Summer 2021: Sophomore Reflections

Scholar reflections on a summer enrichment. 

Ida Addo; Balfour Miami Summer Service Program

Alan Avalos; Camp Thunderhead (SSLP)

Logan Balfantz; Notre Dame Pre-College Programs

Jada Davis; Choctaw Nation

Shaker Erbini; Medical Exploration

Myldred Hernandez-Gonzalez; La Casa de Amistad

Jasmine Mitchell; Notre Dame Pre-College Programs

Aiden Robertson; Physics REU (Notre Dame)

Ida Addo
Ida Addo 2024

Ida Addo

Balfour Miami Summer Service Program, with support from the Mexican American Council

As a service component attached to my spring semester (2020-2021 academic year) Latino Immigration class, I had the opportunity to culturally engage with the Latinx immigrant community in South Florida. This program lasted seven weeks, divided into two sections: an exploration week and a service learning portion. 

The first week focused on visiting culturally significant sites like the Operation Pedro Pan Exhibit and embarking on gastro touristic endeavors to explore the relationship between food and cultural identity. The first week also heavily involved hearing from grassroot organizations like the Alliance for Women Migrant Farm Workers that provide special assistance to specific groups in the South Florida Latinx immigrant population.

The remaining six weeks were spent serving as mentors and program facilitators to high school students. These high school students were part of the Mexican American Council’s* Summer College and Career Preparation program. During the duration of this program, I helped the students with SAT prep, spearheaded a personal finance workshop and assisted in teaching them leadership skills. 

It is dear to my heart that I carry on this philosophy of “lift as we climb” in every space I find myself. And this summer presented me with the right space to help students who are low income, first generation students like me and most who come from migrant farm worker families to find their voices, to feel empowered and believe strongly in their dreams. The interactions I had with this amazing group of students and the several other people I met pushed me to evaluate the kind of catalyst for change I want to be in this world and how my economics major ties into that vision. 

From the men heartily playing dominos in the town center to the woman who peels the jicama vegetable with bare hands in the open market, there exists a noticeable force of resistance, beauty and resilience in immigrant populations that is to be reckoned with. Having had this experience, it bears on me as someone fascinated with the power of storytelling to tell stories of asset based narratives that highlight the achievements, resilience and dreams of underserved populations around the world. Participating in the different clubs on campus that support immigrant students, first generation and low income students helps me to continue the work I started in Florida. 

*Mexican American Council is a non profit organization based in Homestead, Florida that caters to the needs of the migrant farm worker population in that area. Its mission is to provide access to quality education through the arts and technology to every farm worker child. Some services they provide are: the College and Career Prep program, Adult literacy in English and Computer Skills, Leadership workshops in High schools and Scholarship programs


Alan Avalos
Alan Avalos 2024

Alan Avalos

Camp Thunderhead, a Summer Service Learning Program site

This summer Alan took part in a Summer Service Learning Project (SSLP) with the Center for Social Concerns. He matched with Camp Thunderhead in Wisconsin. The Notre Dame Club of Milwaukee sponsors this camp and serves as a link to student participation from Notre Dame. Alan had never been to camp before, and was not sure what to expect. It was a really wonderful and fulfilling summer. 

Camp Thunderhead is a 5-week residential academic camp in Mercer, WI. Campers are students from Nativity Jesuit Academy. This summer, due to COVID-19, campers attended in a rotation of 1-week sessions. Alan spent time as a cabin counselor, activity coordinator, math instructor, and kitchen helper. His favorite job was teaching math for two weeks using curriculum specially curated for the campers. He also has an armful of friendship bracelets to remember his time in the woods. 

Since this experience was part of an SSLP, there was a curricular element for him, too. Alan had to complete weekly readings and answer questions related to a weekly theme or prompt. Upon his return to campus, he also completed a capstone project, which he admits came to him in a dream. 

"When I was at camp, many campers were stressed that they did not have envelopes to mail letters home to their families. I could only think about how my mom would worry if she never heard from me. I had a dream about solving this problem with postcards for the children. I designed three postcards and I hope the camp prints them so the campers can send messages home to their families telling them how much fun they are having at camp."

For a look at Alan's designs, click here

Logan Balfantz
Logan Balfantz 2024

Logan Balfantz

Pre-College Programs (Notre Dame)

In high school, Logan took part in Notre Dame's Leadership Seminars a competitive 10-day program for exceptional juniors who wish to delve more deeply into global, financial or environmental issues. Logan even took a class with AnBryce's Dr. Richard Pierce.  When thinking about plans for the summer, Pre-College Programs immediately stood out. Due to COVID, classes were online and Logan served as a course facilitator for two classes: "Debate and Public Speaking" with Professor Patrick Clauss and "The Power of Investing: The Wealth Gap, Financial Literacy, and the Miracle of Compound Interest" leadership seminar with Professors Kristen Collett-Schmitt, Mark Dumich, and Carl Ackermann.

