When I first chose to attend LMU, I had recently moved from Lima, Peru, and left my family and friends to pursue what many call the American dream. My dream was to earn a college degree that would honor my parents’ sacrifices. I had received the gift — U.S. residency — that many risk their lives for. I needed to do something with that gift.
My years at LMU helped me realize that my real American dream had to be rooted in faith and the promotion of justice. The motto I always heard at LMU — to be “men and women for others” — left a permanent imprint on me. I left LMU with a deep commitment to the Sursum Corda (“lift up our hearts”) service org that continues to inspire me.
Upon leaving the bluff, I headed to Detroit as a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. I found myself lifting hearts at a homeless shelter for young women. Many friends thought my decision was crazy, yet it was through my experiences as a volunteer that I was reassured in my calling as a social worker. I was humbled in that I didn’t know enough (I needed more training) and I couldn’t do it alone (I needed to rely on God).
My journey in lifting hearts led me to Boston College, where I pursued a dual degree in pastoral ministry and social work. I spent my time gaining more social work skills and working as a peer minister for first-year students. I found myself living in a first-year residence hall once again, but this time I was accompanying students and helping them discern how they will leave their own imprint on the world.
I’m not sure when Boston became my second home. Maybe it was in my encounters with the Latino community while providing home-based services to children with behavioral concerns. Maybe it was in my encounters with people trying to lift their hearts and allowing them to lift my own. Whenever it was, Boston has become mi casa tambien.
Now I am a consultant helping educators learn to serve social-emotional behavioral health needs of students. I strive to help create environments in which children can thrive emotionally. I empower the heart-lifters. Imagine what this world would look like if we would walk around trying to lift each other’s hearts. Look closer, because it has already begun.
Gisella Mendizabal ’07