions at the door and not to judge others.

Abbey: What do you enjoy most about your nonprofit partnership?

Meera: I enjoy my relationship with my supervisor and the interns in our office. I am learning a lot about not only the law, but about how non-profits operate. The best thing about my nonprofit is being able to talk to the interns and my supervisor about their experiences in order to understand what I want to pursue further in my career.

Abbey: What have you enjoyed most about living in community?

Meera: I have enjoyed living in my house because I am able to be myself around my roommates. We are able to talk through conflicts because we are open and honest with each other.

Abbey: What is the most interesting/fun adventure you’ve had in Pittsburgh so far?

Meera: I went to Randyland with some other fellows and was able to meet the man who started it all! Speaking with Randy and hearing his own challenging experiences and how he created a space for people to come and enjoy his art was really inspiring.

Abbey: What’s your favorite “family meal” recipe for the house?

Meera: Zucchini boats!

Abbey: What is the best part of the PULSE experience?

Meera: Living out part of PULSE’s motto: growing.

 

Story by PULSE Fellow Abbey Schulz.

Read more Fellow Stories about their experience in PULSE. If you would like to learn more about the PULSE program, please visit our Serve with Us page.

Also, check out other Stories of Transformation:

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