We Are ND https://weare.nd.edu en Mon, 26 Oct 2020 11:45:00 -0400 Keeping His Captain's Memory Alive More than 20 years after Demetrius DuBose '93 was shot and killed by police, former teammate John Kouris '96 seeks to keep is memory alive in new documentary film. Mon, 26 Oct 2020 11:45:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/keeping-his-captains-memory-alive/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/keeping-his-captains-memory-alive/ <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">When</span></span><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> John Kouris ’96</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> was a walk-on freshman on the Notre Dame football team, he couldn’t wait for the first game of the season. The Irish were playing Northwestern in Chicago and Kouris, who grew up in the Chicagoland area, was looking forward to having his family in the stands. But when he went to look at the list of players dressing for the game, his name was missing.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I just felt my heart sink into my stomach, and I started talking out loud to myself, saying, ‘You gotta quit,’” Kouris recalls. </span></span><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Demetrius DuBose ’93</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, the senior All-American linebacker and captain, happened to be in the hallway at the same time. Kouris had just spent weeks of two-a-day practices going head-to-head with DuBose — calling it “the equivalent of going up against a ram,” — and he was exhausted and discouraged. He returned to his room in Flanner Hall and then, a couple hours later, a knock sounded at the door.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“It’s Demetrius,” said Kouris. “And he said, ‘Listen, I’ve been hard on you and that’s gonna stop now. I’m gonna take you under my wing and I’m going to help you on the field. And if you need anything, you come see me.’ And I was just so touched. I don’t even know how he figured out where I lived.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“He told me, ‘You need to be about business and football,’” Kouris said. “I considered him a mentor and a guide and somebody I aspired to be like.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Now, 28 years after that first conversation — and amid a national reckoning on racial injustice — Kouris is making a documentary about DuBose’s life, which was cut short at age 28 when he was shot and killed by police in San Diego in July 1999. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">The circumstances around DuBose’s death, set into motion by a misunderstanding with a neighbor, are clouded in controversy. On the evening of July 24, 1999, DuBose had climbed onto a neighbor’s balcony for a better view of the sunset and then fell asleep on the premises. When the neighbor got home, he called the police, who showed up and said they were responding to a call about a burglary. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Though DuBose, his friend Randy West — who he was living with at the time —and the neighbor had nearly resolved the issue by the time the police arrived, the officers began questioning DuBose about his record, citing a disturbance charge at at South Bend bar in 1998 and an underage alcohol violation from college. DuBose cooperated and the officers told him he was not in any trouble, but they moved to handcuff him, anyway.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Witnesses say that DuBose resisted, and in the ensuing scuffle, was shot 13 times, including six times in the back. The two officers, who were white, said that DuBose had assumed a “linebacker’s stance” before charging at them, but witness testimonies provided conflicting information. Several stated that DuBose was turning away from the officers, while at least one placed him at least 10 feet away from them.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">In the ensuing days, demonstrations popped up all over San Diego as the Black community reacted to the news. DuBose’s mother, Jacqueline DuBose-Wright sued the city for wrongful death.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">While the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California ruled that the shooting was justified, a citizen review board ruled that the officers “did not exercise sufficient discretion” when they shot DuBose. Kouris says he wants the documentary to “rehumanize Demetrius in the public’s eye,” and tell the full story of his life, not just the violence in his final moments.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Kug1reS_kNQ?rel=0" width="640"></iframe></span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Back in the fall of 1992, struggling on the field was a new experience for Kouris, the son of a Big Ten football referee and tight end who had been recruited out of high school by Duke, North Carolina, and Western Michigan. But it had always been his dream to play at Notre Dame, so he came to South Bend to walk on and run through the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium. Adjusting to college and the pace of Division I football was tough, but DuBose helped make it easier.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I had never seen the level of athleticism. [Even] our fourth-string guys were incredible,” Kouris said. “Demetrius stood out, though. And it wasn’t just how he played — it was how he carried himself. He had an effervescent light around him. Students, faculty, people in the football office, the training staff and the managers — Demetrius was kin to all people, all walks of life.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">When Kouris interviewed friends from DuBose’s hometown of Seattle for the documentary, he heard similar stories about his time in high school.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“A couple of people were openly gay at his high school and they were ostracized, and what did Demetrius do? He goes and sits with them at lunch,” Kouris said. “He was the star of the school, and other people saw [him sit with them] and the issues stopped. He looked out for people who were overlooked.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">When DuBose was killed, Kouris was shocked and devastated. They hadn’t kept in close touch in the years since Notre Dame. DuBose played in the NFL for a couple years and then was in San Diego to start a career in beach volleyball. Kouris was working in the food distribution business in Chicago.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I couldn’t believe what I was reading — the newspaper articles were describing a dangerous, violent, drug-addled guy. And it didn’t feel right,” Kouris said. “Like so many other people, I said, ‘Why did they have to shoot him so many times?’ Rather than, ‘Why did they shoot him at all?’ — which should have been my thought.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">He saved the newspaper articles (“They’re yellow now,”), and revisited them when similar stories began gaining mainstream attention in recent years.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“When Michael Brown was killed [by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014], that set me off, and I became obsessed with Demetrius’ story. [I said] ‘You gotta do this, no matter the cost.’” So he started working on the documentary.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Kouris, who went to film school before working in the food industry, got in touch with DuBose’s mother through friends to get her blessing and the family’s support for the film. He’s been working on the film in his spare time, during nights and weekends, for years, interviewing DuBose’s family members, Notre Dame and NFL teammates, friends, and former significant others. After 35 interviews, he is in the process of editing 55 hours of footage into a documentary.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Kouris is the director and is working with a director of photography, plus friends and family have pitched in to help film interviews. They are also in talks with production companies to distribute the film. He’s put his own money into the project, as well as donations from friends and Notre Dame teammates. Kouris says the goal is to release the documentary either by the end of 2020, or on what would have been DuBose’s 50th birthday: March 23, 2021. They’ll host a screening in Seattle for family and friends (pending safety regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic). Not only is it important to him that DuBose’s story be told, but Kouris also wants the film to contribute to the current national conversation about racial injustice.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“It needs to be a film that raises our collective consciousness as a world. My hope is that Demetrius’ beautiful spirit will shine through this project and will get everyone to stop what we’re doing right now, because my children — I can’t have them in a world like this,” said Kouris, who is pictured holding DuBose’s jersey with his son, Lucius.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“There is no justice — he’s gone. No matter what we do, it won’t bring him back, but I want people to feel him when they’re seeing this [film] and maybe he can always be alive if this keeps playing. It’s important for us to come together around our captain, around his story, and I’m just a part of it.