Feature Profile

Young Alums Make a Difference

Inspired at Lasell to Give Back

Richard Hawkes '14 and Katelyn Fabri '13

Just as a majority of Lasell students participate in a service learning experience during their undergraduate careers, many, as alums, continue to give back and "make a difference," energized by their previous on-campus involvement. Here, some current examples.
Richard Hawkes '14 and Katelyn Fabri '13 (left) both participated in Lasell's first service learning trip to Uganda in 2013. And this summer, the two alums will join in the Ulman 4K for Cancer cross-country bike ride fundraiser, traveling with a cohort of young adults on a 70-day, 4,000-mile bike ride from Baltimore to Seattle. "My grandmother had four different kinds of cancer when she died," Hawkes, who was a peer health educator as an undergraduate, tells Leaves. "I'm riding to have a positive impact on the lives of survivors and to see the country the way it should be seen." Fabri adds, "Cancer affects everyone in some way or another. I'm riding because I want to take on a physical as well as a mental challenge-while raising awareness for young adults affected by the disease." While cancer is frequently thought of as a disease of the elderly or the very young, more than 70,000 young adults are diagnosed with cancer in the United States each year. The 4K for Cancer is a program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to enhancing lives by supporting, educating and connecting young adults (ages 18 to 25), and their loved ones, affected by cancer."

RossSamantha Ross '14, (left) who was a Second Step mentor and Relay for Life participant as a Lasell undergraduate, is joining 30 college-aged people on a 4,000-mile run from San Francicsco's Golden Gate Bridge to New York's Central Park, also sponsored by the Ulman Cancer Fund.

"Our mission," she says, "is to unite communities and inspire hope towards the eradication of cancer."

As the runners advance on their cross-country trek, they will stop in cities and towns along the way to visit cancer patients in hospitals, medical centers and hospices, as well as host cancer education programs. Route highlights include Napa Valley, Craters of the Moon National Monument, the Sand Hills of Oregon, the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls.

Ross tells Leaves she is "drawing on the strong foundation of knowledge and confidence" she garnered at Lasell to make this 50-day cancer run commitment.

After returning from a service learning trip to Coatepec, Mexico in 2003, a group of Lasell students, working with Stephanie Athey, associate professor of English and director of the College's Honors Program, founded Niños de Veracruz. The 501(c)3 nonprofit provides modest scholarships, $200 per child, to deserving sixth-graders at the Jorge Cerdán School--enough money to move each young recipient into seventh grade and beyond. Three of the very first recipients will graduate from Mexican universities this year. Samantha LaFrance ‘13 and Tabatha Torres '07 (right) are among a cadre of Lasell alums who have voluntarily, and at their own expense, returned to Veracruz post-graduation to stay connected to the Niños effort. In January 2015, the two graduates joined three Lasell undergraduate interns who are helping to create a mentoring program for local sixth-to-10th graders. Commenting on her continuing engagement with the initiative, LaFrance tells Leaves, "I started out as an unsuspecting college student and am now a lifelong volunteer, because I believe in the cause. Building houses, mixing cement, cutting cane sugar with a machete and moving mounds of rocks may sound like hard work, but in reality, the blisters are satisfying." Adds Torres, whose most recent return to Mexico marked the 10th anniversary of her first Coatepec trip, "Niños was my earliest experience at being a part of something much greater than myself. Niños contributed not only to my personal growth, but to my professional path in becoming a social worker."
Niños has raised more than $103,000 and sponsored some 300 students since its inception and, owing to the generosity and vision of Lasell Village residents Marge and Lasell Trustee Irwin Gruverman, Niños has established a microcredit fund that has circulated more than $20,000 in small, zero-interest loans for health, business and shelter throughout this community of farmworkers.

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