As a former softball player, Allison Reynolds ‘16 is used to hard practices, tough losses, and long days. She knows what it is like to be a part of a team and part of something bigger than herself. Reynolds, a psychology major, has been spending her first year out of college taking an unconventional path—working with the team at Good Shepherd Shelter in Los Angeles, CA.
The Good Shepherd Shelter supports women and children who are fleeing domestic violence and provides housing, emotional support, and elementary education. Women receive instruction in family health and self-defense, as well as job training through several classes and programs. Children experience a safe, comfortable environment in the Early Childhood Education Center and the in-house elementary school.
Reynolds first learned about the Good Shepherd Shelter after graduation, when she and some of her friends participated in a weeklong service trip through Campus Ministry. Moved by her experience, she met with Beth Scanlon from Campus Ministry and explored service opportunities in the Catholic Volunteer book. “I knew I wanted to go far, so I originally considered international placements. But I decided to explore my own country first! I looked at multiple places in California and Good Shepherd was the place I resonated with the most.”
At Good Shepherd, Reynolds teaches third grade, working normal school hours, creating lesson plans, and helping in the after school homework club.“What I love about this program is the flexibility we have as teachers. Depending on the day, we could get through multiple academic lessons, but some days art projects and playing outside are a better choice,” says Reynolds. “We help our kids process the trauma they are going through. Our kids learn how to advocate for themselves and learn the social skills they might have been deprived of in their previous homes.”
“Adjusting day to day based on our kid’s needs is stressful as a teacher,” she explains, “but it’s amazing to see them make connections with us and the other students in such a safe place where they know they are truly loved.”
The Good Shepherd Shelter is rooted in four tenets: Simplicity, Spirituality, Community, and Social Justice.“Having experience with Inside the L through softball, it was easy for me to transition into these tenets at Good Shepherd. Now, even though I am no longer playing a sport, I am still part of a team,” says Reynolds. “I have to be loyal to our shelter and it’s intentions, and recognize that I am here to help them reach their goals. Every staff member has an important role, just like every player on an athletic team has a role. Good Shepherd focuses on loving everybody and and helping people who have had a hard start to life. It doesn’t matter what you’re role is―you are all working towards the same goal.”
As a part of her time at Good Shepherd, Reynolds also works with the L.A.P.D. in the Domestic Awareness Response Team (D.A.R.T.) to remove victims from abusive homes and situations. After the police officer removes the threat, she comforts the victims. “With this job I can help the victims calm down enough to help tell their stories, help them find shelter if necessary, or help the cop diagnose symptoms.”
Though each call is different, she draws on her education and experience to help her respond to each woman or child in need. “Having a psychology background has given me the tools to be able to respond to these reactions appropriately and understand why they are happening. Our moms and children have a lot of reactions to their traumas and past experiences,” she says. “All of my my cultural religion classes, philosophy classes, and psychology classes have given me the knowledge and confidence to work with and understand other cultures or why people might do certain things. I took Spanish all the way through my senior year which was an amazing benefit because I work with a Hispanic community.”
Reynolds also participated in an internship her senior year at Contact Community Service, a crisis hotline. “This was a great experience that taught me a lot of skills that have transferred over to the job I have now. ”
Although she isn’t at plate or in the outfield anymore, her involvement with athletics has been crucial for her as she undertakes new challenges. “Playing a sport has taught me that any workplace staff is like a team, and to respect everyone you work with. It has taught me to be prompt. I know that I am capable of overcoming challenges that are presented to me,” she says. “You constantly practice for the big picture—a game. In a work place, I like to think of all of the staff meetings, all of our outside work, lesson-planning, all of it, as practice for the big picture—the children.”
Article by Dominic P. Uliano IV '18.
Dominic is interning with the Offices of Communications and Advancement this semester.