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I Know What You Did Last Summer

Camp Hope photo by Smiley PoolAs University of St. Thomas students return to campus for the first few days of school, there will be a lot of conversation among friends about what they did last summer. From study abroad and travel to jobs, internships, volunteering and – gasp – summer school, students took advantage of the time off for personal development and community service. Students and alumni shared snapshots of their summers on UST’s Facebook.

Study Abroad and Travel

Ramy Mahfouz joined millions of protesters in Egypt

Ramy Mahfouz, senior general business major, said he was a part of “the greatest protest in the history of mankind.” On June 30, he joined millions of Egyptians who marched in the streets of Egypt, which resulted in the overthrow of the president, Mohamed Morsi, in three days. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and returned home for the summer. “It was the greatest number of people participating in any political event in the history of mankind,” Mahfouz said.

Klarisa Perales in GuamKlarisa Perales, a junior English major traveled to Guam for three weeks to visit her aunt stationed there. “I learned so much history and information I never knew about the island,” Perales said. “I didn't even know it was U.S. territory.”

Shannon McGautha, a Master of Arts in Faith and Culture student traveled to Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of the UST study abroad. “I met Rev. Harold Good who was essential in the peace process as well as Rev. Bill Shaw from 174 Trust,” she said. “I had the opportunity to visit the various parliaments in Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

Sarah Ashour

Sarah Ashour, a junior theology major, spent two months in Indianapolis, Ind., with the Little Sisters of the Poor to discern a religious vocation. “I got to spend time praying with and working with the sisters,” Ashour said. “Their charism is caring for the elderly poor, and so I worked in their nursing home, serving the residents in many different ways. I was blessed to live in such close contact with a religious order.”

Rebecca Skaff in PragueRebecca Skaff, junior communications and international studies major, studied abroad in Prague and Budapest, and back at UST, she helped host a group of Taiwanese students visiting St. Thomas as part of the American and Global Studies Colloquium.

Jobs and Internships

Elizabeth Radford, sophomore biology major, worked as a pediatric vision therapist, similar to occupational therapy, but for the eyes. She said the job was thanks to the help of UST Career Services.

Michael Hill in Shrek the Musical

Michael Hill, a sophomore political science major, codirected “Charlotte's Web” at Fort Bend Theatre, and he played one of the three pigs, a knight and a duloc dancer in Shrek the Musical at the Stafford Center. Hill also interned for District Court Associate Judge Pedro Ruiz.

Arica VanderWal worked at a small bakery in Michigan this summer. “It was a blast going to all the farmers’ markets and meeting different people,” VanderWal said. “I even met a few people from Houston, believe it or not.”

Samantha Spears, a junior communications and environmental studies major, spent her summer working at the United States Attorneys Office Southern District of Texas in the criminal fraud division as a student aide. “I plan to go to law school after St. Thomas, so it's great to work for the United States Department of Justice and see our legal system at work firsthand,” Spears said. She also spent two weeks divided between New York and London at the end of the summer.

Jathniel Joaquin, a freshman, worked at a title insurance company handling recordings and documents.

Adrienne Copeland and singer Jamie GraceAdrienne Copeland, a senior music major, interned with Camp Electric, a praise and worship camp in Ohio that helps high school students excel in their instrument and the art of leading worship as well as grow spiritually. “I had the opportunity to work with well-known contemporary Christian artists, who both performed and taught the students, like Jamie Grace, Royal Taylor, Rend Collective, B. Reith, and Toby Mac!” Copeland said. “It was very exciting because I got to serve others that are passionate about music and growing in their faith as well.”

Volunteering and Service

Sydnee Spruiell, senior biochemistry major and pre-med student, was a summer mentor at the Health Museum's summer conference for Duke Tipp "GT" high school students, and she also helped build a house. “The club I helped found on the UST campus, Habitat for Humanity had our first "build date", where we began building a home for a family in need!” Spruiell said.  She also shadowed and volunteered in clinics on San Pedro island in Belize, and went scuba diving and tarpon fishing. She worked part-time at Baylor College of Medicine as a researcher, in addition to taking two summer classes.

Jacqueline Hess is in the Texas Air National Guard and was activated for a month to help with drone operations at Ellington Field.

Jonathan Cruz, senior biology major, went to Peru for a medical mission trip with HOPE. Cruz also went to work in Austin for a few days during the second legislative session, helping Texas Right to Life support the pro-life bill, and served as a  camp counselor for a pro-life summer camp.

Campers at Camp HopeMargarita Perez ’07, an alumna who is a volunteer services manager at AIDS Foundation Houston, Inc., organized Camp Hope, a week-long camp for more than 100 HIV positive children. “It’s probably one of the best experiences of my life,” Perez said. “What’s wonderful about Camp Hope is that it replenishes your hope. It helps you understand what hope means. I can’t wait until next year.” 

Elizabeth Vass with camper at Camp for All

Elizabeth Vass, sophomore biology major, also worked all summer at Camp For All, the campsite that held the camp organized by Perez. “Camp For All is a barrier-free campsite for people with various special needs,” Vass said. “It is one of the most amazing jobs.”

Summer School

Edwin J. Vences, a third-year biochemistry major took two summer classes and worked full-time as a paramedic.

Holy LandElias Lopez, a Master of Divinity student at St. Mary’s Seminary and a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and spent July at Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem with other religious and lay people. “The program is a four-week encounter with people of different faiths; it was part spiritual, political, religious, social and archaeological,” Lopez said. “They say, ‘the Holy Land is the 5th gospel.’”