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"> </p> Building A Brotherhood on the Slopes After a lifetime creating opportunities for Black skiers, Ben Finley '60 is set to enter the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame. Mon, 12 Oct 2020 08:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/building-a-brotherhood-on-the-slopes-2/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/building-a-brotherhood-on-the-slopes-2/ <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">In March, in Sun Valley, Idaho, 600 Black skiers decked in neon gear zoom down the snow-covered mountain. They’re there for the Black Summit, an annual event hosted by the National Brotherhood of Skiers, and to honor the organization's founders, among them, </span></span><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Ben Finley ’60</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Finley, along with the Brotherhood’s co-founder, Art Clay, will be the first Black Americans inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. (Though originally set to be enshrined in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the postponement and ultimate cancellation of this year’s event.) Their work has introduced tens of thousands of Black skiers and snowboarders to the sport and garnered millions of dollars for the winter sports industry. It has also built an impressive network of 3,500 member Black skiers and snowboarders in more than 50 clubs nationwide. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Finley looks around at the hundreds of assembled guests and is humbled. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“This was not envisioned in any way,” Finley emphatically states. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Rather, he laughs, the route from his hometown in Harlem, New York, to his upcoming Hall of Fame induction was often shaped by persuasive women. It was a woman who pointed him to Notre Dame, and another who strapped him to his first pair of skis, two of the defining moments of his life.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">While it was the priests at All Hallows, Finley’s all-boys Catholic high school, who required an application to at least one Catholic college, it was his teenage girlfriend who pushed him to select Notre Dame. At decision time, he was torn between the University of Colorado and the University of Notre Dame, but she was more decisive: “I would rather tell my friends you went to Notre Dame instead of the University of Colorado,” he recalls she said. He reasoned the stricter, all-male community would also encourage him to buckle down and do well in engineering, so off to Notre Dame he went.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">There, Finley was one of the first African-American students, an experience he recalls in the anthology </span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic">Black Domers: African-American Students at Notre Dame in Their Own Words</em></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">. During those formative years, the Civil Rights Movement picked up momentum. Inspired by its work, and supported by Rev. Theodore Hesburgh C.S.C., Finley set up a civil rights committee at Notre Dame, thus beginning his work fighting for opportunities for Black people. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Years later, Finley would co-found the Black Alumni of Notre Dame, and would be instrumental in recruiting more than 150 Black students, including his sons, to Notre Dame. His work helped win him the William D. Reynolds Award from the Alumni Association in 2000, which is “conferred on alumni doing exceptional work with youth for the betterment of their quality of life.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">He’d also bring that commitment to creating opportunities in skiing.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">In 1963, Finley and a girlfriend were camping in Yosemite National Park. On their way out of the park, they stopped to have margaritas at the base of a ski area. Watching people zip down the mountain, his partner expressed interest in learning to ski.</span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“The first thing that went through my mind were dollar bills and broken legs,” he laughs. But then he made her a deal: If she would get her scuba certification and join the scuba diving club he led, he’d take ski lessons. Six weeks later, she had passed her ocean check-out, and he was strapped to a pair of skis. The first four lessons were a little shaky, but then he was hooked.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“The exhilaration of flying down a hill on six-foot boards, at 20 miles per hour, hoping you wouldn’t kill yourself, it was just fun! It was different,” Finley says.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">After he learned to ski, Finley wanted to get other Black skiers onto the slopes. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">He asked around for fellow adventurers at the local community center near his home in California with the hope of assembling a group of 12 so they could get a group discount. Thirty-two beginners with no ski experience asked to join — enough for a charter bus to take them to and from the mountain. From there, the group started Four Seasons West Ski Club of Los Angeles, a predominately Black ski group, which has introduced thousands of Californians to winter sports.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">In 1972, Finley met Art Clay, then the trip director of the Sno-Gophers Ski Club of Chicago. Together, they decided to invite skiers from 13 Black ski clubs from around the country to gather together to ski, socialize, and discuss issues pertinent to Black skiers. A year later, in 1973, 350 of them gathered in Aspen, Colorado, for the first Black Summit. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Finley recounts that the first gathering was shrouded in uncertainty and anticipation. “We agreed we would sneak into Aspen because at that time in history we were not sure that Aspen, Colorado, the ski Mecca of America, was ready to have Black folks descend upon it.” Later he learned that the governor had put the National Guard on standby, but they were never called. Instead, the people of Aspen encouraged the group to return often, Finley says.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">From that first Summit came the National Brotherhood of Skiers (NBS), a nonprofit dedicated to its annual social gathering and to getting young Black kids onto the slopes to achieve the NBS mission: “To identify, develop, and support athletes of color who will win international and Olympic winter sports competitions representing the United States.” NBS members have also competed and medaled in the Paralympics.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I was put on this earth to change people’s lives and to introduce them to things they have never been introduced to,” Finley says. “If you look at what I’ve done and have been recognized for, it’s always changing people’s lives.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">He’s hesitant to take too much credit though. He says the tribute and all the thanks has been so humbling. At the time, he says, he was just looking for a good time himself; then the snowball started rolling.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“It’s amazing what happens when you’re just having fun and can produce an event with an organization with a mission and a spirit to bring thousands of people to the mountain,” Finley says.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">He still makes it onto the mountain, too, both with the NBS and on his home turf on Mammoth Mountain in California.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“At 81 years old, I average 15 days a year on skis,” he pauses then jokes, “but I don’t know how much longer I can do this!” </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">He’s modest. In his retirement from a career in engineering weapons systems, he has taken up sailing instruction and is still chasing adventure from the Greek isles, to Tonga, to Thailand. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">In April 2021 his travels will take him to Snowmass, Colorado, this time for his official induction ceremony into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic">The induction ceremony was originally scheduled for March 28, 2020, but has been canceled in light of the coronavirus pandemic.</em></span></p> Strengthening His Community Amid Crisis and Loss Despite a devastating loss, Global Health alum uses his passion for service to strengthen his community. Mon, 28 Sep 2020 09:30:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/strengthening-his-community-amid-crisis-and-loss/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/strengthening-his-community-amid-crisis-and-loss/ <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Growing up in Cameroon, </span></span><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Desmond Jumbam ‘16 M.S.</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> formed deep ties to his community and developed a drive to create better lives for others and to care for those around him. These values have not only impacted his career path but continue to prompt him to fight for justice in his home country.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">In 2010, Jumbam started pursuing his interest in science. He moved to the United States with the help of his aunts Anne and Loveline Shey and family friends Sue and Patrick Schmidt and June and Alfred Barrow to study biotechnology at Delaware Technical Community College. He then studied biology on the pre-med track at Taylor University, thinking medicine was a secure career choice. In reflecting on the public health system in Cameroon, however, he shifted his focus.