Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

AmeriCorps*VISTA Spotlight: Kate McGrain

Kate2Inspired to serve Baltimore during her years at Loyola University Maryland, GHCC-Sponsored VISTA Kate McGrain is the Volunteer Coordinator at Soccer Without Borders (SWB) Baltimore. Founded in 2009, SWB uses the internationally played sport of soccer as a vehicle for positive change for refugee, asylee, and immigrant youth to feel welcomed and included in their new city.

I was born and raised in Towson, Maryland, just north of Baltimore City. However, growing up, my family and I did not often visit the city. It was not until I attended Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, that I explored and experienced the charm of the city.

Throughout my four years at Loyola I was involved with the school’s Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ). I had the opportunity to volunteer with many local schools and social service agencies in Baltimore. CCSJ helped me navigate my experiences in the city, not only exposing me to the injustices many face, but also encouraging me to explore these issues and providing me with the resources to work for a better, stronger Baltimore. The CCSJ staff, and the people with whom I served, fueled my passion to work for justice.

After graduation, I followed this passion to Anchorage, AK to serve with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. I worked at Bean’s Café, a drop-in day center for people experiencing homelessness and hunger. There I had the chance to spend time with my clients, my neighbors, learning the value of being present to others and serving their most basic needs.

I returned to Baltimore in 2010 to pursue positions with nonprofits and direct programming for youth. In October 2012 I began volunteering with Soccer Without Borders (SWB) as a Family Mentor. I was paired with a family from Guinea, and tutored their 16-year-old twin boys who were juniors in high school. I often met with SWB’s Executive Director Jill Pardini for guidance. In those conversations, I saw Jill’s passion and drive to provide immediate services for SWB families, while also Kate1working to create real change for their lives here in Baltimore.  Serendipitously, as I entered a transitional period in my career, SWB was just opening the search for a VISTA member.

As a VISTA and Volunteer Coordinator for SWB, my main project is to create an online tool to train and on-board volunteers. I also recruit and train new volunteers while providing ongoing support to over 60 volunteers who currently serve with SWB. I have the opportunity to meet with SWB families, learning more about their stories, their successes, and the challenges of moving to Baltimore. And I work with motivated, energetic and passionate staff that are devoted to making positive change for these Baltimore residents.

As I look ahead, I hope to pursue my passion for justice by studying public policy. I want to work for systemic change – whether it is in the education system, in housing and homelessness, or in newcomer resettlement. I want to bring awareness and find solutions to the glaring issues that hold individuals, especially youth, back from achieving their potential.

Join SWB for their annual fundraiser – Our World Cup: Five Years of Global Soccer in Baltimore – Thursday, May 29 at Cylburn Arboretum. For more information and to purchase tickets please visit