Interview with Liz Nies

Liz Nies spent the summer as an intern at the Kids Cafe. She is currently a senior at John Carroll University where she is majoring in Sociology with a double minor in Political Science along with Peace, Justice & Human Rights. Emmaus staff member Breanna Mekuly interviewed Liz on her last day at the Kids Cafe.

Breanna: What brought you to volunteering with Emmaus, specifically with the Kids Cafe?
Liz: I wanted to do a summer internship that included practical experiences with children. I grew up in Erie and heard that the Benedictine sisters are really involved in the city so I looked up their different ministries and found the Kids Cafe.

Breanna: Tell me about some of the different programs or projects you did with the children during this summer internship.
Liz: We did all sorts of things! We made bracelets and Father’s Day gifts. A bigger project included planting vegetables. First, we washed out the small milk cartons they drink out of at lunch time. Then we cut the containers in half and each child decorated the outside of a milk carton – these became their planters. Then, the children filled the planters with soil and chose a seed or two to plant in their carton. They really enjoyed picking the seeds because they were all different shapes and sizes. Since, we’ve gone outside to water our plants. The children will take them home today to continue growing in their own yards.

Breanna: That sounds fun! Is there anything in particular that you heard that stuck out to you while working on these creative projects with the children?
Liz: Yes. For Father’s Day, we made gift bags that had neckties on them. Some of the children got creative and started drawing faces above the neckties and adding arms and legs. I noticed one little girl making a pig face on her bag. When asked why, I heard her say she never sees him and he’s like a pig because he never pays child support. These children are too young to have to worry about things like this. And another time, on one Monday morning, I asked a little boy about his weekend. He responded that it was a ‘bad weekend.’ When asked why he told me: ‘I don’t care about him but… my dad got sent to prison this weekend. I don’t care about him because he used to hurt my mom. It’s better he’s gone.’ What an intense thing for a seven-year-old to say.

Breanna: How did that leave an impression on you?
Liz: Well, in spite of growing up with hard lives, these kids have so much resiliency and energy. I’m surprised by how positive they are even after going through everything they have.

How do you think this experience of working with the children who attend the Kids Cafe will influence your academic and career goals?
Liz: In listening to the children while we were together, I learned a lot about children who are growing up very different than I did. In that, I gained practical experiences with people of diversity, which will influence my studies. I’m hoping that hearing these new perspectives on other people’s lives also broadens my world view and fills me with more compassion.

As of now, what are your life dreams/ possible career goals?
Liz: Eventually, I hope to teach and do research at a university, focusing on family experiences from a sociological perspective that helps non-profits or governmental organizations to make policy changes. This coming semester I am taking a course on family violence; I have a feeling some of what I heard this summer will come up in the course.

Breanna: Is there anything else you’d like to share about what you heard or learned at the Kids Cafe?
Liz: I just want to say that the Kids Cafe is a great program that provides a safe space for children.