When I was seven, I told my dad my life plan was to go to Mount St. Mary Academy high school in Buffalo just like my mom. Then, I would go to Daemen College, where he worked, to eat lunch with him every day and become a nurse to help people.
My plan changed in 2005, though, when my dad said we were moving from Buffalo to Erie, where he would work as the Provost (and eventually the President) at Gannon University. Little did I know how much this decision would change my life and perspective.
Gannon has allowed me many opportunities to see the world in new ways. I’ve traveled to Mexico to work with a L’Arche Community, which is a community of people with and without intellectual disabilities living in solidarity. Here, I met a woman named Rosa, who spoke only one word to me in the week we spent together, but whose presence and unconditional love was more impactful on my life than any conversation I’ve had. Rosa taught me that no words are needed to have a connection with another person.
After my trip, I understood the importance of a smile, sacredness of a hug, and experienced the unconditional love of God through others.
I spent three spring breaks in Mexico before deciding to explore a new culture and perspective in Immokalee, Florida. Jimmy Menkhaus, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology, and 11 students traveled here to encounter people who’ve migrated from Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti for a theology course in Catholic Social Teaching.
We learned about the work the migrants do in the fields picking tomatoes, a physically difficult job often accompanied by inhumane abuse and injustices in the fields. Despite poor conditions, these individuals have faith and devotion to God; they trust His plan for them.
Dr. Menkhaus has changed my perspective on life. He challenges himself and his students to fight for social justice and dignity for all. He lives in the present and embraces every moment of his life. He has been an inspiration to me in the four years I’ve known him. His perspective on life has changed how I see the world and encounter people and Christ.
My experience in Immokalee affirms my desire to fight for social justice in nursing and give the best care to my patients, regardless of their story.
Samantha and her father, Keith, prepare for her Commencement Ceremony in May.
Despite my dad changing my seven-year-old self’s life plan, I can’t imagine what my life would have looked like without Gannon. Fortunately, I was still able to eat lunch with my dad and I had the opportunity to work as a nurse and help people. I have been so blessed to have traveled, served, learned and encountered so many beautiful people and places.
Gannon allows people to be themselves and opens its arms to new members of our community. My many experiences at Gannon and the impactful people I’ve encountered are at the core of me developing a perspective of love and acceptance for all.
I am thankful to have been a part of this community, and although I am excited to move on to my life as a nurse, Gannon will forever be my home.