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“You need to find ways to prevent diseases. You have to find ways to improve the raw health care system, which is very poor. People are extremely poor, so they cannot afford the health services, and a lot of the hospitals are run-down. This is how my interest in public health came about.” </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Jumbam was accepted into Notre Dame’s Master of Science in Global Health program and went on to be a Health Policy Analyst in the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change at Harvard University. He also worked at Boston Children’s Hospital. Jumbam is now a health policy advisor at </span></span><a href="https://www.operationsmile.org/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">Operation Smile</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, which provides cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">It is clear from his career choices that his passions lie in serving others, but while his education and career led him across the globe, his heart has remained in Cameroon. That feeling has only grown as civil war in the country has intensified over the last several years. At the end of 2016, tensions between the minority Anglophone population and the Francophone majority boiled over as a result of years of economic and political marginalization of Anglophone communities. The crisis has led to the looting and burning of villages, as well as the death and displacement of thousands of Anglophones. (Read more on the Anglophone conflict </span></span><a href="https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon/250-cameroons-anglophone-crisis-crossroads"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">here</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">.)</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">This crisis hit home this past March with the loss of Jumbam’s father, a local councilor in Oku, a subdivision in North West Region, Cameroon. On his way home from organizing legislative elections, the elder Jumbam — along with eight other councilors — was ambushed and beheaded by separatist fighters. Five more were taken hostage. His mother, Seh Rebecca, had to bury her husband without his head and Jumbam, who was in Ghana at the time, could not attend his own father’s burial because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">While his father’s death was devastating, particularly as he grieved alone, Jumbam resolved to make his mother smile. So, he posted his story on the crowdfunding site </span></span><a href="https://www.mightycause.com/story/Bqts1g"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">MightyCause</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> to raise money for school tuition for children, food, medical care, and “financial aid for starting small businesses for sustainable living” for those financially affected by the ongoing crisis.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“It took a lot for me to do that. Just writing about it and putting it out there is not an easy thing,” Jumbam said, “After a few months, I finally got the courage to write that story, and I put it on MightyCause. I was just amazed by the response that we got. What was amazing about that was how much support and love I got from friends from high school, friends from Delaware, friends from Taylor, Notre Dame, Harvard, and strangers. That was the most moving part to me. I kept updating my mom. My goal was primarily to make her smile. When I told her that, she was just so happy. She was smiling and dancing and just ecstatic. I just love that.”</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Seh Rebecca also felt that the cause was bigger than herself. She realized that she was in a position to support the other women affected by similar circumstances — those who were struggling to make ends meet. </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“We all had different goals,” Jumbam said. “My goal was to give my mom hope after such a horrible loss. Her goal was to help the women who had it worse than she did. And others came to support me and my mom but also to support other women who had been horribly afflicted.”</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">A month ago, his mother arranged for about 20 women — from both the North West and South West regions of Cameroon — to gather over two days. The first day was for women to share their experiences, and the second day was a small business workshop. </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“The stories that they told; it is the most heartbreaking you could hear. A lot of these women had not told their stories to anyone before. They have not had time to have closure and mourn properly. They cried together; we had a grief counselor there. That was extremely powerful. The second day was for the tools they needed to build their lives. We wanted to give them the resources they needed to go back and start their livelihoods again. We had small business training. We brought women from our communities who had small businesses and they shared advice on how to succeed. My mom and the other women volunteering had them talk through their ideas. Finally, we provided them with capital, so they can go and start their business. Many of them have already started running businesses for themselves.”</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">The way that Jumbam handled his loss reaffirmed his dedication to community and finding ways to share our common humanity. To Jumbam, this extends beyond family.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“You have to value your family, your friends, your fellow human being,” he said. “But I also realize there is injustice that prevails. You also have to fight for justice when you see things happening like they are in Cameroon, in the U.S., and in a lot of parts of the world. You have to be determined because those injustices will be there. (It is important to be) in solidarity with your fellow human being. We have to find ways to relieve suffering, especially when it is unjust.”</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Jumbam is currently in Ghana and continues to work with Operation Smile. His mom still talks to the other widows on the phone each night, and the two of them are starting the Jumbam Family Foundation in honor of his father.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“The goal is to help other widows, to get children back to school, and to help women get back on their feet.</span></span></p> Making Healthy Eating Accessible — and Delicious Alumna uses platform to make healthy eating accessible, affordable, and delicious. Tue, 15 Sep 2020 08:25:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/making-healthy-eating-accessible-and-delicious/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/making-healthy-eating-accessible-and-delicious/ <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Erin Clarke ’08</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> learned to bake in her Grammy’s kitchen on summer afternoons.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“Every Thursday, she would pick my sisters and me up and had picked out a different dessert recipe for us to make together. When we were little, we did pretty simple things, like cookies and simple cakes, but by the end of high school, we were able to make chocolate mousse and more complicated frosted and filled cakes,” says Clarke, who grew up in Wichita, Kansas. “She is the one who definitely instilled in me my sweet tooth, but she also taught me how to read and follow a recipe. On the other side of my family, my Grandma was an avid baker, too, and taught us how to prepare cookies and yeast breads. I learned from them not only the beginnings of how to make a recipe, but also the special, lasting impact of memories created in the kitchen.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Today, Clarke is the creator of the blog Well Plated</span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> and author of The Well Plated Cookbook</span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, both of which are dedicated to making healthy eating affordable, accessible, and delicious. Inspired by the comfort foods of her childhood, Clarke set out to make some of those classic recipes healthier, or put a new twist on them. She started the blog in 2012 as a hobby, sharing the budget-friendly recipes she created while her husband, </span></span><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Ben Clarke ’08</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, was in law school. Now the site has grown to include more than 1,300 recipes and receives millions of visitors every month, along with the cookbook and an Instagram account with nearly 140,000 followers.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I identified a need. People wanted to eat healthy meals but they didn’t have a lot of time to cook them and were also craving deliciousness,” she says. “I realized I didn’t need to spend a ton of money or seek out fancy ingredients to make healthy food that people are really going to like. I leaned into that idea and developed a niche for creating healthy recipes that taste great, are made with ingredients that you can find at any grocery store, preferably can be ready  in under 45 minutes, and dirty as few dishes as possible. Making healthy eating easy, accessible, affordable, and delicious — that is what Well Plated is all about.