Five years ago, Newman sophomore Sydney Le began her volunteer journey at A Better Choice, a Catholic crisis pregnancy resource center in Wichita.
Le attended Kapaun Mt. Carmel Catholic High School, where she was challenged to complete 32 community service hours during her senior year. She recalled stuffing envelopes at A Better Choice around Christmas time and decided to reach back out for another volunteer opportunity.
“I went on throughout the year just volunteering, accumulating my service hours, but also getting to know all the ladies, especially the staff members,” Le said. “Fast forward to April 2023, and I couldn’t help but think this would be a good place to start out being a psychology major, working with clients and helping with ministry behind the scenes.”
She applied and after a successful interview, jumped into an impactful summer-long experience. Her role required client advocate training that prepared her to talk about vulnerable situations like abortion, adoption and parenting with clients. Le experienced two weeks of shadowing client counseling and by the time the summer ended, she completed a research project about out-of-state pregnancy centers in bordering states.
“With places like Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois, they’re coming toward us now because we’re the closest abortion access they have,” Le explained. “I called the pregnancy centers in these states to see what they offered so that if girls are traveling to Wichita, we can give them the resources they need before they come up for an abortion procedure. This way they know they have access to parenting classes, resources like clothes or diapers and the support they need.”
Le explained that the all-women staff at A Better Choice provides the support system these women need in challenging or unexpected circumstances — whether it be pregnancy, miscarriage or learning how to parent a new baby. The organization is also mindful of discreetly providing resources within domestic violence cases to prioritize safety. Le played a personal role in making this measure a reality by transforming brochure information into a digital format.
“This is one of the reasons why I love A Better Choice. A lot of people think that we just care about the baby, but I absolutely love that we care for the women all nine months and then six months after, and then we go give them to someone who will love them for years on end.”
For Le, time spent in service both gives her reasons to be grateful and deepens her faith life. It has also helped her discern a career she had no idea she wanted to do.
Madison Ellis, director of volunteer services at A Better Choice, described Le as “a huge help.”
“Sydney helped keep A Better Choice afloat when some of our regular volunteers called out and we were short-staffed,” Ellis said. “With her experience this summer in client advocacy, she was able to meet women of all different backgrounds, and it helped her to see a variety of needs and levels of assistance based on personality traits and environmental situations.”
Lead advocate Sarah Betzen added, “I just want to compliment her willingness to jump into anything that we asked her to do, it was a huge help.”
Fellow volunteer Julie Gatson was also inspired by Le’s servant leadership.
“Sydney started before me and she was so welcoming,” Gatson said. “She always jumped right in and had no trouble answering my questions. Sydney really stepped up and developed the QR codes that I personally think allow us to be a continued resource to our clients even after they leave and if their needs change.”
Paving the way
Both Le’s aunt, Yen Nguyen, and her older sister, Amanda (‘23), attended Newman University for nursing school. Le decided Newman was the place for her when she received the Monsignor McNeill Scholarship.
“Receiving the scholarship definitely helped with the cost, but also with being able to go out in the community and do community service with other scholarship recipients,” Le said.
Le appreciates how each of her classes at Newman is preparing her for her future career.
“My criminal justice classes deal with a lot of the human brain, mental health and mindsets, which gives me a sneak peek into criminal cases and forensic psychology,” Le said. “It’s interesting how you can analyze someone’s behavior through their actions, body language and other aspects like that.”
After she graduates, Le hopes to use her psychology degree to continue working in the pregnancy resource field.
“Being able to take a step back and walk with these women in places I’ve never been has opened my eyes to not only the ministry itself but also the community behind it,” Le said.
A Better Choice has multiple volunteer opportunities available: reception desk, peer counseling, follow-up calls, bilingual translator (English-Spanish) and prayer requests for volunteers and clients. Interested in volunteering? To volunteer, contact Madison Ellis, director of volunteer services at [email protected].
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