Two seniors from the Rose Hill and Lincoln Center campuses are being recognized for helping to continue activist and journalist Dorothy Day’s legacy to make a difference through social justice.
Social justice leaders Chloe Potsklan, GABELLI ’17, and Alexa McMenamin, FCLC ’17, will be awarded the Dorothy Day Peacemaker Award for Leadership in Social Action at this year’s 2017 commencement ceremonies.
“They have built amazing relationships and transformed their communities, which has inspired their fellow classmates and leaders to continue to fight for justice on campus and off campus,” said Katheryn Crawford, associate director of the The Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice.
The award’s namesake, Day, co-founded the Catholic Worker Movement, where she applied Catholic social teaching to advocate for the poor and marginalized communities.
Potsklan, who has served as a mentor and New York regional director at the Social Impact 360 program at Fordham, has helped to cultivate conversations at Fordham focused on everything from race and diversity to gender and class. She said community service allowed her to connect with her roots.
“I think most of it stems from the fact that my mom is an immigrant from Venezuela, and growing up in Greenwich, and particularly Connecticut, I was one of the few people [in my community]who were of mixed backgrounds,” said Potsklan, an information systems major.
Potsklan said her participation in the pre-orientation program Urban Plunge exposed her to the diverse community of the Bronx during her freshman year, and inspired her to raise awareness about issues that were affecting underrepresented Bronxites, including food justice and immigration. Since then, she has volunteered at local nonprofits like The Bronx is Blooming, tutored bilingual middle school and high school students, and mentored underclassmen at Fordham. But there’s still more work to do, she said.
“One thing that Father McShane said that has really resonated with me was that he wants us to leave Fordham ‘bothered.’ I really like that term because it encourages us to not be numb to the things that are going on around us,” said Potsklan, who will be volunteering in Ecuador this summer. “Even standing in solidarity with other people makes a huge difference.”
McMenamin grew up attending Quaker school in Philadelphia, where she said social justice was an integral part of her upbringing. She recalls tagging along to work with her grandmother, who taught low-income disabled students in the Philadelphia school district.
“It’s about collective labor,” she said. “We’re all personally obligated to do this work.”
McMenamin, a programming director of the Feminist Alliance at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus, co-founded the anti-sexual assault organization, the It’s On Us Coalition at Fordham last year to promote healthy discussions among students around sexual assault and sexual misconduct. A double major in political science and English, McMenamin has also helped to organize a “blackout” protest at Fordham in 2015 to bring attention to racism and bias crimes.
“A lot the work that I have been doing has been about building community and making people feel like they have access when things go wrong, especially marginalized communities on campus,” said McMenamin, who writes about campus life issues for Teen Vogue.
After graduation, McMenamin will be working as a volunteering fellow at the Philadelphia nonprofit the Bread & Roses Community Fund.
Crawford said Potsklan and McMenamin’s dedication and passion for creating a better world will take them far.
“I think Chloe and Lexi have learned some great skills and lessons through the Dorothy Day Center that they will take with them to the next community they build,” she said.