Next up for our Collaborator Spotlight, we have JUNTOSAmbassador Director Catherine Keller
Catherine first traveled with JUNTOS to Guatemala in January 2012 as a student in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. Upon graduation, Catherine became the JUNTOSAmbassador
Director, creating curriculum and programming for JUNTOS students interested in developing leadership skills in the non-profit sector and creating sustainable JUNTOS programming.
We asked Catherine a few questions about her JUNTOS journey. Here were her answers:
JUNTOS: Favorite place you have travelled?
Catherine: Zunil, Guatemala
J: What drew you to the organization?
C: I attended an info session during my sophomore year where past JUNTOSAbroad participants talked about their experiences. It sounded like the perfect combination of my passion for dance and the social justice that I was learning about through Fordham’s Jesuit-inspired curriculum. I was beginning to wonder if I could really dance professionally or whether that would be fulfilling for me, and my first JUNTOS trip was the perfect venue for asking all of those questions and throwing myself totally outside my comfort zone, while feeling perfectly at home.
J: Funny or Inspiring JUNTOS memory?
C: During my first JUNTOS trip, we were due to teach a two-day workshop series for students from different schools in a region of Guatemala. When we arrived for the first day, we walked into a room of quiet kids all scattered into different corners with the couple of people they knew from their own school. When we began the class very few of the students appeared eager to participate and seemed embarrassed to move in front of strangers. However, throughout the class their attitudes started to warm and they began to chat with the other kids from different schools. By the end of the first day we were getting high-fives and hugs as they left. What really struck me was at the end of the second day when these students from different schools who had never met and seemed really apprehensive of each other upon first meeting, left our final workshop to head to the corner shop together. Through dance, they had let down their walls and really connected with each other. This is the kind of experience and the kind of change that I hope to share with as many people as possible.
J: What have you been up to since graduation? How did JUNTOS affect your career path?
C: JUNTOS inspired my double major in college of dance and Spanish studies. After graduation I knew that I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector and found an organization in NYC that worked
with minority middle school students. It was really fulfilling to work directly with the students and their families as tey navigated the process of applying for high school
JUNTOS most directly affected my career path by offering me the opportunity to keep working for this incredible organization. I was thrilled when Joanna asked me to create a new program with her from the ground up and am proud to see us moving into our second program year.
J: Aspirations for the future? What is one of your dreams?
C: One of my long-term goals is to work on dance education policy. I am currently working in DC and have been impressed with the far-reaching effects of policy change. I would like to educate the public and legislators about the benefits of reinvesting in arts and dance education in schools as a way of helping kids to not only express themselves but open their minds to creative problem solving and so much more!