Rays of Light: Amanda Schar

Hometown: Aurora, IL

Current/Upcoming Location: Philadelphia, PA –> Boston, MA

Current/Upcoming Role: Mercy Volunteer Corps –> MSW Graduate Student at Boston College

Nominated By: Sarah Lipps

Reason for Nomination: Though I do not know her well personally, I had the chance to work with her a few times in the [Augustana College] admissions office. She has always been a kind presence to be around. She seems to be on top of everything in life. Every time I have interacted with her I have always left the conversation in a better mood.

A Short Bio.

Amanda Schar grew up in a close-knit household in Aurora, IL, a city of 200,000 on the western edge of the Chicago suburbs. As a family, the Schars enjoyed camping, hiking, and spending time together, especially around the dinner table. “Dinner time was a big thing,” Amanda wrote. “We’d each get time to talk about our day and tell stories.” Not surprisingly, family became a fixture of Amanda’s life as a young child, and today this still remains the case. “My [twin] sister, Carolyn, is my best friends, and my parents have always been the best,” she reflected recently.  

As a child and youth, Amanda stayed busy, frequently trying on new passions and past times for size. She participated in Girl Scouts, took piano lessons, and sang in choir. In her free time, much like today, Amanda also read voraciously and told stories. Plus, in high school, she even competed in badminton!

Looking to break a sweat? Amanda competed in badminton throughout high school. PC: NY Times

Today, Amanda feels grateful for all the opportunities she has been given to try new things, see new places, and meet new people. Still, Amanda’s dreams and drivers have remained remarkably consistent throughout her life: She yearns to help people. She believes that education, service, and first-hand experience are the gateways towards actively living out [her] faith and humbly walking alongside others. From 5th grade through senior year of college, she dreamed of becoming a counseling psychologist. And now, she aspires to become a licensed social worker. In other words, not much has changed…

After graduating high school in 2015, Amanda attended Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. There, she studied Psychology and Scandinavian Studies, participated in a service fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega), sang in choir, built lasting friendships, and worked as a Student Ambassador for the Admission’s Office.

Amanda (middle left) enjoys her post college graduation trip to Montreal in 2019. PC: AS

This past year, after graduating from Augustana, Amanda picked up her roots and moved to the City of Brotherly Love, where she has participated in a year of service with Mercy Volunteer Corps (MVC), a Catholic missionary organization. Since August, Amanda has partnered with Project HOME, a “nonprofit that serves individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty,” to coordinate community outreach. About this, Amanda writes:

I’ve done pretty much everything this year…[Project HOME] works to build relationships and connect people with resources like housing, medical services, mental health services, etc. I spent my time in a neighborhood called Kensington, which has been hit really, really hard by the opioid epidemic. It was a really eye-opening experience, and I learned so much.

Amanda and fellow members of MVC have come to call Philly home over the past year. PC: AS

The past year has been truly impactful for Amanda. Serving for Project HOME has allowed her to blend faith, social justice, and intentionality in ways that serve others and try to bring about her best self. And, really, this year has also provided a perfect stepping stone for the years to come.

This fall, Amanda will begin Master’s degrees in Social Work and in Theology & Ministry at Boston College. Amanda has so much to learn, and she knows this. Yet, she feels truly excited for the journey that awaits. At the end of the day, she knows that she “want[s] a job where she can help people”—a job where she can begin to pay it forward to a world that has given so much to her.”

Amanda will begin her graduate studies at Boston College in the fall. PC: Boston College Website

Q & A: The [Not So] Serious

BB: If you could be a backup singer and dancer for any musical artist or band, historical or present, who would you choose? Why? 

AS: I’m a terrible dancer, so no one would want me as a backup dancer. But if I could be a backup singer I would probably choose Adele, just because I love her music and the backup vocals are pretty simple.

Adele is known for her powerful, emotion-evoking songs. PC: The Guardian

BB: If you could time travel, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self? 

AS: I would tell her that she has no idea what’s in store. That even though life keeps getting harder, it also keeps getting better. I wouldn’t change anything about the last 5 years, but if 18-year-old Amanda knew how happy 23-year-old Amanda would be, I think I would have felt a lot less pressure.

I’d also tell her that there’s no need to worry because there’s no such thing as an adult! The older I get, the more I realize that everyone’s just making it up as they go along, and somehow the world keeps turning! There’s never going to be a moment where you wake up and think “ahh, I’m an adult now. I have all the answers and I know what I’m doing.” You just have to trust yourself, do the best you can, and keep taking the next right step.


BB: What is your favorite time of the year? And why?

AS: I love winter! It’s my favorite season. I love bundling up and drinking hot chocolate and snow. And, for those of us who don’t like winter, you’ve got the added benefit of all the holidays that fall between November and January! I just feel like winter is magical and people are a little nicer than any other time during the holiday season, so I always look forward to it.

With views like this, at her alma mater I might add, how could winter not be her favorite season? PC: augustana.edu

BB: Fill in the following sentence. I am oddly obsessed with __________ (type of food). And what makes you feel this way?  

AS: Rice! I say “oddly” obsessed with because I feel like most people think it’s such a boring food. I honestly can’t get enough of it, though.


BB: Would you rather explore the bottom of the ocean [in a submersible]? Or orbit the planet of Mars? 

AS: I’m going to have to pick Mars. I love space (I’m a huge Star Trek fan) and honestly the ocean is kind of terrifying. If I’m going to encounter strange, unknown creatures I’d rather do it in space than on my own planet!

