Fall 2021 Edition
Holy Cross Award Alumni Recipients
Congratulations to all of our ALANA alums that have received an award from Holy Cross in 2021! Thank you for your dedication to Holy Cross and for being an embodiment of "a person for and with others." Learn more about our award recipients.
Spring 2021 Edition
Alex Bonano ’17- Boston, MA
Major/Minor: Latin American, Latinx & Caribbean Studies (LALC); Global Health Studies
How did you get involved with the HCAA? I was introduced to the HCAA and the BHC by Melisa Alves '06. I was looking for ways to begin my alumni participation and she nominated me to be a member of the Committee and the rest is history. I am a strong believer of mentorship and thus wanted to return the favor by supporting and uplifting current BIPOC students.
How does it feel to be this year's 2021 HCAA Young Alumni Leadership Award Recipient?I am really honored to not only have been nominated but also to be selected as the recipient. I don't do the work that I do for the accolades, but it is always very assuring when you are acknowledged for your work. When I think of leadership, I think of it as a relay race. I am simply a person passing on the baton to someone else just as the baton was passed to me. I wasn't the first and I won't be the last, so it is important to do my part to uplift those who may come after me.
How did HC prepare you for your career? HC's course offerings have prepared me well for my current career choice. Being that my minor in Global Health studies was self-designed, I had the opportunity to take advantage of the interdisciplinary course offerings which is where I took courses on critical issues in global health. In addition to the coursework, I also studied abroad in Costa Rica where I studied neglected tropical diseases. I was also involved in LASO, MPE, SGA, American Medical Student Association, Brother to Brother Committee and Student Advisory Board for ALANA Recruitment through the admissions office. I am grateful for both the traditional and experiential learning experiences HC provided and I am currently pursuing my Master’s Degree at Tufts University in Public Health.
Advice for current BIPOC students: Continue to be present and to take your experience into your own hands. There is never the perfect time and you don't need to stick with traditions - do whatever it is you want to accomplish at the time you're ready to accomplish it. Additionally, take time to reflect and discern. During college you can feel on the go 24/7 so it is important to take a moment of rest to fully digest what you're experiencing - it's in those moments
Message for Melisa Alves ‘06:It has been an honor to work alongside her during my time on the BHC. Melisa is a huge motivational and inspirational force that has uplifted generations of leaders including myself. The BIPOC alumni participation we see today is directly influenced by her tireless efforts. She is the embodiment of a true leader - one that is honest, accountable and humble. The BHC will miss Melisa greatly and it is my hope to make her proud as I receive the baton she is passing onto me.
Winter 2021 Edition
Holy Cross Alumni Anti-Racism Alliance (CHARA) Group
"Forged in the spirit of the Jesuit tradition, the Holy Cross Alumni Anti-Racism Alliance (CHARA) group is dedicated to fostering meaningful connections and healthy conversations about racial justice among alumni, and to improving the college experience for students of color" (CHARA Mission Statement). What initially started as a group of classmates discussing the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor soon transformed into a new organization and monthly dialogue for alumni to come together and discuss racial equality in America and the experiences of ALANA students at Holy Cross.
The founders, Maria Amendolia '92, Fred Givens III '92, Kerri Riccardo '92, Kona Khasu ‘92, Len Demontagnac ‘92, Phyllis Jones ‘92, and Amy Quinn ‘92, articulated that the goal for CHARA is to create a safe and supportive space within the Holy Cross community to initiate discussions about how systemic racism impacts the lives of their fellow BIPOC alumni. The purpose of these conversations is to listen, learn, and talk about how to address the racial injustice as an ally of the BIPOC community and help create change in support of the current students of Holy Cross. Most importantly, they want members to take away actionable steps that they're able to take in order to address systemic racism within their everyday lives.
During each meeting, CHARA discusses a different topic in order to dig deeper and find ways of making a positive and tangible experience for the alumni participants. They hope these conversations inspire alumni to promote these conversations within their workplaces and with their families - one step towards creating change for racial equality.