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Clarke went from her Grammy’s kitchen in Wichita to cooking in the basement kitchen in her dorm, Lyons Hall, and says she also liked to whip up creations at mealtime in South Dining Hall. Clarke recalls one December when she doubled the recipe for Grammy’s famous Christmas sugar cookies and, “it just got out of control. The cookies were cooling all over — not just the entire Lyons kitchen, but the entire basement area, the couches, everywhere. If you knew me, if we had a class together, you’ve probably eaten those cookies.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Many of the same friends who ate those Christmas cookies helped out as recipe testers for The Well Plated Cookbook, which was published in August 2020. Clarke, who lives in Milwaukee, has cooked live on Good Morning America from her home kitchen, and been featured in People magazine and on Wisconsin Public Radio. As her blog following has grown and publicity rolled in from the cookbook, Clarke says she keeps the focus on being of service to her readers and that, “at the end of the day, it’s all about relationships and community.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“Notre Dame taught me the value of relationships, having a heart for service and keeping that at the forefront,” Clarke says. “You might ask, ‘Running a website, what does that have to do with serving others?’ But for me, sharing healthy recipes that make life easier provides a service and helps create community around the table.”.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I’ve gone from having four people reading my recipes to having millions of people that read them every single month, but that genuine love for sharing food online for others has not changed. It will never get old to me that people make my recipes and bring them to life in their kitchens.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">And so many readers are making her recipes because Clarke makes every effort to remove barriers to cooking healthy recipes at home. Her blog posts include step-by-step videos and suggestions for substitutions if you don’t have certain ingredients on hand, as well as options to adapt a recipe for certain dietary needs, like for gluten free or paleo diets. And she ends the posts with tips for storing, reheating, and freezing the dish.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Clarke, who was a marketing major at Notre Dame, started Well Plated in 2012, at a time when blogs were just starting to gain popularity, but it wasn’t necessarily a career move.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“Nowadays, there are people who get into blogging with the idea that it might be an income. When I started, that did not exist,” says Clarke, who worked for Target’s corporate headquarters and as a consultant before making Well Plated her full-time gig in the fall of 2014.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I was really scared. I had only worked in strictly structured business environments where your career path is fairly set. And then you get into blogging and it is just a completely different mindset,” she says. “I would say that it took me a full year to get used to it and now I love working for myself. Whereas before, I found it very intimidating not to have a clear path set for me, now I find it very exciting that I get to identify opportunities and determine what the path will be.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">A typical week at Well Plated includes one or two days in the kitchen, perfecting recipes and taking photos and videos of the finished products. The rest of the time, Clarke spends on the online aspect of the business, writing content and using search engine optimization to track her site’s performance and analyze trends to see what kind of recipes people need or are interested in, so she can brainstorm what she’ll cook next.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“We’ve been tricked into thinking that enjoying a healthy diet means that we need to spend a ton of time in the kitchen or we need to spend a lot of money. Cooking can be intimidating and eating healthy can be intimidating, and it doesn’t have to be,” Clarke says. “Or we think, well, if I’m going to eat healthy, it has to be bland chicken or sad salads with dressing on the side. Life is just too short for that. I believe that healthy food and healthy recipes should be accessible to everyone. When you make something that you are proud of and it can nourish you and nourish your family, that is just wonderful. The fact that I can be part of making that a reality more often for people by removing those barriers is just so inspiring and exciting to me.”</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">To make some of Erin’s recipes or check out the cookbook, visit </span></span><a href="https://www.wellplated.com/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">wellplated.com</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">.</span></span></p> Building A Catholic Worker Community in Charlottesville Couple has dedicated themselves to offering affordable housing and a stable community at their Catholic Worker urban homestead in Charlottesville, Virginia. Tue, 08 Sep 2020 08:00:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/building-a-catholic-worker-community-in-charlottesville/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/building-a-catholic-worker-community-in-charlottesville/ <p style="margin-top:19px; padding:0pt 0pt 4pt"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Laura and </span></span><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Steve Brown ’95</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> had always had a heart for service. The couple met while volunteering in Hartford, Connecticut, and later moved their young family to South America, where they served with the </span></span><a href="https://mklm.org/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">Maryknoll Lay Missioners</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">So when they moved to Charlottesville in 2009 with their three daughters, they wanted to find a way to integrate their faith and values into their daily work. To do so, they hoped to build support for a </span></span><a href="https://www.catholicworker.org/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">Catholic Worker</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> community.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">The Catholic Worker Movement was founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin during the Great Depression. Today, more than 200 Catholic Worker communities strive to “live in accordance with the justice and charity of Jesus Christ.”</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/mZV-AfZJsJU?rel=0" width="640"></iframe></span></span></p> <p style="margin-top:19px; padding:0pt 0pt 4pt"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">The Browns expected that starting a Charlottesville community might take years, but they didn’t have long to wait. They soon discovered a life-changing opportunity to serve families seeking affordable housing. Within months of returning, they had scrounged together the money for a down payment on three dilapidated homes in one of the city’s poorer neighborhoods, and they began working with volunteers to rehab the dwellings.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Now, more than a decade later, the Browns, with the help of volunteers and residents, have transformed the property into a bucolic urban homestead that reflects the Catholic Worker principles they hold dear: Seeking God first, loving one’s neighbor by responding to the immediate needs of the poor, and living simply and caring for creation.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">The Browns live in one of the renovated homes and over the years have welcomed more than a dozen families into the two adjacent houses of hospitality. Guests arrive seeking a safe, quiet, and affordable place to live that allows them to transition from a challenging situation, save money, and plan for the future. </span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“The range of experiences of families who come here to stay at </span></span><a href="http://www.casa-alma.org/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">Casa Alma</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> is pretty broad,” Steve says. “We've had three families that have been in the pipeline to receive Habitat housing. So they’ve come in here with the knowledge that at the end of their time here they were going to be moving into their own home. For other families, it could be that they have been living in the house of somebody that they know. It might be a family of four, a mom and three kids, sleeping on a sofa. They have no real control over the front door of a place like that. People are coming in and out, and they're dependent on the host for everything, and that’s a very unstable situation.”</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Casa Alma’s houses of hospitality provide these families a place to catch their breath. Guests choose how much they can afford to pay for rent, and no one has ever paid more than $100 per month. They now have money to spend on medical and dental needs, and they become healthier. They start to save for the future. And they live in community, working alongside the Browns and volunteers to tend and harvest a variety of seasonal crops that grow well in Charlottesville’s climate — everything from strawberries, bush cherries, and currants to kale and sweet potatoes. Over time, they transition into their next home. But many return to visit and to volunteer at the place that provided their family with a much-needed respite.