Marcus Lines, a rising junior studying psychology at Newman University, spent his summer as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate, working at Children First: CEO Kansas Inc.
Children First: CEO Kansas Inc. is a nonprofit organization serving seven low-income neighborhoods in Wichita that seeks to increase student successes in school and life by providing them with the necessary support and tools.
A summer well spent
Lines says that he did not seek out the summer opportunity; rather, the opportunity found him.
“I am currently a psychology major, and for this field, you can’t really go and intern with a psychologist, at least the one I would like to become,” he says. “The next best alternative is said to be doing some sort of social work.”
So one day in class, Lines discussed this discovery with his professor. After that class period, he signed up for a talk by Kathleen Webb, who happens to work at Children First. Webb is a 1979 Newman graduate, with degrees in education and American history. At the end of her presentation, she mentioned the organization’s need for social workers.
“I thought to myself how fitting this opportunity was,” Lines says. “I reached out to her and told her I would be interested, went in for an interview a couple weeks later and, on March 19, fittingly on the feast day of St. Joseph, I was offered the position at Children First.”
Lines’ role as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate was twofold. First, he helped upkeep its three gardens around Wichita, “making them both useful for growing plants and a beautiful place to be.” The gardens are located at St. Patrick Catholic Church, St. Anne Catholic Church and St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.
Second, Lines spent time with children visiting the gardens. Two times a week during the summer, the organization offers the neighborhood area and school community an opportunity to bring their children to spend time learning about the foods grown in the gardens and how to cook with them.
“When I first came aboard the Children First team and helped out with this event, I was not so sure how effective it would be, but as time has gone by, I have seen a lot of those kids become much more open about learning in the garden and eating the foods in the gardens — meaning a lot more kids are open to trying new foods, especially those that are often not liked — vegetables.”
Lines’ summer work with Children First ended after nine weeks at the end of July. He feels that his experience with the organization will apply to his future career in psychology.
“This opportunity gave me more time to work with children, which has further opened my eyes to how to understand and be there for a child,” he says. “This pertains to my degree because it is a real possibility that I work with children in the future as a therapist.”
Although his summer opportunity with Children First is over, he will continue working with them moving forward. Instead of working in the gardens, though, his time will be dedicated to doing social work for the organization. He plans to help children in the school system who need extra assistance as well as distribute food supplies to families in the neighborhoods who need it.
A future in psychology
After graduating from Newman, Lines has three potential paths he’s considering: attending graduate school at Divine Mercy University for clinical psychology, joining the Dominican Religious Order in Washington, D.C., or entering the seminary for the Diocese of Wichita.
Regardless of which path he takes, Lines’ time at Newman, particularly his involvement with Campus Ministry, will aid him greatly.
“This little community I have been a part of this past year has been wonderful. I have found myself in the Campus Ministry office at least a few times each week, and I often find other people there hanging out and talking.”
Father Adam Grelinger, Newman chaplain and director of Campus Ministry, adds that Lines has been a great asset to the office.
“He loves people and really wants to get to know them, is a great listener, always has questions, and wants to hear what people have to say,” Grelinger says. “He also has a big heart for service, which no doubt led him to Children First, but he also lives it in day-to-day ways by helping to clean up after events and offering to help friends in whatever way they need.”
“I’ve never taught Marcus in the classroom, but I know he loves to learn, and he’ll often bring up class material with people in the Campus Ministry office to see what they think about it,” Grelinger added.
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