In addition to monthly conversations since August 2020, CHARA also raised over $10,000 for the Bishop Healy Emergency Fund, a fund created to meet emergency expenses and support the success of ALANA students at Holy Cross. Looking ahead, in 2021, CHARA is looking to continue expanding its organization to include more recent graduates, Holy Cross students, and to connect with the Holy Cross administrators in order to help create a difference within the college. They want current students to know that they would like to “be considered as a support system, to give advice, be in their corner, and listen to help address their needs and concerns.”
Since the organization's inception in August, CHARA has gradually grown to have close to 100 active members meeting on the 2nd Tuesday of every month to continue fostering the conversations of race.
If you would like to attend one of these meetings or would like to connect with CHARA, feel free to email them at email@example.com. The Bishop Healy Committee would like to thank CHARA for their generous support to the Emergency Fund and for continuing to provide a safe and supportive space to promote conversations surrounding racial justice.
Fall 2020 Edition
Sonia Barbosa '95- Boston, MA
Sonia came to the US from the Cape Verde Islands in 1979 with her family and settled in Boston. She graduated from Boston Technical High School and Holy Cross was her first choice for colleges. She majored in Psychology with a concentration in African American Studies. She graduated in 1995 and her research work with Dr. Andrew Futterman and Dr. Ogretta McNeil, where she examined Coping and Religion in the Elderly African American Community in Worcester, MA, ushered her transition to her first job at the Murray Research Center at Radcliffe College (now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University), where she served as project manager on a grant collecting human subjects data on diverse and underrepresented populations. In 2004, Sonia moved to the Institute for Quantitative Social Science where she continues to manage the Murray Archive and is manager of Data Curation for the Harvard Dataverse repository and works closely with the Dataverse product development team. Sonia leads the Harvard Dataverse in providing training to researchers around the world on curating and sharing research data to meet FAIR standards.
"My involvement with Bishop Healy began in 1993 when I was Vice Chair of the BSU committee and was invited by Joe Reilly ‘55 to become a member of the committee. I remained a member of the committee for the past 25 years, serving as co-chair and chair until July 1st, 2020. I remain on the committee as chair of the advocacy committee and member of the newly formed advisory board.
My proudest achievement with the committee has been my connection with the students over the past 25 years. Making time to get to campus and connect with the young women and men was always an important commitment for me.The little that I feel I was able to provide in terms of listening and sharing our history with the students and just being present for them, holds the most significance for me. I intervened with more measurable actions when requests were made, but I feel that anything I was able to do or give, made a difference.
When I look back at my experience at The Cross, I realize that is where I needed to be, as much as I wish I could have changed many things about my college experience. I was drawn to Holy Cross because of the Jesuit experience and the beautiful campus. No other school would have given me the friendships, the relationships, and the experiences that I had. Holy Cross introduced me to the small number of ALANA students that felt they could deal with the challenges of being on a predominately White campus that made us the representatives for our community. Not everyone stayed for that fight, but those of us that did, we leaned on each other. We listened when our mentors told us the academic experience was worth the lack of social outlets, the fights for representation, the formed relationships that to this day keep us moving forward. Recently, our number of ALANA Alumni involvement increased substantially and that was the culmination of effort. To see how many have returned to continue the process of making Holy Cross a better place for ALANA is the most encouraging action I have seen in a decade. This speaks to our need to hang on! To continue to show up on campus and remind everyone that we were there and we are here!"
Spring 2020 Edition
Joanna L. Mergeche, M.D. ’10- New York, NY
Chief Resident, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Columbia- New York Presbyterian Hospital
The Bishop Healy Committee extends our gratitude to our alumni on the front lines, who live the Holy Cross Mission to be men and women for and with others. For this edition of the newsletter we highlight Joanna L. Mergeche, M.D. of Class of 2010, and Chief Resident in the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Columbia-New York Presbyterian Hospital.
