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St. John's Vincentian Mission Prepared Alumna for Service Career

Monday, December 14, 2015

Crystal Montalvo ’07CPS, ’10G credits the service in which she engaged while studying at St. John’s University as the foundation for a career rooted in the ideals of the Vincentian Mission.

In February 2015, Montalvo became project manager for 30,000 Degrees, a borough-based effort whose goal is to increase the number of Staten Island-bound college students to 30,000 by 2025. St. John’s is partnering with Wagner College and the College of Staten Island for this program.

In fact, she said, St. John’s mission played an integral role in her original decision to come to the University. “I had a great open house experience when I visited the Staten Island campus,” she said. “Not only were the faculty and administrators very down to earth, very approachable, but they were clearly committed to Vincentian values. It impressed me so much, I decided to enroll.”

As a student, Montalvo embraced those values herself. A member of the President’s Society—the highest honors organization at St. John’s—she volunteered with Campus Ministry, traveling to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to assist with rebuilding efforts. She also took advantage of the University’s focus on international study by enrolling in the Discover the World  program, which allowed her to live and learn at the University's Rome campus.

After completing her undergraduate degree, she went on to earn her master’s in Global Development and Social Justice. Through the two-year combined distance learning and on-site program, students start and finish their course work at the Rome campus. There, too, her courses emphasized compassion for those in need.  

The University’s blend of academics and extracurricular activities continues to enhance her life, Montalvo said. “I think the education I experienced at St. John’s—in and out of the classroom—deepened my sense of what social justice is about,” she noted. “I really have to thank the University for helping me figure out how to engage in the community in the right way, and not in a way that puts you in any position above those you serve.”

Montalvo also credited her mentor, Sharon L. Norton, Esq., associate professor of criminal justice and legal studies, with helping her to develop crucial life skills. “She taught me what effective leadership means, how to do appropriate follow-ups with faculty and community partners, and how to be strategic in the work that you do,” said Montalvo. “I was lucky she took me under her wing and encouraged me to participate in programs like study abroad.”

One of her favorite aspects of the position at 30,000 Degrees, she observed, was the chance to work at St. John’s. “It feels good to be home.”