Volunteer Name: Mark Conforti
Alma Mater: Villanova University
Placement Site: Patient Advocacy, Richmond Community Hospital
Describe an influential experience that led you to a year of service.
During my sophomore year of college, I had the opportunity to be part of an intentional service learning community. This meant that I lived in a residence hall of college students who had regular service placements for the year. As part of my commitment to this program, I went weekly to a second grade class in inner-city Philadelphia. Every Tuesday morning, I would go to the class and try to help the teacher in any way that I could: whether it be through group readings, monitoring a student reading progress, or spending individual time with a student who needed help with a certain lesson. I had the opportunity to interact with many of the students and had the chance to develop deeper relationships as I saw them grow week after week. This was my first prolonged and continued service experience, and it allowed me to understand the value of consistent service. This consistency gave me the chance to learn about these children’s lives. I remember asking one of the students about her weekend, and she was telling me about how she was watching a movie with her brother, mother, and grandmother. As she kept talking to me she told me that her “daddy went away for doing bad things.” Up to that point, I had talked and interacted with her numerous times. If I hadn’t been there consistently, I do not think I would have learned about this piece of her story, and reflecting on this allowed me to realize the value of consistency in service. Over my sophomore year, I had the chance to learn, little by little, some of the barriers and issues that many children face within urban education through my conversations, observations, and proximity to the students. This included lack of resources, large class sizes, parents being less able to attend parent-teacher conferences or help their children with their homework because they were working more than one job. It was my experience at this school that transformed my idea of service and reinforced the value it has: the opportunity for me to share my life with others, but also for others to share their lives with me. This realization of the value of mutual exchange helped to spark my interest in a year of service because I wanted the chance to expand my perspective and continue to learn from others.
What is one item on your “bucket list”? Why is it important to you?
One thing I would like to do eventually is travel to Italy! I was born and raised in an Italian-America family: my father was actually born in Italy and moved to America at the age of 3, and my maternal grandparents were also born and raised there. Although I would definitely want to explore some or the more major areas in Italy, like Rome or Florence, the pull for me to travel to Italy would be to explore more of my family history. My father was born in a small town in Calabria, so I would love to have the chance to visit and explore the place my father’s family called home. As I get older, I realize how important and also enriching it would be to explore my family history a bit more. Being raised with this cultural background allowed me to develop a passion for food and cooking, so the obvious extra bonus would be to eat all of the tasty food!