Joanna is one of many brave men and women working in the face of this pandemic. If you would like to show your appreciation for other frontline & essential workers in the Holy Cross ALANA alumni community.
Winter 2020 Edition
Michelle Moreno-Silva '15- Boston, MA
In November, Michelle Moreno-Silva ‘15 was named one of the El Mundo Boston Latino 30 under 30. The award honors young individuals who are making an impact on the Massachusetts Latino community.
At Holy Cross, Michelle majored in Political Science with a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies. Her favorite professor was Prof. Chubb, whose Power and Protest course, she says, pushed her to look beyond the surface. She went on to receive her Master of Professional Studies at Georgetown University, and is currently the Deputy Director of Hispanic Media for Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
Michelle says: “It is humbling to reflect on the path that my life has taken. From growing up in a low-income community in Rhode Island, to studying at two Jesuit institutions, to now running around the U.S. Capitol serving the American people.”
Michelle found her four years at HC to be formative in fostering her intellectual inquiry, moral reflection, and spiritual growth. She participated in Immersion programs in Appalachia and Nicaragua, both experiences she treasured for the opportunity to connect with people from different communities. She also participated in the Washington Semester Program, which eventually led her to her current position.
Michelle encourages current students and young alumni to seek formal mentoring and become mentors. She says, “Mentors are valuable because they provide guidance to students/recent alumni of color in navigating a competitive job market, where coveted skills as well as access to professional networks are essential. In the workforce, people of color have additional obstacles, whether it is obtaining leadership positions or even breaking through to an industry so having a mentor is instrumental.”
Michelle is the fifth Holy Cross alumnus to receive this honor in the last 4 years. She joins Kelly Garcia ‘15 and Yarlennys Villaman ‘14 who were honored in 2018; Kati Fernandez ‘15 who was honored in 2017; and Ivan Watanabe ‘08 who was honored in 2016.
Fall 2019 Edition
Yolanda Rabun '90
Can you tell us a little about yourself? At Holy Cross, I was a cheerleader co-captain, Head RA, Admissions Interviewer, Black Student Union Vice President and President, and SPUD Volunteer. I loved every moment of my life at Holy Cross as a Political Science Major and a member of the Honors Program. My Honors thesis was on Black Women in the 19th Century and the Politics of Race, Sex and Class. For my Honors Thesis presentation, I choreographed the manuscript into a script with songs and dance, recruited a dozen of my friends and performed it! We had to add 'shows' because it was so popular.
I am Senior Counsel with IBM's Legal team in Research Triangle Park and responsible for complex University AI and Cognitive Computing deals in IBM Research - Yorktown, IBM Brazil, IBM Japan, and IBM China, and also for several IBM Storage products in IBM Systems. My subject matter expertise is in complex mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property contract transactions and copyright licensing matters. I have been awarded the Triangle Business Journal’s Top 40 under 40 Leadership Award, the Durham Chamber of Commerce Connector Award and the TBJ’s Women in Business Award. I am a member of the Minority Corporate Counsel Association, the Corporate Counsel Women of Color and admitted to full legal practice in New York and Georgia and perform pro-bono legal services in North Carolina.
I was recognized by IBM and President Barack Obama as the recipient for the President’s Lifetime Call to Service Award for having accumulated 4,000+ lifetime hours in service. My recent community outreach extended to Brownies/Girl Scouts, Black Girls Code, and the Durham Rescue Mission. I have been married for 25 years with two sons.
What was your experience like at Holy Cross? We were a close-knit class of African and African-American students. My experience was one of empowerment and liberation to be myself. That had a profound effect on my life. My love for the arts flourished and I was heavily involved in service projects.
