Magis in Action

June 27, 2017

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Nineteen recent graduates will culminate their Canisius College education by dedicating a year to living simply, working for social justice and serving those who live on the margins of society.

The alumni are committed to one year of post-graduate service work in various cities and communities across the country, with organizations including the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. Their year of service begins in July.

"We want our graduates to become sensitive to people on the margins as they go out into the world in a variety of jobs,” says Luanne Firestone, senior associate campus minister. “These unique service experiences open them up to a real human connection with individuals whose lives are completely different than theirs. Perhaps more importantly, we hope that within that distinct reality, our young alumni will learn more about themselves.”    

Four young alumni will serve as members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC). JVC assists in education, advocacy and direct and community service for low-wage earners, homeless, unemployed, refugees and others who strive to find justice in their lives.

Lauren Bielby will work as the program coordinator for children with physical disabilities at Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Cleveland, OH; Christina Estime, will be the essential needs coordinator for the Low Income Housing Institute, Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in Seattle, WA; Greg Kopra, will work in the Jesuit Volunteer Corp International teaching and mentoring program at Xavier High School in the Federated States of Micronesia; and Heidy Rivera will serve the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in Portland, OR at the St. Andrew Nativity School.  

AmeriCorps tutors and mentors disadvantaged youth; fights illiteracy, helps build affordable housing, works to improve health services, manages or operates after-school programs, and helps communities respond to disasters.  

Alexandra Iwanenko will be the community schools liaison for AmeriCorps through the United Way of Erie County, NY, Kathryn Lippa will work in the Buffalo City Schools for AmeriCorp Project SOAR, Joy McBride will work with the “I Have a Dream” Foundation for AmeriCorps in New York City, Michael McKay will help with disaster relief with AmeriCorps National Civilian Conservation Corps FEMA in Iowa,  and Nicholas Racha will be the assistant for Oswego County on the Empire State Poverty Reduction Initiative for AmeriCorps in Syracuse, NY.

“I chose to dedicate a year to service following graduation after a long discernment process, something that is encouraged by a Jesuit education,” says Iwanekno. “I went on my first campus ministry service immersion experience my freshman year to Nicaragua and I have gone on one every year since then, both domestic and international. The injustices that marginalized groups face make me mad, frustrated, hurt but most importantly they make me question the systems that cause those injustices.”

Sara DiMayo, Jillian Long, Jenna Wallace and Conor Shea will serve AmeriCorps Builds Lives Through Education, which provides tutoring and academic assistance to K-12 students in the city of Buffalo.

Five additional young alumni will dedicate the next year to additional service organizations.  Myranda Empric and Erin Grimm will work with pregnant at-risk mothers and their children at Volunteer for Maggie’s Place in Phoenix, AZ; Victoria Granger will be a secondary education science teacher with the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa; Andrea Merkey will serve the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network in California; Jacquelyn Sagasta will be an agroforestry specialist volunteer with the Peace Corps in Senegal, Africa and Monica Wrobel will work with migrants at the Border Servant Corps in El Paso, TX.

“I will be trained in sustainable agricultural practices as well as sustainable agroforestry and work with local farmers to implement these farming techniques, leaving these communities with long term sources of income and/or food,” says Sagasta, who will be based in Senegal, Africa as an agroforestry specialist. “As an environmental science and ABEC major at Canisius, I decided that my goal in life was to leave a long-lasting, positive impact on the planet. I cannot think of a better way to do that than by becoming a Peace Corps volunteer.”