Stories of distinction in the class of 2002

Author: Dennis Brown

Each of the 1,872 undergraduates in the University of Notre Dame’s class of 2002 has traveled a unique path to next Sunday’s (May 19) Commencement exercises. Here are several stories of seniors who stand out:p. p. Caitlin Allen , Yorktown Heights, N.Y. ? One of the most accomplished Irish dancers in North America, Allen was admitted to Notre Dame in 1997 but deferred college for a year to accept an offer to perform with the original “Riverdance” company. Throughout the 1997-98 academic year, while her would-be freshman classmates at Notre Dame were hitting the books, she toured from New York to Los Angeles and plenty of points in between as the youngest of 20 women in the troupe. She enrolled at Notre Dame in August 1998 but has continued to perform with “Riverdance” as a backup and during breaks. She also has provided group and private Irish dance lessons in the South Bend area. A marketing major who served as an intern in the University’s public relations and information office, Allen is weighing job opportunities. In the meantime, she plans to offer dance workshops this summer and will perform periodically with “Riverdance.”p. p. Joe Collins, Placentia, Calif. ? In the fall of 1994, the Make A Wish Foundation provided Collins, then 14 and fighting a rare form of bone cancer in his right knee, with a weekend visit to Notre Dame. He and his family toured the campus and watched the Irish football team defeat Air Force. Then it was back to California for more chemotherapy. But Joe never forgot Notre Dame and ultimately turned his wish to visit the University into a dream to attend and, in the fall of 1998, into the reality of enrolling. Now, eight year after that first visit ? and free from cancer ? Joe will be graduated with a double major in marketing and film, television and theatre. He hopes to apply his two fields of study to a position in advertising and commercial television production.p. p. Eden Essex , Fort Wayne, Ind. ? A government and international studies major with a concentration in peace studies, the multitalented Essex has participated in a wide range of activities at Notre Dame. She was a peer advisor for the First Year of Studies, an intern for the Alliance for Catholic Education, a member of the Pre-Law Society, a writer for Scholastic magazine and a photographer for the campus newspaper, The Observer. An accomplished musician, she plays the clarinet and saxophone and was a member of the Notre Dame Jazz Band. She studied in London as a sophomore, serving as a parliamentary intern in the House of Commons, and received a Truman Scholarship last year. She has been an investigator and court liaison in the Allen County (Ind.) Public Defender’s Office during summer and winter breaks the last four years, work that has influenced her plan to pursue a career in law. She will begin this fall at Harvard Law School.p. Nick Fonte , Laguna Nigel, Calif. ? Growing up in the affluent Orange County community of Laguna Nigel, Fonte says, “I was right out of the movie ‘Clueless.’ I didn’t come to Notre Dame thinking about poverty. I thought it was normal for people to spend money on the most superficial stuff.” Fonte was randomly assigned as the social concerns commissioner for his residence hall and soon developed a passion for the poor in this nation and around the world. He began serving at the Center for the Homeless and the Boys and Girls Club of South Bend, then spent the spring semester of his sophomore year in Chile, working in programs to assist children. “Going to Chile and seeing children with no hope for their lives shook me to my core,” he says. His experiences have inspired him to spend the next two years in service at the Farm of the Child, an orphanage, health clinic and Catholic school in Honduras. He may end up in the health care profession, but says, “Whatever I do, I’ll be committed to helping the marginalized of our society.”p. p. Kevin Fortner , Cullman, Ala. ?Working in the laboratory of Seth Brown, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, Fortner has participated in a metallic kinetics project to measure the rate of oxygen exchange between two metals and a Pfizer Pharmaceuticals-sponsored effort involving an osmium compound. The quality of his research was recognized last year when he received a scholarship for his senior year from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation. The Goldwater is considered the premier undergraduate award of its type in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences and engineering. Fortner will begin the doctoral program in organic chemistry in the fall at Harvard University with the goal of teaching and conducting research on the university level.p. p. Brooke Norton , Glendora, Calif. ?Norton became the first woman to serve as Notre Dame’s student body president when she and running mate Brian Moscona won the 2001 election with 56 percent of the vote. Among the accomplishments of the Norton administration were unification efforts within the student union and the creation of a comprehensive calendar system to inform students of all campus events. A Dean’s List student, she was Walsh Hall’s freshman representative, the freshman class secretary and sophomore class vice president before serving as student body vice president in 2000-01. She majored in government and international studies with a minor in journalism and has accepted a position in the marketing and brand management division of Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati.p. p. Mia Sarkesian , Canton, Mich. ? Best known on campus as a leader of Notre Dame’s perennially powerful women’s soccer team, Sarkesian also has excelled in the classroom and in service. A cocaptain last fall, she was second on the team in scoring with 18 points and was selected to the Verizon/CoSIDA Academic All-District V team. Her volunteer activities have included Christmas in April, projects sponsored by the athletic department’s Life Skills Program, and a summer internship at Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was in the latter program that she discovered a desire to assist children in need, and especially those in poverty. She will continue that service after graduation in a two-year commitment to the Inner-City Teaching Corps in Chicago.p. p. Danielle Rose Skorich , Duluth, Minn. ?Skorich, who goes by the stage name Danielle Rose, is a music and theology major who artfully combines her talents as a singer-songwriter-guitarist with a genuine and joyful desire to serve God and share her faith. She recorded a CD last summer, titled “Defining Beauty,” that has been praised by music critics for its folksy sound and clear message. Rose, who was inspired spiritually and musically when she spent a summer at age 17 working in India with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, has been a member of the Notre Dame Folk Choir for four years. She will spend this summer helping lead music for ND Vision, an on-campus youth ministry, and performing at World Youth Day in Toronto and at a youth festival in Medjugorje. She then plans to move to Phoenix to continue writing and to begin touring and performing around the country. “Defining Beauty” is available by calling 800-566-6150, through, or at the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore.p. p. Jemar Tisby , Waukegan, Ill. ? Whether singing in the Voices of Faith Gospel Choir or slugging his way to victory in the 145-pound division of the Bengal Bouts boxing tournament, Tisby has immersed himself in a wide variety of spiritual, academic and extracurricular activities on campus the past four years. He served as president of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry as a junior and senior and was active in Campus Ministry’s Interfaith Student Group and Emmaus Scripture Study Group, work that led to his selection as this year’s recipient of the Sister Thea Bowman Award from Campus Ministry. A residence assistant in Keough Hall, he served from 1999-2001 on the Student Government Diversity Committee. Following graduation, he will work for a year as a Campus Ministry intern in ecumenical and Africa-American programs. His long-term goal is to earn a master of divinity degree to prepare for full-time church work.

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