What did you do after graduating? How did your experience at HC impact you? I went to law school at Boston College Law School after graduation and went on to work in Corporate America with IBM as In House Counsel. My love for computer programming and computers started at Holy Cross. I also remember learning at Holy Cross to have a constant hunger for knowledge and to set myself apart from the crowd by having a skill or resource everyone could use. That attitude allowed me to learn fairly quickly new ideas and concepts with clients and colleagues and adapt with ease as an Executive in the Law Department.
Do you have any advice for current students/recent alumni of color?Live your entire life to the fullest and without apology. And whatever you do, don't be afraid to use all of the gifts you've been blessed with in every aspect of your life: family, work, community and your passion.
Payton Shubrick ’15
HCAA Young Alumni Award Winner 2019
Please tell us about your career. What have you been working on? Is there something you are the most proud of? Being a young alumna, how has your experience with Holy Cross affected your post-grad life, work-wise?
I am employed at MassMutual as a Home Office Technology Strategist helping the company to make strategic decisions around the hardware and software vendors we use. I am also CEO & Founder of 6 Brick's LLC which is an Adult Use Marijuana Establishment in Springfield, MA which will open in Spring/Summer of 2020. My Holy Cross experience prepared me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Whether it was being one of two ALANA students in a class or having my thoughts challenged by a professor who had differing political views. All the moments of discomfort gave me the confidence to own who I was and what I believed. As the saying goes, "If it does not challenge you, it does not change you" and Holy Cross changed me for the better.
What has been your involvement with the Alumni Association? Why have you chosen to stay in touch with HC in such a close and dynamic kind of way? Since graduation, in 2015 - I joined the Holy Cross Alumni Association chairing the Young Alumni Committee on a three-year term. I also joined the Bishop Healy committee, 150th Celebrations committee, and Homecoming Dinner (2016) committee. I think it is important for ALANA students to see alums that look like them still engaged and showing up. I show up because of alums like Ron Lawson, Harry Thomas, and Rod DeLeaver that have showed up and engaged with me in a meaningful way. I hope to do the same for current students.
What does it mean to you to receive such an award and/or if you could pass on any message to students and young alumni of color, what would you tell them?I am humbled and honored to receive this award. I would pass along the advice to students, in the words of the late and great Ms. Maya Angelou “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.” As I remind myself of this each and every day, it allows me to stay in control of the things that I have control of. Time is too precious to focus on the problem, instead, start to think of the solution.
Spring 2019 Edition
Brian Lockhart '96
A Great Sport When It Comes to Being a Mentor for Young Alumni
Executive Producer of ESPN+
Brian Lockhart graduated from Holy Cross in 1996, earning a degree in Mathematics. Although Math came to him very naturally, he also found his religion and philosophy classes to be interesting as well. Brian played Men's basketball and served as team captain during his Senior year. As a student-athlete on campus, he found his most memorable moments at Holy Cross were with his teammates, when each person supported one another on and off the court.
As an alumnus, Brian has spent the last 7 years actively involved in the Alumni Mentoring Program through the Center for Career Development. Why has he continued to mentor so many students over the years? Brian says it's because of the passion his mentees have, and advocacy--that they give each other, and need from alumni, faculty and staff. In the beginning of each mentorship, he makes it clear that if a student reaches out to Brian seeking advice, or just someone to talk with, then he'll be there to connect with them. Without fail, his mentees reach out wanting to connect with him and seek advice and this drive is what makes him continue to be engaged with current Holy Cross Students.
If Brian could go back in time and give his college-self a piece of advice it would be to find your own authentic path - the money and success will follow. Focus on the things that you love, not what is expected.
