Mercy Helped Her Get Her Dream Job
Katelyn Cherney ’04 has her “dream job” and she credits her Mercy education for giving her a sense of self and the inspiration to pursue a social justice career to make that job happen. Mercy also instilled in her the idea that—no matter what you do—you should strive for excellence and endeavor to be challenged and fulfilled. She is now a Staff Attorney at the Abrahams Legal Clinic, Creighton University School of Law.
“I think Catherine McAuley is that quiet voice in my head that whispers ‘go for it’ when I am confronted with a new challenge or unanticipated opportunity,” she said.
Her work site is the Abrahams Legal Clinic, an on-campus civil legal clinic at Creighton University. Its dual purpose is to provide legal skills training to law students and to provide free legal assistance to low-income residents of Douglas County.
Katelyn is quick to point out how Mercy’s size, spirit of inclusivity and extracurricular activities gave her the opportunity to explore many interests. In addition to playing volleyball and participating in school plays, she was a Student Council member and wrote for the school paper and yearbook through the journalism program. She was co-director of PA (prom announcement) and the Mercy Day play. Through the school’s service and justice trips, she spent two spring breaks on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and made her first trip to the annual School of the Americas (SOA) Watch Vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia, during her senior year.
After graduating from Mercy, Katelyn attended Creighton University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Women’s & Gender Studies. She moved to Berkeley, California, through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and spent a year volunteering in a law school legal clinic for low-income and homeless clients. That is when she decided to go to law school and attend the University of Michigan. She was in Ann Arbor for three years and then returned home to Omaha after law school graduation to work for Legal Aid of Nebraska.
“ Mercy made me the person I am today. College and law school certainly fortified the strong sense of self that emerged during high school but – if you’ll endure the florid language – Mercy is the place in which I truly bloomed where I was planted. My teachers were terrific mentors and educators and my peers were self-confident and supportive. In short, Mercy was an incredibly positive environment for me and I thrived,” she added.
According to Katelyn, the impact of Mercy can also be felt in her personal approach to life. She believes the school introduced her to the notion of hospitality as a character trait. For her that means meeting people where they are at, making people feel comfortable in your presence and giving them the freedom to be themselves.
“ A ‘comfortable cup of tea’ remains a powerful symbol in my imagination of being a source of comfort, whether I am counseling a client in crisis at work or listening to a friend recount a family stressor. For me striving for excellence also applies to our personal lives and I find myself constantly asking how I can be a better friend or spouse or neighbor,” she said.
Katelyn is very grateful that she had the opportunity to attend Mercy. She received the John F. Franey Memorial Scholarship as an eighth-grader at St. Stanislaus. That scholarship combined with Mercy’s Negotiated Tuition Program “made the cost of a Catholic high school education a possibility for my parents.”
She tries to keep contact with her classmates and former teachers. She especially enjoys attending Mercy’s theatre productions and reconnecting with alumnae around the holidays.
“ I feel a deep sense of pride watching my peers flourish in their adult lives, knowing that we are part of this shared community and legacy,” she said.