My Unexpected Journey

This week’s blog comes to us from the McCarthy Center’s new Americorps VISTA, Thea Karakalos! We’re excited for what her skill set and personal experience will bring to the position as she completes her Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs here at USF!

My name is Thea Karakalos, and I am the Americorps VISTA Campus Liaison between the Success Centers San Francisco and the University of San Francisco’s McCarthy Center. My journey here has been a long, and unexpected adventure, but it’s where I’m meant to be!

To start from the beginning, I was born and raised in Greece, and moved to Southern California for high school in 2008 because of the financial crisis’s effect on my family. But I always knew that one day I’d want to move back home. That is why I chose to major in International Relations at Seattle University (SU). I loved the small class sizes and that the professors knew my name, SU’s social justice mission that was seeped into the curriculum, and my internship experience that exposed me to nonprofit work that intersected with education.

After graduation, while searching for jobs, it made sense that I was drawn to an Americorps position at an education nonprofit. I spent a year as a College Coach advising a cohort of high school seniors from first-gen, low-income, and undocumented backgrounds through the college process. I found my passion working with students through college access and success work. Although not intended at first, I decided to stay for a second year as a College Coach advising a larger cohort of students attending community colleges in the Greater Seattle Area.

To be able to continue doing this work, I decided to get my Master of Arts in Higher Education and Student Affairs at USF. When I saw the opportunity to work at another nonprofit that supports youth and adults through education, employment, and the arts, and also at a center on USF’s campus that engages students through service, I thought it would be the perfect fit. I’m excited to incorporate what I’m learning in my Master’s program and my past experiences to engage in capacity building projects at both the McCarthy Center and Success Centers this year.

I am passionate about continuing to support marginalized communities, and as a VISTA member I will be able to do that through the intersection of nonprofit work and the education field.


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Americorps VISTAhigher educationLeo T. McCarthy Centerseattle universitystudent affairssuccess centersUSFVista

jgpearson • August 27, 2020

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