Ozanam Program brings change through service

St. John’s students hear a lot about the Vincentian mission and how it is important to reflect on service and give back to the less fortunate. But for the Ozanam Scholars, they are encouraged to live this mission loud and proud.

The Ozanam Program exemplifies the University mission to serve the global community by upholding the three fundamental values: scholarly research, Vincentian service and global citizenship. Each student takes on a social justice minor regardless of their field of study and come together in community to discuss major world problems through reflection at all stages of their college career, whether at weekly conferences, through reflection papers or research for their Capstone project in their senior year.

Because the youth of our generation is encouraged to combat devastating problems such as poverty, homelessness, lack of health care, and sustainability, the Ozanam Program is important in ?today’s world.

What is different about this program is that it is focused on the future and implementing change that is lasting to the community. Ozanam is not just about serving in a soup kitchen or running a clothing drive. It is about getting to the root of the problem, developing solutions to it, and then eradicating the effects of the issue.

As an Ozanam Scholar, each student is assigned a certain service site, ranging from St. John’s Bread and Life Project I.D., created by the Ozanam Scholars, After School All Stars, Gear Up, Jumpstart and Little Sisters of the Assumption, all of which help to develop students as leaders for social action.

Ozanam Scholars do research as they work on the sites and take a look at the world at large. Using the research they gather, students choose an area of concentration and begin to develop programs or initiatives that challenge the issues society faces. A prime example of this is Eugenia Soldatos, the creator of Project Identity at St. John’s Bread and Life.

“I originally worked at Bread and Life helping with a voter registration drive. What I found strange was that many of the participants were eager to find out when their voter registration card was coming in the mail,” said Soldatos. “When I asked, I found out that it was because they had little or no other identification. I wanted to change the world as an Ozanam.”

Soldatos feels that this program was fundamental because, not only did it supply people with vital needs, but it also validated their dignity and worth by building relationships with the clients on a personal level.

Erin Chen, a freshman international student from China, was attracted to the program because of the guaranteed opportunity to experience the world by studying abroad and also appreciated the concentration on Vincentian service because it gave her a chance to grow as a person. Chen was assigned to Project ID, where scholars assist low income or homeless persons of NYC obtain much needed documents like birth certificates and non-drivers ID’s. She feels that Project ID helps the needy because the scholars help ease the pressure on those who need ID by assisting them with the process and alleviating any of their fears about cost.

“If I had to go through the application process by myself, I would be scared and confused,” said Chen. “Also, it is important because many of these people can’t afford it. Many of these people come from shelters or just got out of prison or are finally getting their lives back together.”

Overall, Ozanam has a large impact on society because of its widerange of service.

“It’s important because there are so many people here that care,” Chen says about the Ozanam program.

Another freshman, Jessica Cole, works with elementary school-children in Jumpstart and says that it is fundamental because they motivate and inspire students to do well in school by “being positive role models.”

“It gives parents the few hours they have [after work] to spend quality time with their children and not on homework,” says Cole concerning the importance of the program. “It’s a big commitment, but it’s totally worth it [when we realize] that without us, they wouldn’t be getting the help they need.”

The Ozanam Program is making strides by giving scholars not only an academic challenge, but an opportunity, to get involved with the world at large.