Kerry Andreozzi

Overcoming Adversity, Education Student Excels at St. John’s

Kerry Andreozzi ’14Ed,’15GEd has shown how a positive attitude, good support systems and passion can overcome adversity and turn challenges into opportunities. Born prematurely at just one pound, 14 ounces, Andreozzi suffered a temporary lack of oxygen to her brain, which left her hearing impaired and mildly learning disabled. She was given a 15 percent chance of living and a seven percent chance of leading a healthy life without special needs.

Today, Andreozzi is pursuing a teaching career in elementary and special education at St. John’s University, where she is enrolled in The School of Education’s (SOE) five-year dual-degree bachelor’s and master’s program. She is also taking advantage of the many opportunities the University has to offer.

Clearly, Andreozzi’s interest in special-needs students stems from her own experience. “I hated elementary school,” she said. “It wasn’t until my mother made special arrangements with the school to enhance my hearing that I started to enjoy class.”

Andreozzi no longer has difficulties with hearing or reading. She attributes her ability to overcome these problems and to realize her potential to the many people who have helped her along the way. At St. John’s, assistance came from mentors like Charisse Willis ’89SVC, ’91MS, ’95PD, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies, who was immediately impressed by the young student. Recognizing a kindred spirit—Willis has hearing difficulties—she urged Andreozzi to embrace all aspects of the St. John’s experience.

“Kerry is a tireless fighter for life, a challenger of fortune, and a believer in people,” Willis said. “She is living her dream of being able to make a difference and helping make the dreams of others come true.” In addition to encouraging Andreozzi to take part in campus and extracurricular activities, Willis offered her a position as team leader for the after-school tutoring program, America Reads * America Serves.

Andreozzi also volunteers at the Boys Club of New York in Flushing; is co-membership chair of Kappa Delta Pi—SOE’s honor society; mentors SOE freshmen as part of the S.T.A.R. (Students Teaching Academic Responsibilities) program; and helps others in need, whenever possible. Recently, she collected and delivered food and other necessities to Far Rockaway, NY, victims of Hurricane Sandy. In addition, she finds time to participate as the intramural softball team’s only female player.

As a result of the study abroad trip she took to South Africa last summer, Andreozzi hopes to serve as a social worker as well as a teacher. She made the decision during the two-week global studies education course taught by Willis. “I was working with children at a local orphanage,” she said. “While I loved teaching these children, I discovered that my desire to take care of them was as strong as my desire to educate.”

She plans to earn a master’s degree in social work after she completes the five-year bachelor’s and master’s program in childhood and special education. “Ideally, I would like to teach special needs children at an inner city school, and then do social work at an orphanage or an adoption agency,” she said. “I want to be able to use all my talents to improve lives across geographic and cultural boundaries.”

As much as she is a product of the issues accompanying her premature birth, Andreozzi was also shaped by her family’s commitment to education and helping the marginalized.  “My dad works at a rehabilitation group home, and my mom is a nurse,” she said. “Two of my aunts teach, one brother is a nurse, and the other volunteers at a group home.”

Not surprisingly, Andreozzi’s values have melded well with those of St. John’s. “I chose to come here because of the service orientation, as well as the student diversity,” she said. “But I am also benefiting from how supportive and close knit the SOE community is. I know everyone in the School, and I never have trouble reaching my professors.”

Her immediate plan is to return to South Africa next summer, when Dean Willis offers the course again. “Who knows? Maybe, someday I will work at an orphanage there,” Andreozzi said.