Attending an information session can change a life.Entering her senior year at Notre Dame, Victoria Ryan (‘15) knew she wanted to participate in a year of post-graduate service, but was unsure of her long-term plans. She attended the career fair and the service fair, but it was not until she chanced upon an information session about the Passionist Volunteers International (PVI) that she decided what to do immediately following graduation. Photo Courtesy of Katherine Merritt Katherine Merritt (’14), center, with two of the students she worked with through the service organization PVI for a year after her graduation. PVI offers recent graduates the opportunity to volunteer in Jamaica.“I just so happened to hear about an information session for a program that was year-long, living in community in Jamaica, and I only even went to the information session because it was at the perfect time in my schedule — it was right when I knew I’d be leaving dinner and I’d be leaving for the library,” she said.At the information session, she met Fr. Lucian Clark, the director of PVI.“I really loved talking to him and hearing everything he had to say about Jamaica and his passion for the program and the work that they were doing in Jamaica,” Ryan said. “I didn’t really stop thinking about it.”A month later, she learned she had been accepted into the program. While in Jamaica, Ryan worked at various sites, including a health clinic, a preschool and a home for orphaned boys.For Ryan, serving as a nurse’s aide at the health clinic helped her discern her career path.“Career-wise, the clinic was phenomenal,” she said. “I’m planning on attending an accelerated bachelor’s of nursing program, starting in May, so that really helped me decide what I wanted to do and really sparked my interest in global health, which I think is what I want to do long term.”According to Passionist Volunteer International’s website, the program was founded in 2003 and is currently based in Mandeville, Jamaica. Ross Boyle, assistant vocations director at PVI, visited campus Monday and Tuesday to discuss the program with Notre Dame students. Boyle said the program usually consists of a group of six to eight volunteers each year.Boyle explained PVI is run by the Passionists, a Catholic religious order with a special focus on serving the marginalized, whom they term “the crucified of today.”“Every year, we send a group of volunteers to go work for just a few weeks over 12 months,” he said. “The whole goal of the program is we work with the crucified of today. … Truthfully, the crucified of today can really be anyone. The idea of the cross, Christ crucified, is one that can kind of be anyone who bears a cross.”Before arriving in Jamaica, volunteers do not know which mission sites they will serve. However, Boyle said, this practice allows PVI to match individual volunteers with the tasks best suited to their interests and skills.“Our program really gets to know who you are and we spend three weeks with you in the country to figure out what your strengths are, to figure out what you like doing, what you hate doing [and] what areas of your life you want to grow in,” he said.Katherine Merritt (‘14), who studied science business at Notre Dame, was assigned to work in a health clinic and teach classes at an elementary school. In particular, she said she enjoyed getting to know the Jamaican people at each of her sites.“I worked in a small community clinic, so eventually we kind of started to get to know everyone,” she said. “The nurses I worked with started to become really good friends with all the patients that we were with as well. It’s just kind of different in that it’s a lot more relational and everyone is very community-based.”Ross McCauley (‘13) began support groups for HIV/AIDS patients and mothers of children with disabilities while serving with PVI. Now in medical school, McCauley said his experiences with the organization have helped him to better empathize with patients and led him to contemplate how to best serve the poor.“I think coming from a point of privilege in life, it’s hard to know how to approach some of the problems I saw, just in terms of abject poverty and things like starvation and lack of basic needs — how to approach that with sensitivity and the right motives,” he said. “It is very difficult and it is something I struggle with, even in the South Bend community I now work in.“It’s something I think we should all be aware of and think about, especially as people lucky enough to attend Notre Dame — how best to kind of inject our skills and interests in this world without being offensive or making the problems worse.”Tags: Alumni, Health care, Jamaica, Passionist Volunteers International, Post-graduate service
