Through Service and Research, Class of 2020’s Ozanam Scholars Explore Issues of Social Justice - Part II

St. John’s Ozanam Scholars Program is a highly selective, academic initiative that combines service, research, and global learning. Through the program, scholars examine and seek solutions to real-world social justice issues, travel around the world to serve those in need, and complete a capstone project during their senior year. In this series, we look at Ozanam Scholars from the Class of 2020 and the impact each has made on society. 

Katherine Ross holding red, white and blue balloons
July 20, 2020

Katherine Ross

Katherine Ross has been accustomed to service work her entire life. So, when the native of Thomaston, CT, explored colleges, St. John’s Ozanam Scholars Program elevated the University to the top of Katherine’s list of potential schools. 

“I wanted to make sure I kept doing service work in some capacity at college,” said Katherine, a Risk Management and Insurance major with minors in Business Analytics and Social Justice Theory. “The Ozanam Scholars Program makes service part of your weekly routine, so it provided me with an easy way to keep that promise to myself.” 

As an Ozanam Scholar, she participated in service on local and international levels. In New York, she volunteered at St. John’s Bread and Life soup kitchen in Brooklyn and worked with Project Identity, which helps clients obtain vital records, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, nondriver’s identification, and death certificates. 

She traveled to Ghana, where she developed an evaluation tool for the nongovernmental organization, the Toku Foundation. In Ecuador, she dug ditches, mixed concrete, and dislodged river boulders. 

“Before coming to St. John’s, I had never left the East Coast of the US,” she recalled. “Now, through the Ozanam Scholars Program, I have been around the country and on three different continents.” 

While her service work brought Katherine around the world, her Ozanam capstone project was inspired by a series of tragic events that hit close to home. 

Katherine Ross with her research poster
Katherine with her Ozanam capstone project

“During the summers of 2017 and 2018, I lost three people in my life as a result of suicide or fatal drug overdose,” she said, explaining that mental illness, addiction, or bullying were underlying factors in these cases. “After some reflection and research, I realized this was way too common an occurrence, and I wanted to do something that could help adolescents in the future, while honoring the memory of those three people.”

She launched the Fighting Forward website, which provides adolescents with the support they need before they reach the point where suicide or a fatal drug overdose might occur. 

“Fighting Forward includes coping strategies for adolescents, as well as tips for talking to parents or other allies about these sensitive subjects,” she said. “It has become a successful tool for adolescents who struggle in some way. I plan to keep the site up and running for as long as it makes an impact for someone.” 

Katherine’s capstone project research was recently published in the Journal of Vincentian Social Action, along with the work of her Ozanam peers. She was also named one of the “100 Best & Brightest Business Majors Of 2020” by Poets&Quants in April. This summer, she embarks on the next chapter of her life, in an associate position with Swiss Re, a leading provider of reinsurance and insurance.