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Giving Back Globally

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

For many alumni our time at Ursinus prepared us for a budding career, provided us with what are sure to be lifelong friendships, and in some cases, conjured a call to action we may not have considered before. Being an Ursinus alumnus/a means more than just being part of our campus community. Being an alumnus/a means being a member of a vast network of individuals who share their many talents and time all around the globe. After college, many alumni continue to find themselves, some in careers, others in graduate studies, and still some of us continue to cultivate talents in the form of civil and volunteering services. In the interest of highlighting Thanksgiving, it only seems natural to discuss various alumni who have devoted much of their time to the larger global community.

 

Lea Marano '13 Lea Marano ’13While many programs visit Ursinus during the four years we spend there, one particular program that brought alumna, Lea Marano ’13 to a remote location in Africa is the Peace Corps. As a volunteer, Lea spent time abroad in Malawi both working and living in the local community. As a teacher in a local school, Lea was able to not only be a mentor, but in return, was mentored by the community around her. Specifically, Lea recalls a moment with a student named Sarah:

“She [Sarah] was a Form 3 student (high school junior) at Chikwawa Community Day Secondary School and she was an outspoken student in my classroom in a sea of passive learners. She came to my backyard one day while I was gardening and asked if we could chat. We talked about her confusion surrounding her hopes for the future because they clashed with the gender norms of Malawi. Her “aha” moment came as we were reaching the end of our conversation. She left my house with a light in her eyes feeling validated by my words of encouragement that she was worthy of becoming a teacher despite the expectation to stay at home to raise a family.”

From this experience with Sarah and so many others during her time in Malawi, Lea truly feels that:

“Those that have been inspired by learning moments inside and outside the classroom understand the significance of a positive environment in propelling students forward. Every person has a capacity to play a role in this process. Every person has a responsibility in the education of their community’s students because it truly takes a village.”

Since returning home from Malawi, Lea has taken up teaching and not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about her time in Malawi. In Malawi, they have a saying, ‘moto ntchito’ which literally translates into ‘fire work’ or to work with purpose and every day, Lea tries to instill this spirit and sense of passion into her students.

 

Cydney Van Dyke '13 Cydney Van Dyke ’13In similar fashion, alumna, Cydney Van Dyke ’13 also found a call to service during her time at Ursinus. Although Cydney grew up with both parents in ministry, she was not always certain this was something she would pursue as a career. While she was certain that no matter what she ended up doing it would involve serving others. However, it wasn’t until her junior year that Cydney had found her calling.  After growing up attending service in her parents’ churches, singing in the choir, attending summer camp at Mensch Mill in Alburtis, PA, serving on the Youth Ministry Steering Committee (YMSC), and much more, it was clear that the church had provided Cydney with a foundation of what it meant to serve others and why that was so important. Then, after hearing a sermon by Ursinus’ own Reverend Charles Rice, Cydney recalled how wonderfully enlightening it was to understand her next pursuit.

“[The sermon provided] a moment of irrevocable clarity and understanding of what steps I should be taking next. Tears streamed down my face as I felt this truth overcome me, much to Reverend Rice’s concern in the moment as I was blubbering in the front row, but after that service we talked at length and he provided me with instrumental support for my emerging journey ahead.  From then on, I have had no doubts that ministry was what I was meant to do with my life and how I was to contribute to the community, no matter what form it might take in the future.”

Because of this moment, Cydney went on to pursue her Masters of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. While spending time in Boston for school, Cydney had the opportunity to service the surrounding community. During the winter season of 2014-2015, Boston saw some of the worst snow storms it had ever seen. At this time, the city had to find ways to help take care of the prevalent homeless community and Cydney was there to lend a hand. What she received in return was “one of the most meaningful experiences she had ever had.”

“All I was to do was be with them, talk with them, laugh with them, and be a person who treated them like the human being they were.  In truth I did nothing- they welcomed me, filled me in on their inside jokes, treated me with respect, allowed me to see their vulnerability, allowed me to see their strength, shared their stories with me, and sang with me.  People who were hurting and struggling and only had a limited amount of reprieve from the bitter cold were happy, joyous, resilient, friendly, and just in need of some tenderness. For me, volunteering and serving is truly about connecting more deeply with other humans and that is what happened. It was a beautiful experience.”

Today, Cydney is continuing to use her education serving as an Associate Pastor. It’s a job that never ends and yet she has to try and fit it all in during a 40 hour work week. Keep up the great work Cydney!

 

As rewarding as all the service that our alumni provide to so many individuals, we would be remiss to think that our communities only consist of the people around us. In so many instances, the creatures we share our space with are equally as important to the stories and experiences we all share.

 

Pearl Steinberg '14 Pearl Steinberg ’14Just as there are so many calls to service that help people, so too is there an ever present need to help animals. While at Ursinus, it was clear that alumna Pearl Steinberg ’14 had a genuine love for all creatures. This could easily be seen during her many visits to the “Pause for Paws” events on campus.

After graduation, Pearl continued to pursue this love of dogs (and all creatures) as she began to spend more time volunteering at the ASPCA. She began fostering a dog named Bubba and he did as much for her as she did for him. In the two months that she had him as a foster, she was able to work with him and ultimately, to find him his forever home. While it was bittersweet to let him go, it has become one of her favorite memories. As she continues to volunteer she has had the pleasure to meet “some incredible people that don’t just dedicate their time, but their whole life to helping animals in need. It’s truly awe inspiring and something [she] hopes to become more involved with time.”

 

Just as it is ever present on campus, thus too do we continue to see that our alumni continue a longstanding tradition of service in the local and global communities. We’re more than just the individual. Most of us are a little bit of, well, everything. We are sciences, we are foreign languages, we are athletes, we are colleagues, we are teachers and yet, most of all we are a lot of where we come from and even more a part of the larger community.  Everyone came to Ursinus with a story. Each story was molded by our experiences on campus and ultimately these stories spread and integrated into a much larger community, our world. For these experiences and so much more, we are thankful, we are Ursinus.

 

- Mary Barbagallo-Stranix ’13

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