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An Interview with Holly (McGraw) Turkovic ’04

Holly zip-line

Holly doing a zip-line in Clyde Park, Montana, at the Crazy Mountain Ranch

Holly (McGraw) Turkovic ’04 graduated from Robert Morris University with a degree in business, and a certification in computer and information technology education. She also worked at RMU, first as a volunteer for the Community Outreach Partnership Center (COPC) while  still a student. She then went on as an intern, and after she graduated was hired as the center’s director. There she helped develop and facilitate youth leadership and service programs in the City of Duquesne.

Today she is director of Youth Programs at Pittsburgh Cares, a nonprofit affiliate of the HandsOn Network, which “works to advance a culture of volunteerism and widespread civic engagement in the Pittsburgh region.”

This March, Holly will be traveling to Uganda as part of a mission trip with Uganda Christian Solutions. She and five local teams will spend close to three weeks in the African nation, providing valuable services such as basic medical and dental care, education on basic health care and disease prevention.

How did the Uganda trip come about?
I am a semi-new member of Port Vue United Methodist Church, and I kept hearing about different outreach and mission work that the church was involved in. Of course, the relation to service piqued my interest. Then, in January, I asked my church sponsor who I would need to talk to find out more information about setting up my own mission trip. He introduced me to Nancy DeNardo, founder of Uganda Christian Solutions, who just happens to be a member of our church and my neighbor, too. She talked to me briefly about the upcoming trip on March 6 and told me about a children’s ministry team working with the medical team. By the end of the conversation, I said, ‘Sign me up!’ Later on that day she dropped off a stack of paperwork and information about the mission trip.

What was your undergrad experience like?
I absolutely enjoyed my time at RMU. I built some really strong and lasting relationships with peers who I sometimes have the opportunity to partner with through our non-profit work. Everyone that I came in contact with was genuinely helpful and truly wanted you to succeed, from my professors, to advisors, etc.

How did you end up at Pittsburgh Cares?
After the COPC, I went on to work at The Consortium for Public Education, running their leadership development and career exploration program, The Future Is Mine. Daniel Horgan ’01, an RMU grad who is now senior director of community affairs at Capital One, was the previous executive director of Allegheny’s Promise/COPC and Pittsburgh Cares, and he recruited me to work with him. The work that I started out doing at Pittsburgh Cares was very similar to what we had done in Duquesne, engaging youth in leadership development and service.

How are you feeling as you prepare for the trip, and what do you hope to get out of it?
Inspired, excited, and a little nervous. For as long as I can remember, when seeing and hearing about the conditions in other underdeveloped countries, going on a mission trip has always been something that I wanted to do, but I never really looked into it. Most important, I just want to bring a smile to the faces of the children that I will be serving while over there. Along the way I hope I am able to teach them something and show them that people care. They will probably give and teach me more than I will give and teach them.

by Valentine J. Brkich

If you’d like to donate supplies or follow Holly’s African adventure, visit www.courageandcause.wordpress.com.

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