On Thursday, May 19 and Friday, May 20, Fordham University recognized a group of graduating seniors who are choosing missions of public service over careers in the more lucrative private sector.
More than 35 graduating seniors were recognized for their extraordinary time and energy commitment to volunteer service during their time at Fordham, as well as their post-graduate plans to carry forth the Jesuit mission of being men and women for and with others.
These students have chosen to do the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and other mission-based and non-profit work following graduation. The students and their families received a send-off sponsored by University Mission and Ministry and Fordham’s Jesuit Community.
“We Jesuits admire you,” said John Cecero, S.J., rector of Fordham’s Jesuit residence. “You embody our core values of love in service to others.”
Nine of the students received the inaugural Father Joseph Currie, S.J., Volunteer Award for their community service, faith and justice in the spirit of Fordham’s former associate vice president for mission and ministry. They are: Cara McMenamin, Chloe Edwards, Christine Johnsen, Alice Barry, Zachary Hudson, Kendall Lewis, Tyler Kline, Christina Moehrle, and Kaylyn Toale.
Father Currie, who retired from his position in 2010, was on hand to meet the awardees.
Below, in their own words, five extraordinary students describe their plans:
Kaylyn Toale, American Studies major: “I am going to be serving with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve been involved in service throughout my time here at Fordham and wanted to continue that, specifically working with women’s empowerment. I am looking forward to living in a community like JVC. I want to adopt that manner of simple living for the rest of my life, so this will start me off in that direction.
Kendall Lewis, anthro- pology major: “I am working for City Year, a unique program in Columbia, South Carolina. I will be working in the Young Heroes program with middle school kids, doing projects around social justice. It is volunteer for a biweekly stipend, which is very small. They actually suggest we ask for public assistance to help pay our rent. This is the sacrifice you have to make to do this kind of work, living simply with basic necessities. I am doing what I am called to do with City Year. I realize how much I lacked a holistic education of myself during K through 12. And right now I want to pass that along to other students.”
Christine Johnsen, political science major: “I am going to Calcutta with the Missionaries of Charity, to work in the homes of the sick and dying. I am working this summer to pay for my airfare. I also want to help teach women’s empowerment to women in the slums. My mother is going too for a few weeks, because she wanted to do service after college but couldn’t. I will be staying on for at least a few months, if not longer. I will probably come back to the States and eventually become a social worker because I want to live a life of service.”
Kara Mackinson, psychology major:
“I am going to Boston to work in a children’s services organi- zation called Wediko, which does therapeutic special education. Education is so important and influential in young people. I have worked in a similar treatment program and it is very rewarding. Working with someone who has Asperger’s, or post-traumatic stress, I learned about the power of the human connection. We can all learn through the eyes and mind of someone with a disorder.”
Nova Lucero, political science major: “I am going to Bolivia to work with the Good Shepherd Volunteers. Their mission is to work with women and children who have experienced domestic violence. I will be living in a safe house with the women and children, and will work on empowering them every single day. This is a program where you make of it whatever you want, bringing your individual skills to shape your work with the population. I feel in my heart that I am supposed to do international humanitarian mission work. I am from the Bronx and have lived at home for so long, in my little bubble. Even though I did volunteer work here in shelters, I want to try living and working somewhere completely different.”