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Human Services major giving back to the community that helped her find her way

Molly stands wearing a green human services t-shirt.

It’s one thing to leave your friends, family, and everything you know behind to go to college. It’s another to do those things and suddenly realize the major you chose isn’t actually a good fit. Mary “Molly” Thate ’21 knows this all too well.

She was less than a month into her first year at York College of Pennsylvania when she switched her major from Education to Undeclared. It’s a scary word—Undeclared—but Molly didn’t want to keep switching majors; she wanted to get it right the second time around.

She did. With the help of some key classes and the advice of her peer and professional advisors, she found her passion and declared her major in Human Services with minors in Sociology and Not-For-Profit Management during the spring of her first year.

Today, a year away from graduating, she knows she made the right decision. She’s also a peer advisor herself and helps other undeclared students find the right path for them. It’s just one of the ways Molly gives back to the community she loves at York College.

A legacy of service

Molly grew up going to church. Her father was in the military, and her mom was a nurse. Giving back was just something they did. “I was raised in a service-oriented family,” she says.

So, when she discovered the Human Services major, she knew she’d found her home. “It just clicked with me,” Molly says. She likes how versatile it is and the broad scope of job possibilities. But even more than that, she loves the idea that her life will be spent serving others. “It just excites me that I can wake up every morning and help people and make a difference.”

Although she knows jobs in her field aren’t always the most lucrative, she’s not worried. “I just feel like if I’m doing something I’m passionate about, everything else will fall into place,” she says.

Giving back

Molly isn’t waiting until she graduates to start giving back. She’s a program coordinator for Big Brothers Big Sisters, matching bigs with littles and overseeing the program. She’s also Vice President of Philanthropy for Tau Upsilon Alpha, the Human Services honor society, and spends nearly every weekend doing some community service or volunteer project.

Off campus, she’s traveled to Haiti to teach English and will be helping at an orphanage in India this winter through an International Service Learning course at York College. She’s already applying her studies to the volunteer work that she’s doing. “I feel like I take a few things away from each course I’ve taken,” she says.

Finding herself

Molly has come into her own at York College. Growing up she was shy. Now, she’s confident and assertive. “I feel like I want to take on everything that’s handed to me,” she says. “A few years ago, I’d never have said that.”

She loves how much she can do at York College because it’s a smaller campus.  “I just soak in everything here,” she says. “I love it so much.”

Every day when she walks across campus, she sees familiar faces, and she just feels at home. Feeling supported and loved at school has allowed her to become the best version of herself, one she never imagined she could be. “I wouldn’t recognize the person I was a few years ago,” she says. “She wouldn’t recognize me.”

Looking forward

Molly graduates in May 2021, but she’s making the most of the time she has left. She’s getting her feet wet in higher education, doing an internship in the alumni office on campus. She’s taking a graduate course in the spring to see if she’d like to pursue a graduate degree at York College, too.

She might look into international volunteering opportunities or AmeriCorps after she graduates. She’s also considering working in higher education or mental health counseling. “There’s just a lot out there, which is so exciting and so scary at the same time,” she says.

One thing is for sure. Whatever she does, she’ll be helping people. She knows there will be hard days wherever she ends up, but it doesn’t worry her. “In my heart I want to help people,” she says, “so that’s that.”