Global studies and business administration sophomore Kaitlyn Fitzgerald has known she’s wanted to dedicate her life to help others since middle school.
Fitzgerald is one of 18 students named a Spirit of Service scholar in 2012.
The program supports future leaders who wish to pursue careers in public service.
The program has given Fitzgerald the opportunity to hear from experts in critical issues, she said.
“My interest in (public) service began when I was in middle school, and I read a book about the atrocities that were happening in the world, especially in Sudan,” she said. “I instantly knew something had to be done.”
While still in high school, Fitzgerald began her volunteer work at the Lost Boys Center for Leadership and Development, which supports Sudanese war refugees.
Fitzgerald developed the program of English as a second language for the center and taught English and citizenship classes.
Kadi Tierney, director of mission advancement of the Lost Boys Center, said Fitzgerald’s work at the center has been fruitful.
“Kaitlyn has worked tirelessly,” she said. “Out of all the teachers, she’s probably had the most students who have gotten citizenship.”
Fitzgerald will have a bright future in service, Tierney said.
“As soon as we saw her, we knew she was special, even though she was so young,” she said. “She’s got this wonderful combination of energy, passion and intelligence.”
Fitzgerald traveled to Ghana to work with children and help build classrooms during the summer before her senior year at Seton Catholic Preparatory School.
When she returned, Fitzgerald and her trip roommate started a scholarship fund for the children they met there.
They sell handmade bags and all the profits are used to pay for the children’s educations and food.
Fitzgerald’s interest in helping people overcome obstacles came from early experiences.
“My mother had Parkinson’s (disease) when I was growing up, (and) I got to see her fight that,” she said. “Then, when I was in fifth grade, my brother passed away.”
These struggles led her to think about how she could help others succeed.
Fitzgerald is also the student director of Changemaker Central.
“Changemaker provides people with the tools they need to pursue their passions,” she said. “If there’s ever a time to try, it is when you are a student and have all these resources.”
Changemaker Central management intern Maggie Broderick said Fitzgerald is an example for all students.
“She embodies what ASU represents,” Broderick said. “She knows her community and wants to help better it.”
Fitzgerald traveled to Israel and Palestine last summer to learn about conflict in the area.
All global issues are important to her, but Fitzgerald said she is especially interested in North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
Fitzgerald added she is not certain about a career path, but she wants to work with women in those regions or with refugees.
“It will definitely be something in public service with a concentration on education,” she said.
Education is necessary to overcome obstacles, Fitzgerald added.
“My life experiences, the books I’ve read and the volunteering work I do really helped drive me and motivate me to dedicate my life to public service,” she said.
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