Almost everything in life is impacted by our physical and mental well-being, including our abilities to learn, grow and form relationships. But often, we only truly appreciate our good health when it is somehow taken from us.
Caitlin McGuire ‘13 knows the effects that poor health can have. She’s seen them firsthand through her extensive experience working and volunteering at the Center for Working Families in Quito, Ecuador. In order to promote better health for all, she aims to pursue her Master’s degree in a public health-related field.
“Thirty of our children at the Center are malnourished,” she explained. “Seeing how nutrition and education, or health and everything in life, are so deeply intertwined, my hope is to go into the health field and work in community health initiatives… All of the tools that I’ve gained from Le Moyne and learned from my professional experience have brought me to this place of really wanting to find the intersection of health and non-profit work.”
Currently working toward earning her medical interpreter’s license, McGuire’s journey along her career path started when she was a junior at Le Moyne. A Spanish and Communications dual major, she traveled to the Center for Working Families in Quito, Ecuador as part of Campus Ministry’s two-week long service trip. The Center was founded by a Jesuit in 1964 and was originally intended to provide educational opportunities for local shoeshine boys. Since then, it has expanded to offer services to the whole family. Students on the trip serve in a variety of ways, whether it be in the classroom, the woodworking shop, or outdoors.
When she first participated in the trip, McGuire didn’t speak much Spanish. “I had very basic Spanish—couldn’t really conjugate verbs—but it was a catalyst for me deciding that this is a language I really want to speak,” she said. With the help of dedicated Spanish professors such as Orlando Ocampo and Mary Zampini, and a study abroad experience in Costa Rica, McGuire returned to lead the trip her senior year a much more confident Spanish speaker.
It was during that service trip when a few year-long volunteers who worked at the Center pulled her aside and told her that she should consider returning to be a year-long volunteer herself. She ended up following their advice and served for two years, post-graduation. Afterwards, she continued to serve in a variety of ways, including as the U.S. representative of the Center, the development director, and the community director.
Alice Zicari, who organizes all of Campus Ministry’s domestic and international service immersion trips, has worked with McGuire closely in the past to organize the College’s annual service trip to the Center. “She truly embodies the Jesuit values, especially by being a woman for and with others,” said Zicari. “Her dedicating two years of her life after graduation is just a testament to that ideal.”
Though her time as a full-time employee of the Center has only recently come to an end, McGuire remains active within the organization and is working to plan a volunteer reunion next year in Quito. She has been deeply moved by her time at the Center and continues to search for ways to give back, especially in the community health field.
Thanks to her time at Le Moyne, McGuire finds herself well-equipped to tackle the challenges she actively seeks out. “I think that’s what a liberal arts education does,” she said. “It teaches people how to be problem-solvers, it teaches people how to work with their own internal compass, and it teaches people how to look deep within and see everyone for who they are.”
While she acknowledges the amount of work that still needs to be done to make the world more just, she remains optimistic about the future. “We have a lot of challenges ahead of us as a society, as a world, as the Catholic Church, as higher education, as young people in the United States, and we need people who are enthusiastic and ready to learn and work and grow,” McGuire said. “If people are taking advantage of everything Le Moyne has to offer, I think they’re going to find those challenges and come out so much better on the other side.”