We recently spoke with Sean McClung, a newly trained Advocate, on his time and experience with CEF thus far! Sean first got introduced to CEF via his Service & Leadership LLC and we’re very excited to have him working with us.
When did you get involved? How did you get involved?
That’s kind of a difficult question. I officially became an advocate this semester but I worked with CEF before, because last year I was a member of the Service and Leadership Living Learning Community- and this year I’m the leader of that community. So, Dr. Charles Price does a class for just us called Action Research and we did a project for that class last semester when I was just a member of S & L. It was called HOPE for a Home and if you talk to Jon or Maggie they’ll know what you’re talking about. We split our class into groups and each dealt with different things like long-term support for grads, like alumni council meetings; going around Franklin and Triangle Transit asking getting lifetime discounts for graduates; and planning the actual event. We had the event and we just had a raffle going and announced the discounts—it was a recognition/ mini-fundraiser night.
So that worked out really well and it was really cool because we got to help CEF. So that’s where I started getting involved and while that was happening, I was like “Yeah I’m going to be an advocate!” but I just didn’t have time for it at that point, so I came in this year knowing this was something I wanted to do.
What about CEF interested you?
Long story short– It makes a positive impact on people’s lives and it’s very different from other organizations because it makes that impact in a personal way. Usually it’s very bureaucratic, but CEF’s emphasis on personal relationship and the fact that we do so much interested me. There’s no reason I wouldn’t want to do it, really. I want to make a positive impact on people and the world and this is a fantastic way to help those people who can’t get themselves where they want to be or just need an extra push to get there. There are just so many good reasons to be in CEF because it’s just incredible.
What is/are the most important thing(s) you’ve learned by working with Members at CEF?
You definitely learn about primarily the things you’re doing, first and foremost… but that’s just like physical life things- like how to apply for this or apply for that, which is great, since they’re good life skills for you to have.
I wouldn’t say that just CEF taught me this but CEF really helps you realize that connotations that come with the kinds of people we help are almost always completely unfounded. These are real people who have just found themselves in really unlucky situations and far too many people don’t realize that it could literally be them tomorrow. There’s nothing wrong with these people and sometimes they deal with circumstances outside of their control and some of them may have gotten themselves into situations by their own fault, but the fact that they’re here shows that they’re growing and learning. We’re all just people. I’ve learned over time from CEF and other places that no single person ever deserves judgment. Everybody makes mistakes and everybody deserves love. There’s no reason to not give that to somebody. They don’t deserve your judgment even if you could because absolutely nobody wants to be in the situation where you have to ask for help and the members we work with have, which shows something. And if more people realized that, I feel like most of the problems in the world would disappear.
What skills do you think you’ve developed through working with CEF?
I’ve become better at navigating these strangely arcane, bureaucratic things. I can’t say I’m good at it because I don’t think anyone can be good that them, but I’ve definitely learned to throw myself around in all of these systems and try to get things out of them as opposed to getting lost in cyberspace. I’ve learned how to apply for jobs and stuff—and I helped someone open a checking account, which is something I didn’t know how to do three weeks ago. It’s definitely a work in progress- you learn as you go.
Is there a skill or knowledge of a concept that you want to develop through CEF that you haven’t already?
I can’t really think of anything specific. It’ll come when I need it, that’s how CEF rolls.
Are there any future aspirations that CEF helps you achieve?
After graduation I plan on going into the Peace Corps and I’m considering doing business development as a career. Although CEF isn’t directly applicable to that, it’s very similar. Essentially you’re helping people restructure their lives and get them to where they’re supposed to be. We also learn about job markets and financial things, which are important skills to know and have. It’s nice to know how systems work even if you don’t directly work with them. But it’s also to know the types of people that you’ll be working with when you actually get into those types of careers. Experience trumps the classroom.
If you ran CEF and could change one thing, what would it be?
I would change that stupid printer on the other side of the room that always prints off wingdings… it’s really annoying. Like I just want something to print and all of a sudden there are symbols and wingdings on the paper. I just don’t understand.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you in the office?
So Ian Gallager and I had to move this copy machine where the savings center is now, and we were actually moving it to make room for the saving center. And we wanted to see if it worked, so we turned it on and it worked. It was really cool. Oh, but I bet if I had eaten Caleb’s kimchi that would be the craziest thing to ever happen to me… it wasn’t real kimchi, it was his take on kimchi.
What’s your favorite memory made in CEF?
That’s hard, but the first moment that popped into my head was this time I spent two hours working with a guy in one sitting; his name was Daniel. We started applying for a job, wrote a cover letter and resume. We finished the cover letter and this sounds really cliché but he got really happy and thanked me for being so efficient. And I wasn’t being really great or anything, he was just so happy that we were able to do that. It just made me feel so good because it sort of just validates why we work there.
What’s your least favorite moment from working at CEF?
I hated calling the Wake Tech financial aid office… I got put on hold for seven minutes
I hung up on them after seven and a half minutes and decided that an email would be a better usage of our time. It still took them a week to get back, but at least I didn’t have to stay on the phone for that long.