Alumni Andrew Truong '17 and Elise Tomasello '17 share their experience from the Bishop Healy Committee's inaugural Alumni & Student of Color retreat that took place at the Joyce Contemplative Center in February 2019:
Andrew Truong ’17
Major/Minor/Concentration: Political Science and Spanish double major
Involvement on Campus: Advocating Student Interest in Asia (A.S.I.A.), The Peer Mentor Program, Odyssey Program, Admissions Office, Fools on the Hill A Cappella Group
For me, the retreat was a time to relax, reflect, and reconnect with a community of people that made Holy Cross feel like a home for me. The retreat gave me and other alumni and students a space to be in community, and a time to step away from the stresses and struggles that people of color regularly face. The workshop with Julia Golden was especially impactful in that sense. It allowed me to reflect on what it means to be a person of color in predominantly white spaces, and taught me more about acknowledging and managing the struggles that arise as a result. Overall, being in a space where students and alumni were able to authentically share their experiences and learn more about how to navigate spaces as a person of color was impactful and empowering. I truly appreciate the retreat for providing that unique space - one both created by, and dedicated to, people of color - which, unfortunately, I feel is difficult to find for both students and alumni. I am so grateful to have been in that space and to have had the opportunity to experience the retreat, and I’d like to thank the Bishop Healy Committee for all the time and effort put into making the retreat such an impactful, incredible experience that I hope will continue to be an opportunity for other students and alumni in the future.
Elise Tomasello ’17
Involvement on Campus: STEM Tutor, LASO, Acappella
Sometimes as busy alumni we forget to pause and reflect on the important questions posed to us during our time at Holy Cross. It is easy to get caught up in our daily schedules and forget about any biases in our environment or to take some time to question/challenge them. This is what drove me to sign up for the 2019 Young Alumni and Students of Color Retreat. I wanted to reconnect with Holy Cross, enjoy the reflective space and comforting community, and be able to give back some advice to current students.
It was refreshing to have a space to talk through racial identity and diversity on campus in our new work environments, something I have rarely done since graduating. Led by Julia Golden, this discussion found common ground in everyone’s experience and was an important outlet to release our thoughts and feelings. I really enjoyed hearing that students are building more communities of color with new groups on campus. Particularly for me as a Math Major, I was excited to hear that they have started a group to help students of color in STEM (SOCS). Although part of our job there as alumni was to mentor the students, I felt like they were teaching me to be passionate again and take action if you see a need in your community. It is always comforting to come back to spaces like the beautiful contemplative center and be surrounded by people who are similar to you. The challenge is to bring this feeling forward for the world when you leave. Events like this really help you reset so that you can do this in the best way possible.
Winter 2019 Edition
Holy Cross for the WIN!
Holy Cross Alumnae receive El Mundo 30 under 30 award in 2018
The El Mundo Boston Latino 30 under 30 honors Yarlennys Villaman ’14 and Kelly Garcia ’15 for making an impact on the Massachusetts Latino community in a variety of fields including, but not limited to, Business, Sports, Community Service, and Fine Arts. The list serves to highlight the growing and invaluable impact of the Latino community in Boston, the state and world.
This isn't the first time Holy Cross grads have made the list! Past alumni recipients Kati Fernandez '15 (center) and Ivan Watanabe '08 (right) received the honor in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
Congratulations to our impressive Latinx alumni!
Yarlennys Villaman ’14 graduated from Holy Cross with a degree in Spanish. Yarlenny’s commitment to her community is well reflected in the number of awards she has received for her work serving as the commissioner for the City of Cambridge Commission on Immigrant Rights and Citizenship and the creation of her own non-profit organization in the Dominican Republic called Lazos Al Futuro. She continues to strive for every child to deserve the best health care available especially in underdeveloped countries. After graduation Yarlennys served on the Board of Trustees for two years. She also previously served as the President for the Holy Cross Club of Boston.
Kelly Garcia ’15 graduated with a degree in psychology and upon graduation dedicated two years to Teach for America where she began her teaching career as a Special Education Teacher for students in grades 9-12. Since then, Kelly has been dedicated to promoting quality schools across Massachusetts. Most recently, Kelly was elected as the youngest School Committee official ever elected in Chelsea and she continues to fight for students’ rights to access for education.
