#becauseofCJ: Mackenzie Aughe Mays '12

Young alumni are sharing how they are succeeding after high school in our #becauseofCJ series. Through your gift to the CJ Annual Fund, you make this happen for all students. As Mackenzie shares her thoughts and reflections on community service and involvement below, please consider joining others today in supporting the mission of CJ — thank you!

Throughout my years of Catholic school education, first at St. Rita and then at CJ, one constant was the emphasis on the importance of community service and involvement.

Like many college freshmen, in my first semester at Ohio State, I found myself wanting to switch majors. In talking with my advisor about what I was interested in and passionate about, I kept coming back to the need for social justice work and my urge to give back to my community. This led me to graduate in 2016 with my Bachelors in Public Health. I spent the next year serving as an Americorps service member delivering health education programming for newly-arrived refugees in Columbus. While I loved this work and everyone I met that year, it also reinforced for me the need to tackle some of the larger systemic barriers that my clients were facing.  Direct client work is important and challenging and rewarding, but I realized that I felt called to do policy and advocacy work at the system and community levels.

When my Americorps year ended, I returned to Ohio State to pursue a dual Masters in Social Work and Public Health because it was clear that issues like systemic racism, housing access, and wealth inequality are public health problems that must be addressed in order to promote a healthy and productive community. During my Masters program, I worked both in direct service and at a macro level. At Huckleberry House, I worked directly with youth who experienced homelessness as a result of family or domestic violence as they transitioned to independent living.  At the macro level, I worked with local health departments across the state as part of my work with the OSU Center for Public Health Practice.

Then, a few months ago, in the midst of a public health emergency, an economic recession, and a civil rights movement, I graduated. And honestly, it was scary.  And not just because of a suddenly very different job market.  It was scary because it seemed even more important that I find my place in a way that would be impactful. I am now a Contact Tracer, working with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect the Dayton community.  The pandemic is disproportionately impacting people of color economically and in terms of disease mortality.  My work as a Contact Tracer makes use of both my social work and public health skills to try to address this inequity.

I don’t know where my career will take me post-pandemic, but I do know that CJ instilled the right values to guide me. Mr. Mominee taught me about social justice and inequality in junior year Religion. Ms. Ruffalo taught me to be an engaged and active citizen in AP Government. And Mrs. Kinnear taught me the importance of service as a member of F.L.I.G.H.T. The people I met and experiences I had as a CJ student shaped me during high school and continue to influence my life.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to attend a school like CJ where social justice and advocating for a more equitable society is woven throughout the high school experience.

Mackenzie Aughe Mays '12

 

-- Published on August, 27, 2020