Scientists recently found water on Mar’s otherwise bone dry surface. PC: smithsonianmag.com

BB: Imagine you and three famous people (dead or alive) are holed up in a Trans-Siberian Express sleeper car for the eight-day journey from Moscow to Vladivostok. What three people would you pick? How would you pass the time? 

AS: I love this question. My go-to first person is Queen Elizabeth I. I’ve been so fascinated by her ever since I was a little girl and I would absolutely love to get to meet her and talk to her about everything she went through and everything she accomplished in her life. My second person would be the Virgin Mary, because she’s another badass woman, who I would love the opportunity to talk with and learn from. Between her and Elizabeth, I feel like I’d leave that sleeper car ready to conquer the world. And then because we’d probably need a little balance from all the heavy conversations, I’d throw Robin Williams in there as well. He seems like he’d be able to get along with anyone and like he’d be down for the heavy conversations and to lighten the mood when we needed a break.

On screen: Robin Williams in the movie “Good Will Hunting” (1997)

BB: Whether through your vocation, your relationships, or your passion projects, how would you like to change the world in the foreseeable future? 

AS: This is such an important question. If there’s one thing my year with Mercy Volunteer Corps has taught me it’s that we each have the power to change the world, in ways big and small.

I think at this phase of my life my ability to change is going to come through relationship. I think sharing my story and all I have learned in serving those experiencing homelessness, and in being a part of the Mercy community, will allow me to have a small impact on those I come in contact with. Even if it’s just to have them pause and consider something they never would have thought of otherwise. If I can educate one person about the reality of homelessness and what role we can play in preventing it, then that person can go on to educate one more person and so on.

And the next three years at Boston College will give me so much space to educate myself. On how to be a social worker. How to be a better advocate for justice and change. How to walk with those who are marginalized and use my voice to amplify theirs. And between my time with MVC and those lessons, hopefully I will be preparing myself for a lifetime of changing the world. Even if it’s just tiny first steps that others then pick up and run with.

Courtesy of Amanda Schar

BB: Who is your favorite author? And what is your favorite book? 

AS: I love to read, and I read a lot so this is always a really hard question. The cheating answer is that I don’t have favorites, but since people don’t like that I tend to say it’s Wuthering Heights. It’s dark, but the language that Emily Brontë uses is absolutely beautiful. There are so many quotes that just spark my soul every time I read it.

Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Brontë is a classic 19th Century work. PC: Ebay

BB: Would you ever consider getting a tattoo? If so, what would you get, and where would you put it? 

AS: I have a tattoo! It’s a quote from Deuteronomy 6:5 and it’s on my left ribs. I do plan on getting more (when I can afford it, lol). I want one of lyrics from my favorite band Walk the Moon and at some point. Carolyn and I have talked about getting some kind of matching tattoo.

Deuteronomy 6:5. PC: pixels.com

BB: How do see that you have grown over the past two years, since graduating from college? 

AS: I’ve grown a lot in self-confidence. Moving across the country, moving in with two strangers, and starting a job in a field that I had no prior exposure to has shown me how resilient, how flexible, and how adaptable I am. It’s taught me that even when I make mistakes I’m able to learn and grow from them and I trust myself so much more now. I feel like I’m no longer afraid of failure in the same way I was during my time at Augustana.

I’ve also grown so much in my ability to be patient and to serve compassionately. Both my experience of working at Project HOME and my experience of living in community during MVC have really encouraged me to develop patience, compassion, empathy—just how to be a more generous and selfless person in general. I have a lot of room to grow, obviously, but I can feel a shift in myself and my worldview. I feel like I’ve really learned how to look at a situation from outside of myself and to withhold judgement before deciding how I feel.

Philly feels much different than Illinois, but Amanda is embracing newness on her journey. PC: National Park Service

BB: With modern technology and social media, it seems really easy to perceive others’ lives differently than they occur. Given this phenomenon, what do wish the world knew about you that they might not already know? 

AS: I try to be as honest as possible on my social media. Even on my blog, I’ve tried to paint a balanced picture of my year of service, highlighting the lows as much as the highs. Because I think the secret is that they’re both important. It’s easy to want to share only the good and exciting pieces, and I certainly do love letting people see me at my happy moments. But I’ve come to realize that there’s a special kind of beauty in the difficult pieces of life, too. I love my job at Project HOME, and I’m always so happy to tell people about what I do, but you know what? Some days it absolutely sucks. The people I serve are suffering in very real, very immediate, very painful ways and I’m not always able to help them. Sometimes I have to look into the eyes of someone having the worst moment of their life and tell them that I’m not able to help them. And that sucks. That hurts so much and at the end of the day I get to go home to my warm apartment, with my community who loves me, and be safe. So sometimes, as much as I love my job and my life and as much as I have a sense of purpose, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what the point of it all is. And those are the times that I turn to my friends, my family, and God and that’s what gets me through it. So, I guess I just want to say, that as much as we want to serve those around us and as much as we want to find joy in that, sometimes doing this work really hurts and is really hard and that 100% does not mean you’re doing it wrong or you’re not passionate enough. It’s okay.

Amanda (right) smiles with other members of MVC. PC: AS

Author’s Note: Rays of Light is a blog dedicated to spreading positivity, recognizing everyday servants and role models, and allowing others to be vulnerable and share more of their stories. These words are found as they were written, except when subtle rewriting improved narrative flow. It was such a joy getting to know Amanda through this process. Her authenticity, positivity, compassion, and care for others is so refreshing. Amanda has approved this feature’s content.

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