Inspired by his community engagement efforts from San Rafael to Cincinnati, and with support from faculty, staff, and classmates, Biology major and Community Action and Social Change minor Dylan Martins ’19 successfully applied to the Peace Corps.
Later this year he will begin serving as a Health Educator in the Republic of Moldova in Eastern Europe. Dylan feels very lucky to be part of the select group of applicants chosen to serve in this desirable location. Yet, it’s much more than luck that made the Peace Corps a reality for Dylan.
“I met a Peace Corps recruiter my sophomore year. After talking to her, joining the Peace Corps became a goal of mine, but one I wasn’t sure I’d be able to achieve. My parents taught me the importance of hard work and determination,” Dylan says. “I’ve taken advantage of all the opportunities I’ve been afforded here including support from my Dominican team.”
Dylan felt Dominican’s team spirit the first time his family walked onto campus, one of five they toured in his college search. They were late for Dominican’s campus visit day when a counselor spotted them, introduced them to student ambassadors and staff, and arranged a private tour.
“Everyone we met that day was so caring. I loved it and my parents felt really safe and comfortable sending me here,” Dylan recalls. “The breathtaking campus and great people just blew me away.”
As an incoming freshman Dylan originally declared a health science major, but his advisor, associate professor Lynne LoPresto, knowing his interests, steered him toward a biology degree in the School of Health and Natural Sciences.
“Professor LoPresto has had a major impact on my journey at Dominican,” Dylan says. “She has been an adviser in every sense. I don’t know where I would be without her knowledge, expertise, and constant encouragement.”
LoPresto also led Dylan to his first Service-Learning (SL) class where he met Julia van der Ryn, SL’s director. Quickly recognizing his passion and potential, she recruited him to be a service-learning student leader. Dylan began serving at the RotaCare Clinic, where he was trained to be a Triage Specialist.
“I was working with patients who don’t speak any English. So, I found myself playing medical charades,” Dylan says. “Witnessing first-hand the struggles that immigrants in our country face while trying to access medical care has been really eye-opening.”
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Through his time at Rotocare and learning more about the challenges in accessing affordable and quality healthcare, Dylan wanted to dive deeper into community development. His next step was to be one of the first students on campus to declare the new Community Action and Social Change (CASC) minor.
“My minor has challenged me in so many different ways,” Dylan says. “Looking back on my time at Dominican, I see how my education has lead me to be more aware of my social commitment. I credit much of this growth to the experience I’ve had working with different communities.”
Dylan’s compassionate outlook is an important factor in his success in community settings. Yet, it’s his work ethic and determination to challenge himself and put himself in situations beyond his comfort zone that has earned him a Peace Corps invitation.
Last summer before his senior year, Dylan applied to AmeriCorps VISTA and accepted an opportunity to serve as a nutrition education facilitator in Ohio. Dylan worked with an inner city youth program, developing close relationships and deepening his understanding of generational poverty. When there was a shooting in the community, Dylan experienced first-hand the effects of chronic stress on the group of children he had grown close to.
To be present for the children in this difficult time, Dylan drew on skills that he had been practicing in the community throughout his time with Dominican.
“Learning how to listen was one of the most important lessons I learned,” Dylan says. “The CASC minor has taught me how to address difficult situations and has engrained in me the value of community voices and the lived experience.”
In addition to his community engagement experience while at Dominican, Dylan was also able to network with alums Brandon Ernst ’12 (Peace Corps) and Jannel Mariano ’16 (Dominican Volunteers USA) to solidify his desire to apply to the Peace Corps. With recommendations from LoPresto, van der Ryn, and Monica Barry ’20, Dylan was excited to receive an acceptance call in October 2018.
“Serving organizations and communities, as part of my Dominican Experience, really struck a chord with me,” Dylan says. “Joining the Peace Corps would be a challenge for anyone and here I am starting this journey. Everything I have done with service-learning has prepared me for this.”
As Dylan prepares for his Peace Corps assignment, he bids adieu to people across campus who have made a difference in his life. That includes the Department of Admissions where he has been a student ambassador, giving tours to prospective students who, like himself, came to Dominican looking for direction.
“I know it will be hard to leave. Dominican has fostered my enthusiastic spirit and I’ve been able to harness that energy even more while here,” he says. “It’s hard to imagine that in two short months I’ll be leaving for Moldova. It’s extremely scary because I’m so comfortable here, but I feel confident about it. I feel very supported in this journey.”