Pandemic Creates a Rise in Post-Graduate Service

MISSION AND MINISTRY | LMU senior Elizabeth Ladd’s little brother, Peter, had cerebral palsy and passed away when he was 11 years old. Growing up a year and a half of year apart in age, Elizabeth remembers how alienated he felt at times because of his conditions. But the volunteers who visited to support Peter to help made a world of difference the Ladd family.

“There was just so much love in that community. People advocating for children with special needs,” said Ladd. “They may have not even have had a personal connection to it but they just felt the love for them and wanted to get more involved.” Ladd’s experience of observing those volunteers made a lasting impact on her. After graduation, Ladd will go on to volunteer for City Year, an American education nonprofit organization that partners with public schools in 29 high-need communities. “I thought I should be more involved with service, because I know firsthand the impact of service has on different families,” said Ladd.

Ladd’s time at LMU also deeply fueled to her desire to serve others. During her sophomore year Ladd joined Espérer service organization, a group of students dedicated to serving the community with a focus on advocacy, with a unique dual focus of human trafficking and environmental justice. Ladd also participated in Campus Ministry and attended Ignacio Companions trips, De Colores and retreats. She is currently president of Christian Life Communities and a member of the Interfaith Council. Ladd, a recording arts major, also completed a minor in Catholic Studies.

Patrick Furlong, interim director for the Center of Service and Action, meets with students such as Ladd to provide guidance, support and resources and find the right fit for their post-graduate service. “I think it’s kind of the hallmark of an education at Loyola Marymount University,” said Furlong. “Students come here and have important and transformative experiences. They learn about other communities, justice and engage in courses that challenge them to think about community beyond themselves.”

Furlong adds, “They reach this inevitable point near the end of their junior year where post-grad service seems like the most obvious next step for them, and so I think it’s an affirmation of their values.” There are hundreds of different placement opportunities available for students. Furlong helps students find the right fit by doing an intake survey, meeting with students individually, and even connecting them to alumni who have served at the various placements.

Furlong has met with about 35 graduating seniors and about 25 of them have already been accepted in their placements. There has actually been an increase in post-graduate service this year. “The students have watched this dual pandemic of racial injustice and global health challenges sprinkled in with widening economic inequity and instead of shrugging their shoulders and saying, ‘whatever,’ they’re saying, ‘I want to address this, I really want to be on the ground floor of combating these issues,’” said Furlong. “So, I think we have a lot of students who are motivated, dedicated and enthusiastically saying, ‘I want to make the world a better place, and I now have this incredible education. I am ready to graduate and go out and really be part of addressing some of these challenges and being part of the solution.’”

The pandemic certainly contributed to Ladd’s decision to do post-graduate service. “Over the last year, I realized people need service, now more than ever,” she said. Ladd has been tutoring a fifth grader and a third grader via Zoom. The children she works with are from economically marginalized communities. The older children each take turns throughout the day caring for their 3-year-old sister so that their mother can go to work.

“I have really seen from tutoring on Zoom how virtual school has affected students. It is difficult.” said Ladd. “It opened my eyes. Students are really struggling. Teachers are really struggling to reach students because there is only so much you can do when students are home and not in the classroom.”

Ladd said she anticipates that next year the adjustment for many students will be tough going back into the classroom. “I am most excited to build relationships with kids and hopefully get them more excited about school.” She will be placed in Providence, Rhode Island, just 90 minutes away from where she grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut.

Student LMUTW: For more information about post-graduate service contact Patrick Furlong at