Ozanam Scholars Impact the IMPACT National Student Conference
April 15, 2009
Strengthening their commitment to St. John’s tradition of
service and social justice, nine undergraduates in the University’s
Ozanam Scholars Program joined civic-minded peers at a nationwide
conference March 6-9 on university service programs.
The Ozanam Scholars shared ideas, learned about lobbying and even
led a workshop at the annual IMPACT National Student Conference on
Service, Advocacy and Social Action. Held at the University of
Maryland, the Conference drew more than 600 students,
administrators and not-for- profit professionals.
“We were able to exchange thoughts, brainstorm and share best
practices on social justice issues with students from around the
country,” said Joe Stravato, Assistant Director Civic Engagement at
St. John’s. Mr. Stravato accompanied the students.
Preparing Agents for Change
Launched in 2007, the four-year Ozanam Scholars Program prepares
students to be able to identify and solve real-world problems of
poverty and social injustice. Scholars partner with faculty,
community leaders and experts in the field providing direct service
at local, national and international clinical sites.
The Program is part of the University’s newly formed Vincentian
Institute for Social Action (VISA), which St. John’s created to
support its Vincentian mission. VISA provides an academic platform
for students and faculty to address global issues of poverty and
social injustice and find long-term solutions through teaching,
research and service.
Ozanam Service on
Four Scholars presented a well-attended workshop on “Diverse-CITY:
Urban Education Through College Students’ Eyes.” Describing their
varied service activities, the Scholars chose to spotlight their
work for at-risk students.
They discussed their service for Gear-Up and the After-School All
Stars —two St. John’s initiatives that provide academic
opportunities for inner-city youth. In addition, Catherine Silva, a
sophomore majoring in pre-med, talked about an after-school project
she launched in Puerto Rico. “Our hope was to be able to offer
workshop attendees some new perspectives and ways of thinking about
education,” she says.
The Scholars also took part in the Oxfam Hunger Banquet, which
Catherine described as “dinner with a twist.” Depending on the
economic category each student drew by lot, they either ate a bowl
of soup, rice and beans or pasta.
“Eating my bowl of rice, I got a much better idea how desperate our
times are and how little some people get to eat,” she said.
Lobbying for a Cause
In addition, the Scholars received a three-hour training session to
prepare them to be able to lobby on behalf of social causes
including the Global Education Fund and the Fund to Fight AIDS, TB
“That was my favorite part of the weekend,” confides sophomore
Lauren Miller who is majoring in Speech, Language, Pathology and
Lauren lobbied Congressman Meeks and Senator Gillibrand’s
legislative aides, advocating that the U.S. fulfill its $200 M
promise to help subsidize education worldwide. “We let them know
that as college students, we are committed to helping others and
making a difference.”
Throughout the event, the Scholars found themselves answering a lot
of questions about the Ozanam Scholars Program from students and
others. In fact, said Lauren, an aide in Senator Gillibrand’s
office is interested in starting an online version in
Seeking Global Solutions
“There is no doubt that St. John’s Ozanam Scholars Program is
leading the way with a program that is focused on long-term
solutions,” observed freshman Robert Marrocco who is majoring in
finance and theology.
“No other school that I came across has anything like what we have
in terms of structure, breadth and integrating Catholic and
Vincentian values,” he added. “This spiritual dimension makes all
our service more meaningful and passionate.”
At the conclusion of the four-day event, participating Scholars
left with a renewed enthusiasm for their program. “I came across
programs with many similarities to ours,” says Lauren. ”But I
realized that our Vincentian vision and New York City location set
St. John’s and its Ozanam Scholars Program apart.”