Kati Fernandez ’15 was a junior at Holy Cross on the pre-medicine track when her ALANA mentor, Brian Lockhart ’96, VP of NFL Originals, inspired her to look into the world of television which changed her life. Being the only Latina producer at the NFL Network, Kati is striving to see more women and women of color in these roles. Being from the Dominican Republic and moving to Cambridge when she was 7, Kati cherishes both her Dominican and Bostonian roots.
Ivan Watanabe ’08 graduated from Holy Cross with a degree in Spanish. Originally from Bradford, MA, Ivan currently is a Managing Partner at Opus Private Client, LLC in New York where he is dedicated to alleviating challenges families with diverse backgrounds face when achieving their personal and financial goals. Ivan has a strong passion for helping others, values that were a large part of his family upbringing. Ivan also served on the Bishop Healy Committee’s Executive Committee.
Fall 2018 Edition
Ronald Lawson ’75
Ron Lawson’s Greatest Joy is the Opportunity to Connect with Students on Campus
Very few embody the mission of the Bishop Healy committee better than Ronald Lawson ’75. When the BHC was created in 1979, its stated goal was to “discover and implement means of alumni participation in efforts to foster interracial understanding, interaction and friendship within the Holy Cross Community.” By 1996, the goal of the committee was made more concrete -- the recruitment of black students, the retention of students of color, and the increase of black alumni involvement at Holy Cross. Very quickly the efforts were directed to and included all ALANA students and alumni.
Ron was among the first of several alumni who answered the call to take direct action in increasing ALANA recruitment. Since then, the Bishop Healy Committee has been one of the most active committees of the HCAA. With a $1 million anonymous donation, the committee has been able to create a series of support and outreach programs. Ron worked directly with the Center for Career Development to create the ALANA Mentoring program, helping to develop the first series of relationships with students and mentors. He helped to create the Bishop Healy Emergency fund during the 40th anniversary of the Black Student Union, and created several other programs and initiatives to help enhance the experiences of students of color at Holy Cross.
Although Ron stepped down from a formal position on the committee at the end of June 2018, he continues to support Bishop Healy initiatives and ALANA students. This summer, he interned former students Nakyah Lucas ‘20 and Christian Hayes ’20 at his business, Care for the Homeless, in New York City. Ron’s advice for alumni looking to stay connected to the college: Come back and give back—not only do you benefit personally by being able to connect with alumni professionals, but it feels good to help, too. The Bishop Healy Committee thanks Ron for his many years of service and dedication to the College of the Holy Cross.
(Inaugural) Summer 2018 Edition
Even Superheroes Need a Good Mentor
Just like Black Panther looked to Zuri for support and guidance, many of our students look to alumni mentors. That is the case for Nicolas Jones ‘19 and Omar Hemedy ‘02. While Nicolas and Omar are not the famous characters in the movie, they have built a mentor/mentee relationship through the Center for Career Development ALANA Mentoring Program (AMP). Each year AMP matches current students and alumni of color in hopes of connecting students with one of their greatest resources, THE HOLY CROSS ALUMNI NETWORK.
As part of the program, students are required to connect with their mentor at least once a month. Most of these meetings take place over email, phone and in person for some, depending on location. Over the last year and a half, Omar has been mentoring Nicolas, serving as a resource for him during his time on the hill. Omar has helped Nicolas navigate his academics, career development and the challenges that come with being a student of color at Holy Cross. Over the course of the last year and a half they have grown close. It is no surprise, when Nicolas shared with Omar that he was planning to go see Black Panther with a few of his friends, Omar sponsored a bus to send 80 students to see Black Panther at the local theater. On Tuesday, February 20th Omar joined Nicolas and his peers as they took the bus and enjoyed a drink and popcorn over the best selling movie of the year. While popcorn and a movie is not required to be a mentor, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the support that Omar has provided Nicolas and thank him for making this opportunity happen for the other students who joined them.