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Casa Alma has also provided the Browns with opportunities to connect with others who are seeking to build a better world — everyone from fellow urban farmers and affordable housing advocates to people looking for opportunities to explore social justice through conversation, prayer, and reflection. After the well-publicized white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville in 2017, the Browns organized multiple opportunities for local residents to draw on their faith and confront racism together.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Together, the Browns continue to appreciate the opportunities they have found to live in community and use their talents to help others. </span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I think it's a real privilege to accompany the guests who stay in our hospitality houses,” Laura says. “We really get to hear the details of their lives before they came to Casa Alma and learn a lot about the struggles that they face, the ways in which they come up against systematic injustice, and what that looks like in their life, and in their kids' lives. They're giving us the opportunity to accompany them, and leverage some of the resources that we have, whether that's our education, contacts, or just being able to steward this place, and make it safe and welcoming.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“That really feels like a privilege, and I really enjoy it, because I get to know people and am invited into their lives. I wouldn't have the opportunity to know people at the same depth if we weren't living so closely together, and sharing parts of our lives together.”</span></span></p> What’s Within You Drive to break barriers motivates alum in nonprofit work to "unleash the potential of the human spirit." Mon, 17 Aug 2020 08:30:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/whats-within-you/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/whats-within-you/ <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">When I was younger, I had a stubborn speech impediment that made my R sounds come out as L’s. The problem persisted into middle school and I remember a theater instructor telling me that I would need to change my lines so that the audience wouldn’t laugh at me. While she may have thought she was looking out for me, she planted the first seeds of insecurity and shame around a challenge that I was trying hard to overcome. </span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">I developed systems that I thought would help. In reading class, when we would take turns reading aloud from a book, I would read a page ahead of the class so I could identify the paragraphs in which there weren't any R words and then raised my hand vigorously to read that paragraph. While that avoidance strategy worked most of the time, it was only pushing me closer to the sidelines of the life that I wanted to live and farther away from the person I wanted to be.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Throughout middle school, I worked diligently with my speech therapist to re-train my tongue to find a different way to make the R sound. It worked! Within a few years, I had not only trained myself how to make the R sound, I had learned that my struggle had made me a stronger person. While my adversity was relatively minimal during my adolescence, this experience planted a new seed. I became fascinated with stories of resilience and the capacity of the human potential. </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">For almost two decades, I have served as the board chairman of nonprofit </span></span><a href="http://nobarriersusa.org/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">No Barriers</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, an organization I co-founded with a mission that inspires me every day, to unleash the potential of the human spirit. We serve tens of thousands of people from all walks of life — wounded veterans, business executives, students, caretakers, people with disabilities, people facing discrimination, people struggling with grief, and many others. </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Our primary method of working with people comes in the form of immersive experiences in which we share our educational framework through activities like hikes, retreats, concerts, and outdoor adventures. Recognizing that our in-person activities are only able to impact a small fraction of the millions of people that could potentially benefit from our work — most especially since the COVID-19 pandemic hit — we have created a suite of tools to help folks break through barriers in their daily lives, including an online learning platform, a weekly podcast, and most recently, a new book, </span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic">What’s Within You</em></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, which I co-wrote over the past year.</span></span></p> <figure class="image-right"><img alt="Lillig 2" height="369" src="/assets/399436/lillig_2.jpg" width="600"></figure> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">No Barriers has been featured on The Today Show, NPR, and in The New York Times, in part, because the work we are doing is relevant to what people are desperately seeking in their lives. No Barriers operates at the intersection of two fundamental questions that have been at the heart of the human condition since the beginning of time: 1. What is my purpose? and 2. How can I overcome the barriers in my way? Through our work, we provide a roadmap to help people navigate the gap between our idealistic aspirations for a life of purpose and the realistic barriers that often get in the way.</span></span></p> <figure class="image-right"> </figure> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Over the years, we have worked closely with researchers to help evaluate the impact of our program on our participants. What we have learned is that 95 percent of all No Barriers participants say that our programs changed their lives forever. We are especially excited to continue to teach people </span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">how to break through their challenges and live a driven, purposeful life, </span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">in an accessible, low-cost, and scalable way.</span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">On a personal level, what has fueled my own journey has been my desire to move closer to my purpose. Throughout all of my life, I have been driven by a message I learned from my parents and later at Notre Dame, to be “a force for good” in my family, my relationships, and my work. Since I graduated in 1995 with a double major in Italian literature and economics, I have sought to weave the message into both my work relationships and the marketing campaigns I create for global organizations like U.S. Soccer, the Kellogg Company, Snap-on Tools, and the Peace Corps. </span></span><br> <br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">In my work with No Barriers, I have had the opportunity to climb mountains with world-famous barrier-breakers like co-founder Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to summit Mt. Everest, and collaborate on projects with Mandy Harvey, the deaf singer-songwriter who captivated the nation by earning the golden buzzer on America’s Got Talent. What is most rewarding to me is to be a part of the No Barriers community where we drop our defenses at the door and acknowledge the pain, the scars, and the fear that each of us carries; and tell ourselves and each other “we got this” as we reach toward our next goal. It is through our process that we not only move closer to achieving our vision, but also to the “rope team” of friends who have supported, guided us, prayed for us, and willed us forward on the journey.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">All of us face challenges and all of us need tools, inspiration, and community to overcome these very real barriers in our lives. And as hard as this is to believe, most of us are never taught what the tools are, nor are we equipped to use these tools. Whether it be next month or next year or next decade, it is my hope that our No Barriers organization can serve as a useful resource for you or someone you love. Like the thousands of participants we serve every year, I hope you’ll come to discover the guiding principle of our organization:</span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic"> “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in your way”</em></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">I think back to middle school and I remember a day when I had been teased by some classmates for my R. My speech therapist, Mrs. Bork, was outraged and declared, “This is unacceptable. No one in this school will ever make fun of you again.” What Mrs. Bork gave me that day was the affirmation that not only do my feelings matter, but they are worth fighting for. One year later, I was voted to give a speech at graduation. </span></span></p> <p><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">I left all the R’s in.