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High school, college activities paved the way for volunteering

Published August 29. 2011 05:02PM

Like most young adults, their high school and college activities helped pave the way for their future. For Riley McCall, that is the case, at least temporarily, as her involvement in scholastic and collegiate programs reinforced her wish to someday join the Peace Corps.

"I always enjoyed volunteering, getting out and doing something. That's my nature," said the daughter of Pat and Ginny McCall of Lake Hauto.

Coupled with her enthusiasm for sports (she played four years of volleyball and two seasons of basketball), extracurricular activities kept Riley a busy young girl at an early age. Her preparation for a Peace Corps endeavor started back at her days at Marian High School, where before graduating in 2007 she participated in various activities, including the Adopt a Nursing Home program, the Spanish National Honor Society and the school musical.

Her adventurous mindset continued when she matriculated to Pittsburgh as a Duquesne University freshman. She joined the Campus Ministry program, where she remained active for all four of her years there. That involvement led to what Riley called "a unique learning experience" when she and her college classmates traveled to New Orleans to assist with the cleanup in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, helping to build houses and doing chores such as painting.

"It was an opportunity," Riley remembered. What impressed her the most was "getting to know the people and understanding what they go through," she said, as opposed to witnessing how adversity faced the people in Louisiana.

Later in her collegiate career, she joined colleagues in a trip to Appalachia in Southern West Virginia where they assisted in operating food banks and homeless shelters.

Also at Duquesne, Riley interned with Amizade Global Service-Learning, an organization dedicated to worldwide service and learning. It has had over 4,500 individuals serve with local community leaders in nine countries on four continents.

Riley admits she "almost" volunteered for a stint at Tanzania, where, among other things, young women and girls work on rainwater harvesting initiatives in the rural country.

Since she had her heart set on a Peace Corps assignment, the Amizade trip was shelved.

Months later, Riley's "dream" is about to come true.

While most college undergraduates begin an immediate pursuit of employment or aspire to post-graduate degree work, Riley has a focus on helping to build lives for those in the Third World. Her enthusiasm exudes the Peace Corps' mission, making her an ideal representative of that organization.

She said, "The rewards are unbelievable from a personal perspective. I'm ready to go; can't wait. I honestly feel this is what's right for me."

She calls herself a "free spirit." Others might call her caring and considerate. And who can argue that?

Riley adds, "I have this drive towards helping people. I see a situation that can use assistance and want to be that person who is there to provide it."

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