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

September 4, 2020

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 recent Ozanam Scholar graduates and the impact each has made on society. 

Steffi Romero

While most Ozanam Scholars enter the program with some knowledge of what to expect over the course of their four-year commitment, Steffi Romero knew it well—her sister, Seraiah M. Romero ’18CPS, ’20GCCPS, was also an Ozanam Scholar.

“After reading about the program, and talking to my sister, I knew that I wanted to experience it for myself,” she said. “There was so much to learn and gain—I was ready to offer my passion for social justice to the world.”

A native of Arima, Trinidad, the Advertising Communication major drew inspiration from both her studies and her culture for her Ozanam capstone project.

“My capstone focused on the implementation of a digital blog for Toco, a rural, underrepresented village in Trinidad,” she said. “I am a firm believer that all populations should have access to quality information that is freely and easily accessible.”

Through the blog, Steffi’s hope is that the community becomes more connected with national and regional issues and thus gains ownership and pride over their own news and affairs.

“When there is a lack of community involvement, people are not engaged with their own affairs or even the affairs of the nation,” she explained. “This creates a disparity since this disengagement is closely tied to a lack of education and influence in decision making.”

Steffi has long been interested in exploring the pillars of poverty and education as social justice issues. “I am quite passionate about how disparities in education can lead to different outcomes for students in rural areas, versus those students in more urban areas,” she said. “Those disparities allow certain students to have an advantage over others.”

What follows, she explained, is a separation and segregation of classes. “This type of inequality should not exist in the 21st century,” she said.

“It is up to people like me to come up with solutions to solve these concerns and reduce issues of inequality.”

As an Ozanam Scholar, Steffi engaged in service on both a local and international level. She volunteered at St. John’s Bread and Life soup kitchen in Brooklyn, NY, and worked with Project Identity, which helps clients obtain vital records, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, nondriver’s identification, and death certificates. She was also able to engage in service in Ecuador, Ghana, Italy, and Puerto Rico.

Steffi has returned to Trinidad, where she has been spending time with her family after a long stretch away from home. She is exploring the possibility of returning to college and pursuing a graduate degree. While she is months removed from life as an Ozanam Scholar, her pursuit of helping others achieve social justice endures.  

“I am finding new ways to engage in service, particularly in the field of immigration,” she said. “Trinidad is very close to Venezuela, so we are dealing with the impact of the refugee crisis. I have been working with various organizations who seek solutions to fight against issues of social injustice.”