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Front row, from left: Kelsey Arnold, Megan Harsh, Tricia Tyson Back row, from left: Erin Carragher, Sean DeClue, Aleina Tanabe, Matt Hansen (Courtesy photo)

YAKIMA, Wash. -- On the cusp of their careers, seven young people are donating a year of their lives to give back to the community — a community they had never seen before.

The seven are the newest members of Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest who arrived in Yakima last month. They commit to spending a year here, concentrating on organizations that help children, the poor or other under-served groups. Jesuit Volunteers receive a small stipend for living out their faith beliefs by working in schools, parishes, health clinics, social service agencies and legal clinics.

This year’s Jesuit Volunteers, five young women and two young men, were introduced to the community during Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church in late August. They are Kelsey Arnold of Batavia, Ill.; Sean DeClue of Columbus, Ga.; Erin Carragher of Maplewood, N.J.; Matt Hansen of Marshall, Minn.; Megan Harsh of Valparaiso, Ind.; Aleina Tanabe of Kailua, Hawaii; and Tricia Tyson of Philadelphia.

They will spend the year living together in a home in Northeast Yakima.

“Oh, my, it’s amazing all they do to help the community with the needy, elderly and impoverished,” said Rosemary Rief, a member of a local Micah Group, made up of pastors and lay people, who support the volunteers in their mission.

• Arnold, who graduated this year from Saint Louis University, is serving as the employment trainer for the Catholic Family and Child Service Foster Teen Program. After this year, she’s considering a career in speech pathology.

• DeClue graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans in 2015 and spent a year interning in a district attorney’s office. He intends to enroll in law school when his Yakima service is concluded. He’s volunteering as program coordinator at Rod’s House, a resource center for homeless youth.

• Carragher is serving as ASPIRE mentor and youth drop-in coordinator at the Yakima Family YWCA. She graduated this year from the University of Delaware and eventually would like to work with children with disabilities.

• A 2016 graduate of Regis University in Denver, Colo., Hansen will attend graduate school after his year in Yakima. He’s serving with the resident services program, part of Catholic Charities Housing Services.

• After graduating from Indiana University in 2015, Harsh spent the past year in the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship program in Yucatan, Mexico. She’s serving with the Northwest Justice Project, a legal aid program. She’s undecided about her future career.  

• Tanabe graduated from Regis University this year and is volunteering as a program specialist with the Palliative Care Program at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital. She’s interested in pursuing public health and epidemiology.

• Tyson is serving as the homeless outreach specialist for Yakima Neighborhood Health Services. She recently graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and will be attending the University of Maryland School of Medicine after her Yakima stint.

Tyson said that she anticipates her work here with the homeless will affect and inspire the way she will eventually practice medicine.

“I wanted to take a year and give back to the community,” she explained. “The Jesuit Volunteer program is dedicated to service and encourages our growth as individuals.”

Jesuit Volunteer Corps  Northwest began in 1956, with the first participants helping build, and teach in, a new school in Copper Valley, Alaska.

The program expanded out of Alaska in the 1960s and now is located in inner cities as well as with Native American communities. Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest members work in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Jesuit Volunteers serve throughout the United States and in other countries around the world.

Rief said this is the 30th year the Jesuit Volunteers Corps Northwest has served in Yakima.

“We are so impressed with our new volunteers,” Rief said. “They are so giving.”

• Jane Gargas can be reached at 509-577-7690 or jgargas@yakimaherald.com.