Mara D'Amico

Mara D'Amico

Graduate student at Clinton School of Public Service in Little Rock, Ark.

“From my time at CMU and through my involvement with the Volunteer Center, I learned that I could dedicate my life and my career to public service — that it didn’t have to be something I just did in my free time,” says Mara D’Amico, ’10.

“I began to seek out information about careers that would allow me to live my life as an active citizen. It’s something I strive for now, and I don’t believe I would be on this path had I not gotten involved at CMU or served through the Volunteer Center.”

Mara, who was a participant, site leader and board member of the Alternative Breaks program, says she was amazed by the number of ways to get involved at CMU. She cites her first Alternative Break, where she traveled with 11 other students to Greenville, S.C., to work with Crossroads Group Home for adolescent girls who had been sexually abused, as her most memorable trip.

“Throughout the whole experience, I felt as though these girls were doing more to teach me than I was doing to help them,” Mara said. “Each night that week we would return to the community church where we were staying, and I would cry.

“I cried tears that some of the girls didn’t feel like they could cry. I cried tears of anger that someone would rape an 11-year-old girl. I cried tears of sadness that we live in a world where these crimes are all too common. I realized then that my work couldn’t stop there.”

Since then, Mara says she has read countless books to educate herself on the issue of violence against women, educated thousands through theatrical productions and become a certified advocate for survivors of violence, and spent time volunteering in a domestic violence shelter.

“My first Alternative Break changed me; it helped me to understand the importance of finding something I’m passionate about and working endlessly to address it,” Mara said. “This shaped me in ways that I can’t even explain and really helped me to become committed to improving the state of our society in all of the ways that I can.”