PULSE gave me a way to positively express my passions and encouraged me to think differently about the world. PULSE taught me how to be a leader. PULSE allowed me to see the natural talents and gifts I had, which I never had discovered in college … My year in PULSE has been the most impactful year of my life.
Like many recent college graduates, PULSE ’04-’05 alumna Karen Leuthold didn’t know what to do next. What she did know was that she wanted to live in an interesting, new city with other young people who aspired to work toward social justice. At the time, Karen wanted to explore and learn more about poverty and its connections to race and urban development. PULSE was the perfect next step for Karen: “PULSE gave me a way to positively express my passions and encouraged me to think differently about the world. PULSE taught me how to be a leader. PULSE allowed me to see the natural talents and gifts I had, which I never had discovered in college.”
Karen was excited to live with seven other people in one house, but she was also a bit nervous about how everyone would get along. She was happy to find that this intentional community aspect of PULSE turned out to be a very formative and educational experience. Karen explains, “My year in PULSE was the most impactful year of my life. It was a wonderful experience to eat dinner every night with seven other people who did not always agree on everything, but supported one another in the end. That acceptance and love allowed me to grow more confident in myself.”
The conversations Karen had with other PULSE fellows is part of what inspired her to pursue a career committed to racial reconciliation. Karen now works at The Ohio State University at Marion (OSU), where she is the Student Life, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator.
As a PULSE fellow, Karen worked at the Storehouse as the Communications and Marketing Associate. The Storehouse was a nonprofit organization that distributed donated goods from large corporations (anything from clothes to computers) to other nonprofits in Pittsburgh. Since then, the Storehouse has changed to the Education Partnership, a teacher resource supply center.
Karen’s placement with the Storehouse was good professional experience, but she emphasizes that the people involved at her site played a more meaningful role in her life. She recalls that “the diverse population [that volunteered] at the Storehouse welcomed me … they truly became a second family to me. I was impressed by the many volunteers at the Storehouse who worked full-time jobs and had families, but made time to give back to the community.”
Karen learned a lot from the interactions she had with volunteers and other community members at the Storehouse. These relationships are the reason Karen decided to advocate for minority communities.
After Karen’s year with PULSE, she started working in Higher Education with the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). Her pull to the CCO was the opportunity to continue PULSE’s tenet of building and fostering a community among young adults. Karen still incorporates these skills and interests into her work at OSU by promoting inclusion and diversity among the student body.
To this day, Karen feels a strong tie to the city of Pittsburgh. On occasion, she visits old friends in the city who she met and worked with during her PULSE year. Karen remembers that while living in Pittsburgh she “loved being able to experience everything … from the cold weather to the coolest art galleries. It was so wonderful to embrace everything the city had to offer and to become someone from the ‘Burgh.”
Karen’s visits to Pittsburgh keep her in touch with the people and places she grew to love as a PULSE fellow. She also stays connected with PULSE through Facebook and enjoys seeing how it continues to change and grow.
Story by PULSE fellow Jenna Baron.