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2017 Outstanding Ignatian Senior - Kate O'Leary, Biological Sciences/Pre-Med

Loyola announcement - May 11, 2017

Personal Statement

I once discovered a mailbox in the middle of nowhere. On the Island of Floreana in the south of the Galapagos, there is a small barrel in a place known as Post Office Bay. Since the 1700s, sailors have deposited letters written during their long journeys at sea into the wooden barrel, but this is not a traditional postal service with guaranteed shipping in a few business days. People drop off letters addressed to family and friends; then they search through the mailbox to find a letter with an intended destination similar to their own. They can mail or hand-deliver the letter they find to its recipient, participating in an act of kindness for someone they will never meet and who can never thank them. Mailing a letter may seem like an insignificant way to help someone, but Loyola has taught me to appreciate the small acts of kindness just as much as the big. As I stood on this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with my Tropical Ecology classmates, I felt like I had discovered a piece of Loyola 2,000 miles from campus.

This experience has reminded me that values are portable. My Jesuit education is applicable beyond the limits of Loyola's campus. By traveling and participating in outreach opportunities through LUCAP and Iggy Vols, I have continually realized the far-reaching impact of the Loyola community. I have discovered how to not only be a woman for others but also a woman with others. While volunteering in Belize, I served with the community members, immersing myself in their culture and living alongside them. When I volunteered for a second time as a team leader in Jamaica, I was able to pass down the knowledge and leadership I had acquired to my peers. I felt God in the work I was doing as an Ignacio volunteer and recognized Him in the solidarity of the people around me. Through these experiences, I have realized my potential to be an active agent of change and have become more open to challenging myself. Each year, I have improved academically, deepened my Jesuit values, and cultivated a social obligation toward helping others. Loyola has taught me that growth is limitless, and though I may be leaving this school, I will not leave behind this desire to constantly improve myself.

When I have multiple tests, a presentation, meetings, and a pile of homework, it is often easy to lose sight of how fortunate I am to have studied at this institution. The Jesuit emphasis on education of the whole person has made me aware of what a privilege it is to be in these classes with these professors, a privilege that many are not afforded. This university has restructured how I approach educational opportunities. I have not simply learned anatomy and physiology vocabulary, chemistry equations, and biochemical pathways, but I have learned the greater significance of this information. Loyola has helped me to take my education a step further by discerning how I can apply this knowledge in my daily life and continue to educate others.

My Jesuit education is relevant not only to my current life as a volunteer, sorority sister, lab partner, and teammate, but also in my future life as an aspiring Physician's Assistant and Naval Officer. Loyola has taught me to take my passions and use them in a way that will better those around me, which has inspired me to enter fields dedicated to caring for others. The Navy's motto non sibi sed patriae — not for self but for country — resonates deeply with my Jesuit values. The goals I have are ultimately bigger than myself. Loyola has given me a lifelong vocation to be of service to others and I plan to actualize this every day in my career. Much like how we will never know the impact of the one letter we deliver from Post Office Bay, we may not realize the significance of our actions within our lifetime. Still, this should not prevent us from striving toward larger ideals and living a life for the great glory of God in even our smallest actions.