Mercy, Family Values in Careers
A drive for service and a compassion for others have become Vankat family traits. Mercy graduates Rose ’12, Hannah ’14 and Maggie ’16 have all entered careers where they impact people's lives. They learned this drive from the inspirational examples their mother Julie, Mercy’s Theology Chair, and their father, Dan, have given them. But they were also shown this path through their studies and teachers at Mercy.
Rose always knew she would go to Mercy because her mother teaches at the high school. She was involved in Student Ambassadors, National Honor Society, Justice and Peace Club, the volleyball team, Mercy High Singers and Bridge Club. She also completed more than 500 hours of service in her senior year and was given the Sr. Jeanne O’Rourke Award, which honors a student’s commitment to service.
“Some of my favorite memories were created during my time at Mercy. I learned about creating a community and how much support that can bring. I am very grateful for everything Mercy gave me, especially the friends who continue to be a support to me and who have influenced who I have become,” she said.
After she graduated from Mercy, Rose received the Goodrich Scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO)and earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work in 2016. She volunteered for a year with the Mercy Volunteer Corps in Baltimore as an activities coordinator in a long-term care facility.
“The love of service and the connection to the Sisters of Mercy led me to the program,” she said.
Rose moved back to Omaha and now works as a Case Manager for children and their families in child welfare through foster care.
“Mercy taught me to approach people with compassion and empathy. Mercy promises to grow Mercy Girls into Women of Mercy, and they hold true to that promise,” she said.
Her sister, Hannah, also attended Mercy and the commitment to community service and itswomen-centered mission has always stuck with her.
Active in music and theatre, she was a member of student government and several clubs. Some of her best friends to this day are women she met in the first weeks of Show Choir Camp or her first play, “Beauty and the Beast.” In her senior year, Hannah received The Distinguished Thespian Award for her commitment to Mercy theatre.
“The connections I made were the best part of my time at Mercy,” she said.
Like her sister, she received the Goodrich Scholarship to attend UNO. Hannah started as a pre-nursing student until she switched her degree to Public Health.
“I liked the community and preventative aspects of that field and it gave me a great deal of perspective about the impact of societal systems on an individual’s health,” she said.
She studied abroad twice in college. First to study public health and sustainability in Peru and then to study public health and community development in Belize. The Mercy grad finished her degree with an internship at the Women’s Center for Advancement (WCA) and graduated in May 2019. Her internship with the WCA led her to work as a Client Care Specialist with the organization, but in September 2019 she took on a new role as a Self Sufficiency Case Manager. Hannah is also the Healing Warriors Case Manager, working with military-associated clients and co-facilitating a class called “Getting Ahead.” At the WCA, services are provided to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking. This is done through advocacy, case management, crisis counseling and legal services.
“I am challenged on a daily basis to broaden my understanding of different systems, cultures, barriers, life stages and community resources,” she said.
Seeing the positive impact that Mercy had on her two older sisters and the love her mom has for the school made Mercy an easy choice for Maggie.
While at Mercy she participated in Mercy High Singers, was in all of the plays and musicals, Show Choir, Student Council, Student Ambassadors and National Honor Society.
“Mercy taught me how to love and care for others and gave me confidence in myself. I am eternally grateful for that," she said.
She also made friends for life.
“The people I interacted with every day in the halls of Mercy made me who I am today,” she said.
She also went to UNO on a Goodrich Scholarship and will graduate this May with a Bachelor of Science in Education. She is currently student teaching in a 3rd grade classroom.
“I hope to be the kind of teacher that my mom is one who makes students feel valued, empowered and loved. My dad, in particular, really taught me the power of selflessness at a young age. By choosing a path in elementary education, I choose selflessness by putting my energy into providing all kids with the opportunity to reach their full potential,” she said.
Another sister, Molly, is currently a Mercy junior but is already involved with theatre and has been a cantor at Mass since 4th grade. Her brother Jake will be a freshman at Gross High School next year and has been in several Mercy plays and is an active Mass server.
For the Vankats, giving back is very much a family mindset. Julie has been a teacher at Mercy for more than 25 years but still finds time to be active in her local parish, to coach sports when her children were younger, to take students on service trips and trips abroad. Her husband Dan is on the Assumption/Guadalupe Parish Council and chairs the annual parish dinner. He also coached several sports.
Maggie said of her family, “now that I have grown older, I get to watch my parents and both of my older sisters choose selflessness every day in their own careers,” she said.
For the Vankat girls, the power of family—their own and their Mercy family—taught them confidence and the drive for service and compassion for others. And they have made that commitment their careers.