Wisconsin wide receiver A.J. Taylor arrived on campus with a big role to play within the Badgers’ offense. Taylor stepped foot in Madison as a rare four-star wide receiver recruit for an offense that has traditionally relied on classic Big Ten ground-and-pound offense.In fact, it had been close to a decade since the Badgers acquired a versatile threat like Taylor. Prior to his commitment, the last time Wisconsin nabbed a four-star wide receiver was with Kraig Appleton in their 2009 recruiting class.Taylor’s dual-threat nature of both rushing and receiving was put to use as soon as he stepped on the field for the Badgers in his freshman year. While Taylor played in just five games that first year, he caught three passes for an average gain of 17.7 yards and also ran the ball four times for a total of 19 yards.This would be just the beginning of Taylor’s contributions to the Wisconsin offense that, as shown by the stats, was desperately needed to keep the Badger offense alive.After his introductory freshman year, Taylor truly had a breakout season during his second year of competition. In 14 games played, Taylor received the ball 31 times for a total of 475 yards. He also found the end zone five times, averaging a touchdown about one out of every six receptions.Football: Last year’s top receivers return as quarterback battle rages onThis week’s Wisconsin football spring preview shifts focus to the wide receiver unit and the position everyone is talking about: Read…No matter how strong the offensive performance from Taylor, there was no way he would be able to make up the difference in passing yards lost from before his arrival. Instead, the Wisconsin offense fell further and further into its run-centric offensive strategy.In 2015, the year before Taylor’s arrival, the Badgers threw for an average of nearly 230 pass yards per game. In 2016, that average fell to under 180 yards per game. With Taylor’s breakout season, as well as the arrival of Danny Davis, the second consecutive four-star WR to commit to Madison, the 2017 season saw small improvements with 192 yards of passing averaged per game.These two wide receivers accounted for a large portion of the receiving numbers in 2017. The only two players who ranked above them in receiving yards for the season were Quintez Cephus and Troy Fumagalli, both of whom would be absent from the squad the next year.2017 was a strong year for Taylor in which he could serve as a strong wide receiver for a team that had plenty of options for Alex Hornibrook to target. In 2018, he would have to lead the team in order to ensure that an air attack still existed for the Badgers.Taylor led the team in games played, total receiving yards, average yards per reception for those who had over five receptions on the season, average yards per reception and had the longest reception of the year at 44 yards.In 2018, the Badgers put on an absolutely dismal display nearly every time they put the ball in the hands of either Jack Coan or Hornibrook. They averaged just 158 passing yards per game, their lowest average since 2014, a year in which that low total was offset by averaging just over 320 rush yards per game.Football: AJ Taylor’s unexpected season as No. 1 receiving optionSo far this season, University of Wisconsin receiver AJ Taylor has accumulated 406 yards and three touchdowns on 24 receptions Read…Even with Taylor’s best season yet up to that point, the Badgers still put on their worst passing performance in years. It’s hard to imagine what the season might have looked like without his performances. Would Jonathan Taylor have gotten even more carries? Would Danny Davis have been able to step up and play a more senior role for the offense?It’s tough to tell for sure, but the fact that AJ Taylor is playing less of a role this season could speak to the fact that the Badger offense has found more balance, not that his ability to perform is dropping.Through seven games, Taylor has caught a total of 16 passes from Coan. This is certainly on pace to match his reception totals from 2017 and 2018, but his average yards per catch dropped significantly. Taylor is currently averaging just 9.9 yards per catch, compared to his 2017 and 2018 averages of 15.3 and 16.3 yards, respectively.Cephus and Jake Ferguson currently both outrank Taylor in total yards receiving and average yards per catch. This isn’t a sign that Taylor is being beat out for a limited number of receiving opportunities. Instead, Coan is simply doing a better job of spreading the ball around when a pass play is dialed up.Football: The meteoric rise of Badgers quarterback Jack CoanThe rise of quarterback Jack Coan was a fast one and has Wisconsin Badger fans expecting big things from their Read…Furthermore, the return of Cephus — the Badgers’ top receiver in 2017 — was bound to cut into the receiving stats of Taylor. Not to mention, Jonathan Taylor markedly improved his receiving abilities heading into 2019, offering himself as a great backfield check-down opportunity when things get sketchy for Coan.Taylor served as a clutch receiver when the offense needed him most. Without Taylor in 2018, the Badgers could have slipped even further into one-dimensionality as both Hornibrook and eventually Coan struggled to find their footing.Now, with the return of Cephus, the improvement of Jonathan Taylor and the refinement of Jack Coan, Taylor no longer has to play such a large role in the offense in order to be successful. While his stat line may not currently reflect it, Taylor is still the receiver that has the ability to lead the Badger offense.