Four years ago, mass media communications major Kristy Giandomenico was living away from home for the first time. Her family was just four hours away in Reading, Pa., but the distance felt expansive.
Transitioning from living at home to living at college is difficult for many students. During orientation week, the change was nearly too much for Giandomenico, until First-Year Mentors intervened.
A team of Carlow upperclassmen collaborates as an organization called First-Year Mentors (FYM). They check in on resident freshmen and give them a little extra personal attention during that tough first year.
"Bekah Stern was my FYM," Giandomenico recalls. "She was my person who said, 'get out there and do things!' She was with me all the time. It's so good to have someone your age and will help you transition through that process."
Stern redirected Giandomenico's energy back into campus. "Let's get you to the Activities Fair. Let's get you involved in things!" Stern told her.
For Giandomenico, Stern's compassion and enthusiasm turned out to be life-changing.
Four years later, Giandomenico walked at Carlow’s 2016 Commencement having a plethora of extra-curricular accomplishments that add feathers to her cap.
Giandomenico was honored with the Get Involved! Female Emerging Leader Award for 18-25 year-olds at the seventh annual Pittsburgh Service Summit in March. She also received the Leadership in Communication Award from Carlow University during its Honors Convocation in April.
Inspired by Stern, Giandomenico became a First-Year Mentor (FYM). She also participated in the Campus Activities Board (CAB) and became president as a junior and senior. She interned with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh to plan Fashions for Kids' Sake and served in the Student Government Association, becoming the senator for the College of Leadership and Social Change from her freshman to senior years.
Her participation every year with Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in Laredo, Texas was a great influence. Carlow students make an annual trip to Laredo to work on affordable housing projects through Habitat for Humanity.
"It put me in my place a little bit to think that I could be doing something for someone else, instead of having to worry about myself all the time," Giandomenico says. "Because of those trips, I decided I needed to do something with a mission behind it. My life changed because of Laredo."
Giandomenico recently accepted a full-time position as a program assistant with Leadership Pittsburgh, Inc., a non-profit devoted to developing civic leadership in the region.
Giandomenico credits her network of faculty, students, and staff at Carlow with preparing her for the future. In particular, as she interviewed for jobs she could discuss the deep experience she gained in event-planning for student activities.
Giandomenico is thankful for the many varied experiences she had at Carlow, but she says she will never forget the First-Year Mentor who took the time to reach out to her.
She reflects: "I always tell people, ASB changed my life. But FYM kept me on campus long enough to change my life."
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