</span></span></p> <p style="background-clip:padding-box; border-bottom:solid #000000 1.5pt; padding:0pt 0pt 1pt 0pt"> </p> <p><br> <span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><strong>Tom Lillig '95</strong> is the Board Chairman of No Barriers USA and co-author of</span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic"> </em></span><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Within-You-Roadmap-Barriers-ebook/dp/B089QVLWGR"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">What’s Within You: Your Roadmap to Living Life with No Barriers</span></span></em></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> (KenilworthLore Publishing) which launches on September 15. The book, already an e-book bestseller, has received early praise from Dr. Jane Goodall and ABC journalist Bob Woodruff, as well as Notre Dame legends Lou Holtz and Rudy Ruettiger. Tom runs the Chicago office of Stone Ward, a creative agency dedicated to building good.</span></span></p> <p><span style="white-space:pre-wrap"><em>Top photo credit: Marcus Norman</em></span></p> Using Code to Expand Educational and Career Opportunities Alumna makes technology education more accessible at South Bend Code School. Mon, 03 Aug 2020 08:15:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/expanding-educational-and-career-opportunities-through-coding/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/expanding-educational-and-career-opportunities-through-coding/ <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Drop in to an after-school coding class at </span></span><a href="https://southbendcodeschool.com/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">South Bend Code School</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, and you’ll find a distinct start-up vibe. Their location at the downtown South Bend Technology Resource Center has an open floor plan, with laptops set up on tables and whiteboards covered in sticky notes to track tasks and progress.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“You’ll see our students, even seven-year-olds, writing out what their goals are for the project they are working on,” says co-founder Alexandra “Alex” (Liggins) Sejdinaj ’15. “It looks adorable, but they are also doing amazing work to build out the ideas and visions they have.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">It’s all part of South Bend Code School’s mission of making technology education more equitable and accessible. Even for kids as young as seven, who learn foundational coding concepts and problem solving by building their own websites and online games. Sejdinaj and her two co-founders, her husband, Alex Sejdinaj, and Chris Frederick, started Code School in 2015, offering after-school coding classes for kids and teens aged 7-18.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Code, or the language that computers use to complete tasks, is an integral part of everyday life, from Google searches to video games to the checkout system at a grocery store. Sejdinaj thinks of coding as a “great equalizer,” because it offers the potential for career growth, skill-building, and fun.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I’ve seen so many bright minds really succeed in coding, when they haven’t felt like they have had that opportunity elsewhere — someone who doesn’t feel like the traditional academic environment serves them well,” she says. “Coding is also super open-ended in what you want to build or learn. There is a different coding language depending on what your end goal is, whether you’re wanting to build a website or program a calendar or build a video game.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><iframe allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-1KYGfbub-M" width="560"></iframe></span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">The teens in Code School classes have been using the virtual reality (VR) equipment to create their own virtual reality video games. All the technology equipment, from everyday laptops to the high-tech VR tools, is provided for the students – another key element to making the programming accessible. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“They just have to bring themselves,” says Sejdinaj, who was named one of the 2020 Michiana Forty Under 40 by the South Bend Regional Chamber and Young Professionals Network South Bend.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">After finding success with their South Bend location, Code School expanded to other cities in Indiana, including Bloomington, Elkhart, and Ft. Wayne. They also offer scholarships for students who might not be able to afford the classes. </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Down the road, Sejdinaj says they have plans to expand into more cities in the region, as well as partner with more schools to bring coding opportunities into more classrooms and help teachers implement state computer science education requirements. Both of Sejdinaj’s co-founders have worked in information technology at Notre Dame, and since creating South Bend Code School, the trio has also formed two other companies: </span></span><a href="https://sbcodeworks.com/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">Code Works</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, a digital product studio, and </span></span><a href="https://givegrove.com/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">GiveGrove</span></span></span></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">, a fundraising platform for nonprofits.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“When I talk to different entrepreneurs, I hear a lot of people say how scary it was for them to start off, not knowing if it’s going to work out or not. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel that way to me — it felt like, ‘What do you have to lose by trying this?’” she says. “Notre Dame’s environment really helped to foster that attitude for me. I can still remember being on campus and how it was encouraged to forge your own path and make a difference. It was constantly talked about, among my friends, as well as professors. You wanted to make sure that you were also doing your part.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Sejdinaj started as a preprofessional studies major at Notre Dame, and, at first, thought that going to medical school and becoming a doctor was going to be her path to making a difference. But when she wasn’t enjoying the premed classes, her advisor suggested she hone in on the courses she enjoyed and major in that, so she switched to English. Then, while tutoring South Bend high school students, she noticed how students who weren’t planning on going to college perceived a lack of opportunities for themselves post-graduation. The idea for Code School was born out of wanting to help those students — Sejdinaj had figured out how her new career path would help others.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:16px; margin-top:16px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“All three [of our companies] being so mission-focused is the biggest motivator,” she says. “With Code School, being able to help kids learn; with Code Works, to be able to solve technology needs for an entrepreneur or a company; and then with GiveGrove, being able to help nonprofits succeed in their mission by making it easier for them to fundraise. All three feel really great, and I get to do it all with my husband, as well as a really great team.”</span></span></p> Fighting for Asylum Seekers in the Legal System Law School alum and adjunct professor practices immigration law and provides pro bono assistance to asylum seekers in Texas. Tue, 21 Jul 2020 08:45:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/fighting-for-asylum-seekers-in-the-legal-system/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/fighting-for-asylum-seekers-in-the-legal-system/ <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">Between hours spent in courtrooms and in classrooms,<strong> Rudy Monterrosa ’01 J.D</strong>. has a lot of experience with immigration. But his knowledge on the subject is not strictly academic – it started in his own home.</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">“Growing up with an immigrant family, immigration was always a big topic,” Monterrosa says. “Well, not a big topic. It was just our reality.”</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">Monterrosa was born in San Francisco, California, but his father and mother came from El Salvador and Mexico, respectively. Watching how hard they worked to build a life for their family inspired Monterrosa to dedicate his own life to immigration, but it wasn’t until he saw a Latino attorney at a youth leadership conference that he knew exactly what form that mission would take.</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">After graduating from Notre Dame Law School in 2001, Monterrosa opened up his own law practice in South Bend and began working as an immigration attorney. He also continued working with the Notre Dame Law School, co-teaching through their Public Defender Externship Program and, in 2015, he became an adjunct professor to teach a course on immigration law. Monterrosa remains honored to share his passion for service and justice with the next generation of lawyers, but 2015 was not an easy time to become an immigration law professor. In the last few years, Monterrosa has had to quickly adapt his teachings to keep up with changing policies.</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">“It literally felt like every week something else was coming up that you had to talk about in class that wasn’t in the textbook. There were changes constantly happening.” Monterrosa says. “And then we started seeing what the administration was calling these ‘migrant caravans.’ They weren’t migrant caravans but mothers and children coming here and seeking asylum, doing things lawfully.” </span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">It was seeing news coverage like this that drove Monterrosa to act. “I felt like we had an obligation – especially with Notre Dame because we look out for our community – to be involved. To not just talk about it and tell people that we should support this issue, but that we should actually do something about it,” he says.</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">So in Christmastime of 2018, Monterrosa and his wife, Cecilia Lopez Monterrosa, who is also an attorney, found a new way to celebrate the holiday. “We thought – Jesus was a refugee, and if we’re going to celebrate his birthday, what better gift to give back to your community than to go somewhere and help these women and children that were detained?”</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">Monterrosa and his wife traveled with three law students — <strong>Dr. Rolando Rengifo ’20 J.D</strong>., <strong>Lauren Andrini ’19 J.D.,</strong> and <strong>Geo </strong><strong>Ibañez ’19 J.D.</strong> — and local community organizer Jesusa Rivera down to Dilley, Texas, to work with the Dilley Pro Bono Project, an organization that provides free legal counsel to immigrant mothers and their children who are detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. Monterrosa and the other volunteers helped prepare the women for their credible fear interviews during which asylum seekers must present why they are unable to return to their home country in order to be released from detention. Many of the women were fleeing gang violence and would face threats of assault, rape, or even death if deported. Indigenous women from Guatemala, who aren’t well protected by the Guatemalan government, were an especially vulnerable population, and Monterrosa saw many of them at the Dilley detention center in 2018.</span><br>  </p> <figure class="image-right"><img alt="Rudy 1" height="373" src="/assets/396298/600x373/rudy_1.jpg" width="600"></figure> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">“I remember that everybody had the same uniform – jumpsuits and Crocs. Bright orange Crocs that they would wear. But I remember one woman who was able to make a makeshift cradle out of the blanket that she had, and she had her baby behind her back, like what you would see when you visit Guatemala. There are indigenous women carrying their children like that,” he remembers. “And so when I saw that — I guess it broke my heart, right? I understood that these women would’ve remained in their country and were just happy living there, because they’ve <em>been </em>there. These were people that spoke Mam and Quiché, which are indigenous languages, languages that have been around for 4,000 years. And so then having these traditions, I imagine that were it not for this persecution, they would’ve remained in their country. But they came here seeking protection from the United States.”</span></p> <p><span style="text-autospace:none">But for Monterrosa and the other volunteers at the Dilley Project, the goal wasn’t exactly to protect these women. It was to empower them. With the help of bilingual volunteers like Monterrosa, the women learned their rights and how to present their cases most effectively. Monterrosa says the women were largely successful in presenting their claims, but the process became more difficult when he volunteered again in 2019 — this time with Anayeli Miranda-Perdomo J.D.<strong> </strong>and law student <strong>Grace Nickels ’20 J.D.</strong> — after policies had become more restrictive. When an asylum seeker’s claim is denied by an asylum officer, they can appeal the decision in front of a judge. In 2018, Monterrosa didn’t have to appeal any decisions in court, but in 2019 he had six cases that went before a judge. They won five of those cases, but Monterrosa says that the Dilley Project’s approach seeks to uplift even those who are met with denials. “They would tell these women — you are a person, you have value, and that we’re here together and we’re here to support you. So then I think even if cases didn’t exactly go the way that we wanted them to, at least we were giving these women hope and inspiration to keep fighting.”</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">It’s this assertion of value and personhood that Monterrosa worries gets lost in the national discussions about immigration. “When you hear people talk about immigration in the media or on a national platform, it’s always immigrants, asylees, or refugees. It’s always nameless, almost not humane. And when you start getting into a political discourse, that’s why people start using terms like illegals or illegal aliens, as opposed to — this is somebody who has a name, this is somebody who has a life, this is somebody who’s human.”</span></p> <p><span style="tab-stops:436.5pt">Although Monterrosa is encouraged, by the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he notes that it’s not a permanent, comprehensive fix. He finds hope, however, in the power of the many organizations that helped keep DACA protected. </span></p> <p>“It was because of the work that partners, community advocates, and different stakeholders in the country did. So I’m optimistic that organizations like the Dilley Pro Bono Project, the (National Immigrant Justice Center), the NAACP, the ACLU, the Dreamer’s Alliance are not going to be taking anything sitting down, and we’ll still continue to fight the good fight.<strong>”</strong></p> Making Math Education Fun and Accessible in Latin America "I want people to continue to discover the beauty and the richness of mathematics. And in this way, we can improve math education in Panama and in the world." Mon, 29 Jun 2020 09:10:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/making-math-education-fun-and-accessible-in-latin-america/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/making-math-education-fun-and-accessible-in-latin-america/ <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><strong style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:700; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Jeanette Shakalli ’07</span></strong><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> loves math, but she knows not everybody shares her enthusiasm.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“Every time I tell somebody that I love math, they say something like, ‘That was my worst subject!’ or, ‘I’ve never been good at math,’” says Shakalli, a native of Panama.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">So, to change their minds, Shakalli created the Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics (FUNDAPROMAT), a nonprofit that promotes the study of mathematics in the Republic of Panama by offering engaging learning activities and math-themed events.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“We’re trying to change the way that [people] perceive mathematics, so they can give math a chance and see that it is fun and has many interesting applications,” Shakalli says. “Math is so broad that there is no way that they don’t like all of math. Usually, if somebody says that they don’t like math, it is because they haven’t had the opportunity to encounter an area of mathematics that works best with the way that they think or the way that their mind works. I want people to continue to discover the beauty and the richness of mathematics. And in this way, we can improve math education in Panama and in the world.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Shakalli herself saw the fun in math from a young age, which she jokingly blames on her father, who has a doctorate in chemistry. He would help her with homework and studying, often teaching more advanced concepts before they came up in class.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“At the beginning, I got so annoyed, but [later] when my professor in the classroom started teaching that material and I had already seen it, it was a lot easier to grasp. Then I started really enjoying it,” Shakalli shares with a laugh. “Then, I wanted to learn more, and I started challenging myself, trying to solve the most difficult problems in the textbook. That’s how it all started.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Shakalli participated in Panama’s Math Olympics for several years, even taking home a gold medal one year. Though she excelled at and enjoyed math, Shakalli wasn’t set on studying it when she arrived on campus at Notre Dame. She says she enjoyed exploring different subjects in the first-year required courses, before landing on a double major in mathematics and chemistry. That was also part of the reason she left Panama for her college education. All universities there are specialized for certain industries or subject areas, so she wanted to study in the U.S., where she could have flexibility in her program of study. When Shakalli visited Notre Dame’s campus with her parents, she knew immediately that it was the place for her.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“When I went to Notre Dame, it was beautiful, I loved the campus,” she says. “The people were so friendly, so welcoming. … That’s what made everything click.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">After graduating from Notre Dame, she went on to Texas A&amp;M for a PhD in mathematics. Going home to Panama wasn’t an option if she wanted to study math further — there are no graduate programs in mathematics, and, in fact, she is one of only eight people in the country with a doctorate in the subject. But once she’d earned her doctoral degree, Shakalli decided to return to Panama and work to improve math education there.