Former Volunteer Returns to Coordinate Red Cloud's Volunteer Program

posted on September 4, 2013

Anne Grass began as a Magis Volunteer in 2008 after graduating with her undergraduate degree from Creighton University. She quickly became a student-favorite, leaving a positive impact during three years of teaching sophomore English. After a brief repose, Anne has returned to coordinate the same Volunteer Program that so positively affected her life. We were able to catch a moment with the busy coordinator as she begins, what she describes as, her “ideal job.”

Q&A with Anne Grass - Volunteer Coordinator

Welcome back! How exactly did you come to Red Cloud in the first place?

When I was at Creighton University, many staff and Jesuits spoke highly of Red Cloud Indian School in homilies and told stories of their visits here. Fr. Larry Gillick, S.J. specifically encouraged me to go and live on the reservation. I later learned about the Magis Program and, when I applied, I told the coordinator I was only interested in going to Red Cloud. I knew it was where I wanted to be and that if I couldn’t be placed through the Magis program, I’d simply join as a Red Cloud Volunteer.

And after your time at Red Cloud?

After fulfilling my commitment at Red Cloud and Magis, I was sad to leave, but found a job at St. Louis University High School, an all-boys Jesuit school. It’s an excellent school with amazing English teachers and, at the time, that was where I wanted to focus my time. However, after a while I realized that I wanted something different out of my work. I left for California to work with a nonprofit called The Abundant Table Farm Project, which has roots with the Episcopal Service Corps, working on food justice issues. It was an amazing opportunity to live and work with some very good, spiritual people.

How rewarding! But then you found your way back to Red Cloud.

After my time with the farm project, I was headed in other directions but heard that the Volunteer Coordinator position was opening up. Red Cloud really had such a positive effect on me during my time as a Volunteer, and I knew this position would allow me to once again be a part of the program that means so much to me.

Red Cloud allows you to know people very well. The small setting allows relationships to grow alongside teaching, which is something I wanted from my work. In looking for human relationships beyond a job, I feel like you need to care about your student’s lives and know who they are and where they are coming from. This is possible, specifically, because there is an authenticity to life out here; people with tangible goodness and struggles. With all of this in mind, I also came back to be happy.

So what does this new role look like for you?

I think that it’s valuable that I’ve taught here before. I plan to spend a good portion of my time as the Volunteer Coordinator actually in classrooms supporting the volunteers and getting to know the students. I hope to not be behind my desk all day.

I want to extend the volunteers’ support networks beyond just our traditional support staff, getting them in touch with alumni and helping them to be known in the community. I’d also like to look at the Volunteer Program’s mission to affirm it aligns with the mission of the school, overall, and with the present community context.

Now that you’re back, living and working on campus, what are you most looking forward to?

Last week I started working with a class in the high school. It was amazing to see students from when I was last at the school who remembered me. Now they’re seniors and preparing to apply for scholarships and go to college. It felt great to reconnect and let them know not only that former volunteers like myself return because we care about students and the schools.

I believe in the community here and look forward to continuing relationships that I started in 2008. This is my ideal job, really. In a big way, my job is to build relationships, to give people hugs when they are needed and to help support volunteers in a learning environment. That’s about as good as it gets in my eyes. I’m glad to be back.

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