Unique paths explored at CRS

By Melanie Greenberg
February 22, 2011

Meeting with CRS employees, students explore career options in social justice

At the headquarters of Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore, Md., social justice minors discuss the impact of the Justice Matters curriculum and how it can be implemented more effectively. Seniors connected with freshmen at CRS and offered advice on how to utilize the minor in their career paths. --jerry zurek/ submitted photo

Students from a variety of backgrounds explored how the Justice Matters curriculum could translate into career opportunities at the headquarters of Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore, Md. on Feb. 17.

Dr. Jerome Zurek, chair of the communication department, and Dr. Nicholas Rademacher, assistant professor of religion, along with 11 students met with employees from CRS to discuss the challenges and rewards of working in a non-profit agency.

The employees discussed the paths that led them to a career working for social justice and how the opportunities for them in the future are endless.

“I was really stressed when I was going to graduate from undergrad just because I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Jen Hardy, new media communications officer, said.

Hardy questioned whether or not she was taking the right career path.

“What if I made the wrong choice or what if I was going down the wrong path and then I couldn’t back peddle,” Hardy said. “I had a lot of anxiety about it but really, it does work out.”

Hardy’s employment with CRS allowed her to travel the world in ways she never believed possible.

“I just didn’t see how, in my tiny little town in California, how this girl who wasn’t supposed to go to college could get overseas. I didn’t see it,” Hardy said.

While CRS employees receive generous benefits, they find working to alleviate poverty the most fulfilling part of their job.

“What’s really uplifting about working here is that you talk to so many people every day, every year that are just like, ‘I want to do something more. I want to do something more than write a check. I want to learn. I want to visit. I want to feel and touch and smell,’” Jen Swope, program officer, said.

Many of the CRS employees did not become familiar with social justice until college or even after college. Their goal is to instill interest in college students so they can become more knowledgeable at a younger age. By starting younger, the more chances there are to branch out into other areas of social justice.

“My advice with things like this [social justice] is that you don’t have to know everything, just you have to know who to talk to. And that’s just life. I don’t know a lot, I’ve learned a lot but I’m still learning more,” Swope said.

Faculty and students also discussed how the curriculum could be implemented more effectively. Professors are the driving forcebehind the level of involvement students have with the curriculum and many underclassmen learn what their strengths and passions are by being pushed to reach their potential by professors.

Students involved in CRS on campus are determined to educate other students on the work CRS does and its mission.

CRS strives to help others learn how to help themselves.

“Our goal essentially is to put ourselves out of business,” Lou Charest, advisor to university programs at CRS, said.

Members of CRS also encouraged students to think beyond charity.

“It’s easy to pull out your credit card or write a check or throw some money into a collection basket. But it’s really challenging because what we’re asking people to do with this justice orientation is to maybe change something about how they live, which is very hard but also to think beyond, ‘Oh I gave a check, I’m absolved,” Swope said.

Art Kirby, CRS regional representative for East Africa, was one of several speakers that provided insight into the operatiosn of the non-governmental organization. --jerry zurek / submitted photo--

Students could also relate to the personal conflicts that a career embodying social justice entails.

“I had a huge conflict between my personal life and my passion for raising awareness for human trafficking in the beginning of my journey. My mom has fought my whole life to take me away from everything that is bad in the world,” Danielle DiBartolo, junior social work major, said.

Despite being raised sheltered, DiBartolo was able to convince her family that Cabrini’s mission coincided with her in ways other universities and college’s could not offer her.

“They were resistant about learning more because they were so afraid for me, but once we broke down that wall, things got better,” DiBartolo said.

Students found the trip beneficial to shaping their own careers and aspirations after college.

“Catholic Relief Services has given me aspirations of change, hope and vision that will surely enhance my future desires and career goals,” Jenna Carrocia, sophomore psychology major, said.

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Melanie Greenberg

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