Empathy, Love, and Service Highlight Recent Graduate’s Experience at St. John’s

Emma Famili posing for a picture outside with a fence and grass behind her
May 18, 2020

Emma Famili came to St. John’s University because she wanted to make a difference. “I wanted to attend a school that focuses on helping people and pushes its students to be a force for positive change,” the Health and Human Services major from Pittsburgh, PA, explained recently.

Emma hit the ground running when she arrived at St. John’s. She lived in the Residence Village and became a Resident Assistant the following year. “I met my closest friends as roommates. The connections and friendships I made within Residence Life had a tremendous impact on my time at St. John’s. I loved living in the Residence Village, making new friends my first year and then mentoring first-year students.”

Hailing from a large metropolitan area, Emma wanted to experience New York City, while at the same time enjoying the suburban feel of the Queens, NY, campus. “I always heard about the diversity of Queens and felt like it was close enough to Manhattan without being right on top of it.”

Engaging in service was a priority for Emma, and as a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the National Service Fraternity, she immersed herself in many forms. “St. John’s inspires me to take an empathetic approach to everything I do. Helping others is a part of our mission, and I learned to incorporate that in every aspect of my life.” 

In addition to participating annually in University Service Day, Emma worked at a homeless shelter and a daycare center for newborns with disabilities, and taught at multiple schools for children with disabilities. She also ran a small nonprofit, teaching tennis to people with autism. 

“St. John’s students genuinely care for each other,” she stressed. “Vincentian values are regularly talked about and incorporated into every class. While it is mainly about helping those in need, it also reminds us just to care about and help everyone around us. Students at St. John’s share a passion for helping people within both the University and global communities.” Emma commented that some of her most meaningful experiences at St. John’s were witnessing the hard work her fellow resident assistants put into engaging with their residents and each other. 

Emma interned at multiple sites in New York City, including the American Autism Association, answering calls and providing resources through their Autism Help Hotline. She also worked at Ballet for All Kids, a nonprofit dance studio that makes classical ballet accessible to students of all body types and abilities. 

“These internships helped me prepare for my field by pushing me out of my comfort zone, as well as teaching me time management skills and the importance of self-care,” she noted. 

She was in the St. John’s University Tennis Club and a member of both the Muslim Student Association and the St. John’s chapter of Project Sunshine, which provides free educational, recreational, and social programs to children facing medical challenges. Emma also participated in an annual program that involves making blankets for Midnight Runs and delivering care packages to the homeless in New York City.

After graduation, Emma will attend Columbia University to study for her master’s degree in social work, and she plans to continue to incorporate all the values she learned at St. John’s into her life and career. 

“The passion our students have for learning and helping others has been such a huge part of my experience. I have every intention of taking that into my future studies and, ultimately, into my chosen field. The friends whom I met at St. John’s show me nothing but love and support, and encourage me to be my best going forward.”