Two Cabrini students were honored for their strong dedication to social justice through the service award honoring those who go above and beyond in academics and service.
As the primary focus of Dr. Marie Angelella George’s plan, these awards were held in high regards this year on Cabrini Day, Thursday, Nov. 13.
The strong emphasis on social justice this year can be seen in the recipients of the 2008 Charles A. Mastronardi Award for Service and Learning. This year, the junior who won received this award because of her passion she inputs into each project.
Junior psychology and sociology major Beth Briggs, lives a life based on her values here at Cabrini and at home.
“I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in social justice until I came to Cabrini. The reason why I had known so much though was through discussions at family dinners. I was the first person in my family to act upon them,” Briggs said.
Briggs has been an integral member of the Wolfington Center since her freshman year. In 2006, she became a part of the advisory committee for the partnership between Catholic Relief Services and the college.
The following year, she became co-chair of the Poverty Awareness Campaign where she spends her time generating awareness for those who are without a voice and the socio-economically disadvantaged. In addition to her work at Cabrini, she worked at a homeless shelter in Norristown, Pa. from January to August this year.
“There’s no good reason not to get involved with social justice. You would want the same thing in that situation. I think that we’re all one big family and that we have to take care of everybody,” Briggs said.
Lower income families are the ones being directly affected by the economic crisis. According to Dr. Mary Laver, director of international partnerships, these families are not able to afford the basic necessities, like beans and rice.
“Beth has been a part of the advisory committee since her first semester. In her freshman year, even though she was the youngest member she was always very involved,” Laver said.
This year Briggs, has held onto her position as a co-chair of the Poverty Awareness Campaign and she has been appointed as a Catholic Relief Services (CRS) ambassador for food security, the theme of this year’s Founder’s Day on Tuesday, Feb. 17.
The focus of the food crisis is on the local and global aspects due to the economic crisis and rising gas prices affecting the food supply there is for the lower socioeconomic classes.
Briggs is an active advocate who creates interactive events that students can participate in creating an awareness of the social implications there are in an economic crisis like this one.
“I like working with awareness campaigns, because you can’t act without being educated about the needs of who you’re serving,” Briggs said.
When asked about the general success of the awareness campaigns on campus, Briggs said, “It’s difficult to get students involved.
However, the hunger banquet makes people get really excited. I feel successful because when you see people come back, you know they’re getting something out of it.”
When asked how much time she spends planning the events or inside the Wolfington Center, she said, “It really depends if there’s an event coming up, it could be anywhere from two to 10 hours. I’ll be there more next semester because of Project Appalachia.”
Briggs like many other students who work with the faculty of the Wolfington Center, has attended this trip at least one time.
These students aid people in declining rural areas mostly in home repairs for low-income families and limited home reconstruction.
The slogan the project itself goes by is, “Making homes warmer, safer and drier.”
“I’m excited about doing it again to see what else I can get from it,” Briggs said.
“Beth walks the walk,” Laver joked. Laver explains that she remembers seeing Briggs wearing sneakers made of used tires representing the fact that we all share this world and should only use what we need.
Briggs tries to wear clothing that does not exploit workers. “I’m pretty obsessive about my values. The one company I used to buy my shoes from is all sold out. My family tends to hate me around Christmas because I always want fair trade clothing or if I can’t get those, then clothes from thrift stores so that I’m not exploiting workers,” Briggs said.
Briggs is hoping to continue her education in graduate school and attain a doctorate in clinical psychology.
“I am curious and eager to be supportive of whatever Beth chooses in the future. I look forward to being surprised by her,” Laver said.