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Student Spotlight

Changing the World, Changing Ourselves: Kristiana’s Journey

As a student with a rich history of service at Catholic organizations, Kristiana Nelsen (SJC ’16) knew that the Ozanam Scholars program had something special to offer.  “I wanted something more meaningful in college…I wanted to do something bigger.”   Through academic, global and Vincentian experiences offered through the Ozanam Scholars program, Nelsen continues to test her potential.

Nelsen describes her freshmen trip to Puerto Rico as ‘life-changing’.  In Caño Martín Peña, Puerto Rico, Nelsen and her fellow Scholars banded together with community members to shovel concrete, clearing the space for a new community garden.  For Nelsen working side by side a gentleman who spoke a different language, towards a common goal, crystallized the power of social justice. “We worked so well together, without having to say anything to each other.” 

Vincentian leadership, one of core components of the Ozanam Scholars program, has been particularly rewarding for Nelsen.  As a volunteer at Project ID—a program of St. John’s Bread and Life founded by Ozanam Scholars in 2008—Nelsen helps clients to obtain their vital documents, including their birth certificate, non-driver’s id and social security card.  “It’s part of the whole Vincentian education…educating through service.”   Nelsen adds, “It gives you an education that you can never get in a classroom.” 

As a psychology major in St. John’s College, Nelsen is particularly interested in advocating for new practices that slow dementia and benefit the growing elderly population.   She discovered her passion during high school while creating intergenerational activities – such as 30s Movie Night – for students to interact with residents from a local assisted living facility.  

And while Nelsen remains committed to working with the elderly, her experiences through Ozanam have taught her value of keeping her options open.  “I’m looking forward to seeing where my ideas take me.”