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“Panama has failed the international evaluations that measure students’ performance in mathematics. In fact, in 2019, Panama ranked 76th out of the 79 countries evaluated in the math section of the Program for International Student Assessment, which is called PISA,” she says. “That is very, very worrisome, and that’s why I feel that a foundation that is solely dedicated to promote the study of mathematics to the general population is necessary.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Before establishing her nonprofit, Shakalli spent seven years working </span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">at the Panamanian National Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation, a government office that works to strengthen science and technology in the private sector, government, academics, and the general population in Panama. While there, she created a math outreach program that planted the seed for FUNDAPROMAT. After the change in government administration in 2019, she decided to leave her job and work full-time on promoting math education.</span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal"> The nonprofit’s official launch was scheduled for April 2020, but then the coronavirus pandemic changed those plans.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Shakalli postponed their in-person activities, which include math carnivals that show how math is present in games, riddles, puzzles, magic, and origami, and pivoted to online events. With Panama in lockdown, she hosted virtual events featuring guest speakers who led activities on everything from chess to how math is connected to magic and Latin music. The events are open to children and adults alike, and emphasize fun. While Shakalli’s initial intent was to make a difference in her native Panama, these online events have also drawn viewers from </span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Spain and Venezuela</span></span><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">. Since April, they’ve hosted more than 60 virtual events, between four and seven each week, with more than 21,000 people signing up.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“Most of our events are in Spanish, because nothing like this exists in the world; Spanish speakers don’t have this opportunity to experience math in such a fun way,” Shakalli says. “So we are thinking about continuing these virtual events, even when we have in-person activities.”</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">As executive director of FUNDAPROMAT, Shakalli does it all: fundraising from donors and sponsors, facilitating the virtual events, booking the speakers and experts, and running the organization’s social media accounts. And she’s eagerly planning for when it is safe to gather in groups again and they can reschedule their in-person events.</span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><span style="font-style:normal">“I am really lucky to have had the opportunity to study at such an amazing university like Notre Dame, and I know that there are a lot of Panamanians who don’t have access to education [like that],” Shakalli says. “And I thought, if they had an opportunity, maybe they might see mathematics in a different light. Whatever made them think it was not fun or not useful, maybe we can change that. At Notre Dame, I learned that we are meant to give back, and the sense that we belong to a greater community inspires me to make a difference. We’re not alone in this world that we live in.” </span></span></p> <p style="margin-bottom:11px"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic">Learn more about the Panamanian Foundation for the Promotion of Mathematics (FUNDAPROMAT) at </em></span><a href="https://www.fundapromat.org/en/"><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic"><span style="-webkit-text-decoration-skip:none"><span style="text-decoration-skip-ink:none">https://www.fundapromat.org/en/</span></span></em></span></a><span style="font-variant:normal; font-weight:400; white-space:pre-wrap"><em style="font-style:italic"> and follow them on Instagram and Facebook @fundapromat</em></span></p> Dreaming to Uplift Underserved Students Alum uplifts students in under-resourced schools in memory of her late father. Tue, 23 Jun 2020 08:30:00 -0400 https://weare.nd.edu/stories/dreaming-to-uplift-underserved-students/ https://weare.nd.edu/stories/dreaming-to-uplift-underserved-students/ <p><strong>Dorene Dominguez ’85</strong> has a full plate.</p> <p>As the CEO of the Vanir Group of Companies, Inc. and its subsidiaries, Dominguez heads one of the leading Hispanic and woman-owned program, project, and construction management firms in the United States. That would be enough to keep anyone busy.</p> <p>But Dominguez doesn’t leave her work at her day job. Her pursuits are extensive. Dominguez currently serves on two public boards, kb Home and CIT Bank. Additionally, she is a Governor of an NBA team, the Sacramento Kings — and a member of the Notre Dame Board of Trustees. That’s not including her work as founder and chairwoman of The Dominguez Dream in Memory of H. Frank Dominguez, a public 501(c)3 non-profit organization that serves elementary schools in underserved communities and empowers students through literacy and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), enrichment activities, and parent engagement.</p> <p>The origins of The Dominguez Dream, which Dominguez founded in 2004 in memory of her late father, tie directly to her family’s connection to Notre Dame. Dorene graduated in 1985 with an undergraduate degree in finance, while her brother, Richard, earned his Notre Dame law degree in 1989. It was at Richard’s law school commencement — where former chairman of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee and sixth Commissioner of MLB Peter Uebberoth delivered the commencement address — that the seeds of The Dominguez Dream were planted.</p> <p>“He challenged the graduates to adopt their high school or elementary school in order to give back to their community,” Dominguez explained. “Well, that certainly didn't fall on deaf ears. My father (Frank), who had never attended college, immediately came home and adopted his elementary school (Burbank Elementary School in San Bernardino, California). My father set out to address the immediate needs of the school. He provided them with building maintenance such as exterior painting, refinished the blacktop for the playground and other fixes throughout the campus.  He also provided food baskets for the families and encouraged parent participation in their child’s education.  My father saw there was a need to inspire the parents and students at the school so he took the time to talk with them about his success with Vanir Group of Companies, Inc. and how they could achieve the same success by staying in school and working hard. He had died unexpectedly in 2004, and when he passed away, I formalized The Dominguez Dream in memory of him and to follow his legacy.”</p> <p>Since 2004, The Dominguez Dream has touched over 300,000 students and families in public and parochial schools across California and Arizona, providing after-school programs that aim to stoke interest in education and reinforce the belief that they can achieve success.</p> <p>In addition to programs for the students, the organization also provides basic needs in the form of food gift cards; school uniforms; Chromebooks and iPads in order to address the digital divide crisis; parental engagement activities; and an annual principal’s retreat, which allows for the sharing of best practices.</p> <p>The emphasis on STEAM — rather than STEM — is important to Dominguez, as the arts are just as valuable to a well-rounded education as the other disciplines represented in the acronym.</p> <p>In working with third, fourth, and fifth graders, Dominguez finds the program can reach children at a critical age where they are most open to believing they can pursue anything. By high school, they often begin to feel intimidated or afraid of failure, particularly in under-resourced areas.</p> <p>Apart from her work with The Dominguez Dream, however, Dominguez has partnered with Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Enrollment <strong>Don Bishop ’77</strong> to organize an annual “Notre Dame Night” for underserved high school students. There, the students are introduced to Notre Dame, its culture, and its academic profile. Underclassmen are encouraged to attend the ND summer program; upperclassmen meet with Bishop to learn the ins and outs of the admissions process.</p> <p>“They learn about Notre Dame and its culture,” Dominguez said. “If you're all about yourself, then Notre Dame's probably is not the right place for you. However, if you're motivated to help others, then Notre Dame might be the right place for you. That really resonates with a lot of these students because they come from a background that's very challenging, and they want to give back to their community. It's so beautiful to see.”</p> <p>It’s a message Dominguez can deliver sincerely, given her own Notre Dame experience.</p> <p>“I feel so fortunate and blessed to have attended Notre Dame,” she said. “Notre Dame embraces community and encourages helping one another. And that's aligned with my values and my upbringing. Notre Dame taught me that success is not only measured by my own success but the ones around me. It's nurtured my faith and strengthened my purpose in so many ways.”</p> <p>Many years after that 1989 commencement address, Dominguez had an opportunity to meet with Ueberroth and she recalled to him how his words that day had resonated.</p> <p>“I said, ‘This is the seed of your speech,’ and he was so touched by that.</p> <p>“Full circle, right?”</p>