Everyone needs kindness and compassion. Howard Ly ’18 wants to help fill that need.
“I can recall many points in my life when I wished I had someone I could confide in about the challenges and issues I was going through,” Ly says. “Someone that would provide mentoring and guidance, or even just lend a caring, compassionate ear. I'm simply trying to be for other people the person I wish my younger self had in his life.”
He’s been given the opportunity to do so in the Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience, better known as PULSE, which selects recent graduates to work in nonprofits to transform Pittsburgh in a yearlong service and leadership program. Ly’s service is counseling students on the college search and admissions process at Pittsburgh’s Crossroads Foundation. As a first-generation college graduate, Ly says he remembers his own confusing path through the maze of college admissions and financial aid.
“I turned to books and the Internet to fill in the many blanks in my knowledge, but I had no one to personally guide me through the process,” he says. “I felt a calling to meet these students and share with them the understanding of higher education I have now and ensure that they don’t feel as lost as I did at their age.”
He’s had to revisit the college admissions process and familiarize himself with colleges and universities around the country.
“In order to help my students make informed college decisions, I have to dig much deeper into the higher education system than I did as a high school student and find places that could fit their needs well,” he says
His experiences as a Human Development and Social Relations major at Earlham helped prepare him for this work.
“Although I mostly work with students on an individual basis at Crossroads, I always keep in mind the roles they play in their families, schools, cultures and communities as well in getting to know them,” he says. “The essence of HDSR, in my view, is about exploring the nature of people more holistically than what psychology, sociology or anthropology each does on its own. Our intro class, “Persons and Systems,” probably provides a more accurate name for the major as a whole, as we focus on examining both individual persons and the greater systems that we are part of and interact with.
“As for my Earlham experience as a whole, I remember coming to new student orientation expecting to graduate as a very different person. But while I indeed grew in countless ways during my time at Earlham, for the most part I instead came to understand more clearly who I've been all along.”
While at Earlham he realized his preference for talking to a good friend for hours as opposed to seeing a dozen acquaintances at a party.
“I knew with certainty that one-on-one was my best way of connecting with people in my community,” he says.
Volunteering at several nonprofits as a Bonner Scholar helped him to explore a variety of ways of serving the community while he says he came closer and closer to understanding the change he personally wants to make in the world.
“I felt a calling to go into counseling after spending four years at Earlham discovering what my own strengths are and how to best use them in service of others,” he says. “PULSE has brought me into contact with nonprofit professionals from organizations all over Pittsburgh, some of who are counselors and therapists themselves. I hope to connect with them and find inspiration from their work and stories as I try to decide what kind of counselor I want to be.”
His service work as a Bonner Scholar, a scholarship program that combines service and leadership development, also inspired him.
“I could see every day with my own eyes what can be accomplished for a community by just a few people that simply care,” he says. “After volunteering at various nonprofit organizations in Richmond as a Bonner Scholar during my time at Earlham, I knew I wanted to continue serving others wherever I went after college.”