Year of service changes life of recent grad

Published: March 10, 2016

SUBMITTED PHOTO / MICHAEL MORRIS / MICHAEL MORRIS graduated from The University in 2015. He committed to a year of service following graduation through Jesuit Volunteer Corps. His placement, as a teacher in Arizona, puts him in a classroom with children who experience the realities of poverty and immigration.

SUBMITTED PHOTO / MICHAEL MORRIS / MICHAEL MORRIS graduated from The University in 2015. He committed to a year of service following graduation through Jesuit Volunteer Corps. His placement, as a teacher in Arizona, puts him in a classroom with children who experience the realities of poverty and immigration.

MEGHAN KERR
Staff Writer

The idea of living simply and getting under-paid for working over 40 hours a week might sound unappealing to many people.

What would society be like if cell phones and cars were not used as often? Michael Morris, a 2015 graduate from The University, thrives in this kind of lifestyle. He embraces every day serving in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Phoenix, Arizona.

“After my years at Scranton, I wanted to give back to those less fortunate than myself,” Morris said.

JVC has four main pillars: spirituality, simple living, social justice and community. He works as the physical education, computers and substitute teacher at St. Matthew’s School, an inner-city school where every student lives below the poverty line. He hears stories about students every day that no child should ever have to go through.

Going into JVC, he thought he was aware of the issues going on in our country, but he has been shocked by what he witnesses day in and day out at his placement. Listening to children say they are afraid they might be deported over the weekend gives a whole different perspective to the topic of immigration. Some of them fall asleep in class because they do not have a bed at home or were forced to hide from an abusive parent all night.

Morris shared a story about a student who came up to him before school one morning and started apologizing because she did not do her homework. “Disappointed, I asked why she didn’t do it and she said, ‘I’m sorry I was trying to help protect my mom from my dad. He was drunk again, and then my uncle showed up and they started fighting and I…’ and continued to explain the terrible night she had for over a minute. When she was done I couldn’t care less about the homework. I was concerned about her,” Morris said. He feels privileged to be there because he knows he can help change these children’s lives for the better.

Morris lives with a community of six people who come from all different religious backgrounds. As a Catholic who fell away from his faith when he was younger, he feels challenged by this experience with JVC and has reexamined his beliefs because faith is at the core of his efforts. He loves the aspect of a simple life, and his community tends to offer additional challenges such as not using their phones or shopping for groceries without using a car for a week.

“The strength of these kids inspires me and has made me a better person. I’m lucky to be here helping them because I think they’re helping me just as much,” Morris said.

Contact the writer: meghan.kerr@scranton.edu

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