On March 8, three St. John’s alumni spoke to seniors about their careers in service to cap off Poverty Education Week. Ms. Jillian Griffith ’10, Ms. Mary McCarthy ’12 and Mr. David Street ’04 spoke about how St. John’s affected their decisions to enter a career in service.
Griffith attended the University of North Carolina for undergraduate school, Johns Hopkins for graduate school and currently works for Giant as an in-store nutritionist. McCarthy attended St. Mary’s College and currently works for Catholic Charities in the housing and homeless division. Street attended North Carolina A&T and works for Bread for the World, “a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger at home and abroad,” according to their website.
Each alum shared unique stories of how they ended up in their current positions. When Griffith attended SJC, she believed she was going to be a doctor. It wasn’t until the summer before her senior year in college that this belief changed. That summer, Griffith worked at a needle distribution center in South Bronx and realized that “if people’s basic needs aren’t met, then they aren’t going to care about other issues.” She noticed that while people care about other issues, a roof and food comes first. During that summer, Griffith was taking an MCAT class, but said she found herself bored and thinking about her time at the needle distribution center. She wanted to help at the root of the problem in the public health sector. She attributes her transition to the Lasallian value of having respect for all persons.
McCarthy was a Peer Minister during her time at St. John’s and distinctly remembers the impact that a homeless man who talked about dignity during Poverty Education Week had on her. Like Griffith, McCarthy found her desire for a career in service during college. She volunteered, and every time she realized that it helped with the stress of college. A few weeks before graduation, McCarthy learned that she would not be graduating on time. Luckily, an organization called asking if she wanted an internship, and she said yes. McCarthy first worked with someone who was getting foot surgery because they had never owned shoes that fit them. This experience helped put her issues into perspective. She said she has found that “working with people who are underserved brings me a lot of joy.”
Street asked students, “When was the last time you were uncomfortable?” He connected this to his time at St. John’s, where he said he was “constantly uncomfortable.” Street shared that he was from a predominantly black neighborhood and that entering predominantly white St. John’s allowed him to grow. At North Carolina A&T, Street interned at the Department of Justice and the Black Caucus. Now, he also volunteers in the neighborhoods he grew up in. Street reminded seniors that they should be asking “What can I do to help others? Don’t confine it [service] to an entire week, because the entire world needs your greatness.”
Griffith, McCarthy and Street all mentioned the values that St. John’s instilled in them. They reminded students to be grateful for attending St. John’s and its network. These alumni helped show seniors that they can continue service through their careers. “It was really cool to find out about different paths you can take to help the less fortunate,” said Gabby Nastazi ’19.