Alumna Profile: Molly Piecuch

By: Mary Webster ‘17

Published on

Molly Headshot

Some students spend their high school, college and even post-grad years wondering what they want to do with their lives, trying to narrow down their options, and make that final decision. However, for Aquinas graduate Molly Piecuch ’14 there was no such struggle. “I declared my major freshman year. I knew I wanted to work with a non-profit, and Aquinas had a community leadership program.” The community leadership major with the emphasis in non-profit and a minor in business, was a good fit for Molly and the program lead her on a journey she never would have imagined.

On a service-learning trip during Labor Day weekend her sophomore year, Molly went to South Manitou Island with a group of other Aquinas students. “That was the year we got stranded on the island an extra day” she said, “and that was also the day I met Dégagé Ministries volunteer coordinator, Bonnie Mulder.”

Bonnie, who was vacationing on the island, lost no time informing Molly that Dégagé was “always looking for volunteers.” Bonnie continued to explain more about Dégagé and the work she did there, piquing Molly’s interest. Upon her return, Molly realized that her CL 100 course required a set amount of volunteer hours, and the conversation with Bonnie immediately came to mind. It was through that placement, that Molly officially became a Dégagé volunteer, working in the kitchen once a week. “Dégagé’s mission is to provide dignity and respect for the homeless of Grand Rapids. Dégagé itself is a French word meaning to relax or be at ease, and that describes Dégagé absolutely perfectly.”

After her volunteer requirements were fulfilled that semester, Molly continued to volunteer at Dégagé, until the spring semester of her junior year, when she participated in Aquinas’ Ireland study abroad program. “Ireland was one of the best decisions I made at Aquinas,” she said.

While in Ireland, Molly began planning her final year at Aquinas. “As a Community Leadership major, you are required to have an internship” Molly said, “and even though I had worked with Dégagé for two years up to that point, I was hesitant if staying there was the right decision.” After talking to Dr. Michael Williams, former Director of the Community Leadership Program, Molly felt her passion for Dégagé was an asset and chose to complete her internship with the organization.

At the beginning of her internship, Molly worked in the ID office three days a week, helping people get the records they required - anything from school records to state identifications - for the ultimate goal of obtaining housing or jobs. Halfway through the internship, Molly was offered a part-time position at the organization as Kitchen Supervisor, overseeing all kitchen work. “I was doing more and more work with Dégagé, all while taking 19 credits, because I found out first semester that I was just one credit short of graduating and I was just ready to be done! Truly, I don’t know how I made it!”

When Molly heard about an opening in Dégagé’s Resource Office that March, she applied and in less than a few weeks, she had interviewed and been formally offered the job. She began working part-time as Dégagé’s newest Resource Office Coordinator, answering questions, helping with transportation, or financial aid and working as a facilitator, guiding people to the organization that would provide the service they were looking for. “Initially, I was so nervous about leaving college and never having a job, but in the end I never had to worry about it!”

After graduation in May of 2014, Molly continued her work at Dégagé Ministries because “it was and is my passion. However, when an opportunity came up to work at the Dwelling Place of Grand Rapids that a job seemed to be a good fit as well,” Molly said.

Three weeks into her position as the Property Management Coordinator at Dwelling Place, Molly continues to be excited about her job and the organization for which she works. “Dwelling Place is a bit different than working for Dégagé,” she said. “I handled some housing at Dégagé but never the actual placement. I do more reporting regarding the properties, such as vacancy reports, and occupancy reports, that kind of thing. The job at Dwelling Place is an opportunity that I’m thankful for and I love, however in all honesty, it was hard to leave Dégagé.“

At both Dégagé Ministries and The Dwelling Place, Molly has met and worked with many Aquinas graduates. “It is so awesome! Aquinas instills such an intense sense of social justice and seeing how that translates into everyone’s futures, and is played out in the social work of Grand Rapids is just so amazing to see! At Aquinas, you don’t intend to network, but you do anyway because, for me at least, the work I have done at Aquinas has led to so many incredible, life-changing opportunities!”

“Because of Aquinas College, I can be an advocate of social justice in Grand Rapids and I get to feel a sense of the Aquinas community where ever I go.”