"I had the pleasure of working with Logan Balfantz in my Summer Scholars "Public Speaking and Debate" course recently. Logan was, in a word, fantastic. Among his many other wonderful qualities, one that really stood out was his talent for offering smart, effective feedback after the students delivered their speeches. Logan's comments were always clear, specific, and actionable. He has great "teacher instincts," knowing how to phrase compliments and suggestions in a kind and genuine manner. I couldn't have asked for a better course facilitator!" - Professor Patrick Clauss

Jada Davis
Jada Davis 2024

Jada Davis

Summer Youth Work Program, Choctaw Nation

Jada credits her aunt with keeping her connected to her Choctaw Nation roots. Her aunt works for the Choctaw Nation and told Jada about the Summer Youth Work Program for high school and college students. This summer internship provides a chance for students to rotate between many different operational activities within the organization. Jada did a virtual job shadow for an aerospace engineer and learned about Choctaw Nation BEYOND, a drone testing program. 'As a super nerd for all things aero and astro, it was super cool to see everything that we are doing and the more technical things that go into testing these devices." She also shadowed the Recruitment Department, which hires all of the positions for the Choctaw Nation, including all of the Tribal law positions. She rounded out her summer with rotations in HR, IT, and casino operations. Interns also completed a financial literacy and banking course. Jada's aunt also told her about the connection between the Choctaw Nation and Ireland. During the Potato Famine the Choctaw sent funds to Middleton in County Cork. There is now a statue entitled Kindred Spirits to commemorate this relationship. Read more about the connection here. Knowing about the tie is particularly exciting for Jada because she will be traveling to Ireland this Spring, as part of AnBryce's Global Immersion Program.

Shaker Erbini
Shaker Erbini 2024

Shaker Erbini

Medical Exploration

I shadowed a family medicine doctor, a neurologist, and a neurosurgeon, each for a few hours once a week. They were all very close to home. I got connected to the family medicine doctor through Dr. Richard Pierce and Dr. Maria McKenna. I was having a one-on-one meeting with Dr. Pierce when he asked me what my plans were for the summer and I told him I wanted to shadow someone close to home, but didn't know who. He said he would look to see if there were any ND alums close to home who were doctors. He found out that Dr. McKenna's Notre Dame roommate was a family medicine doctor there. I got connected to the neurologist because he was my parent's neurologist. My intention was to also shadow my parent's neurosurgeon, but I ended up shadowing his colleague who was a neurosurgeon and research fellow at Cleveland Clinic. I think that might have been my favorite doctor to shadow.

Shadowing served as an easy, low-stake, foot-in-the-door opportunity for me to start to really discern if I want to be premed and go to medical school. I knew it would either confirm or push me away from pursuing medical school. I think that overall, it solidified my decision further to pursue med school.   

Also, shadowing multiple specialties was extremely important because the work-life balance and responsibilities of a doctor who specializes in one area varies greatly from that of a doctor who specializes in another. The family medicine doctor I shadowed worked for 3 days a week for example, but not the neurologist.

Also, shadowing was a great way to get rid of misconceptions. Shadowing the neurosurgeon taught me that you don't need to naturally have a steady hand to become a neurosurgeon; that comes with practice. Also, neurosurgeons do not do surgery constantly. I learned that they must see patients in the clinic like other doctors do as well. I wasn't able to see surgery because of COVID, but it was a fantastic experience to see the neurosurgeon see patients in the clinic. He also would share his computer screen and images with me so I could understand what types of surgeries he does. He taught me valuable lessons like how it is easy to lose a work-life balance as a neurosurgeon, so I should try my best to maintain it if I become a neurosurgeon, and even now as a student.  Additionally, I learned that there is a lot of paperwork and note-taking to be done, much more than I expected! Another lesson was that medicine is much of an art as it is a science. Interacting with patients in a way that comforts them when they are in so much discomfort requires that one has great social interaction skills. Even though I think social interaction skills are one of my weak points because I am an introvert, it is something I am working on and that aspect of being a doctor actually drew me into medicine very much. It showed me that medicine isn't just science and data; it is communicating with people compassionately.

Myldred Hernandez-Gonzalez

Myldred Hernandez-Gonzalez 2024

Myldred Hernandez-Gonzalez

La Casa de Amistad, South Bend

In my second week we were packing and moving items to the new location and I became fascinated with the kids' library at La Casa. I was tasked with sorting through all of the books to make sure that we would only take the ones that were in good condition and that communicated diverse and empowering stories. La Casa had one shelf entitled “Bilingual Books” and was filled with children's books that were in both English and Spanish. I was amazed because this was not something that I would have had access to as a child. I remember growing up in a community full of Latino residents, yet the Spanish section of the library had few books and even less children’s books. When I could find one in Spanish, it was often only a translation of a book that had originally been in English. There was only one book I owned that was in both languages and it talked about a little girl who learned about the importance of speaking Spanish. I remember how essential that book was to me forming my own identity and to see a whole shelf full of books that were in English and Spanish, children's books that told stories of Aztec mythology and the migrant experience, it was incredible. I had not realized how much the diversity in children’s books affected one’s identity formation. It is inspiring and heart-warming to see an organization such as La Casa that takes such pride in promoting authors and stories from different backgrounds that can help children form their own identity.

In working with Humberto Delgado and Nicole Calderwood, I observed everything I had learned in my Latino Studies degree about the importance of education across cultures put into practice. By helping with the youth programming and the children’s library, I learned about how essential it is to actively empower students to explore their culture. La Casa does a great job of promoting this message, but in locations such as where I grew up, there still lacks access to these resources. I hope in the future I can bring some of what I have learned here to my own community back home.

Overall, I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to work in the South Bend community and to grow my skills as an advocate for others. Throughout the internship, I practiced working with clients of different backgrounds and necessities. I grew to know all of La Casa’s resources and programs and I am ever so impressed with the amazing work that the organization does. While I am passionate about changing and developing some programs for
individuals that are disadvantaged, I have also been humbled by the Latinx community’s resilience in South Bend. I got to experience firsthand the importance of learning one’s culture and history and sharing that knowledge with other groups and generations to come. I hope to carry these experiences to my hometown and wherever else I might work, so as to continue to advocate for the dignity and opportunities of others.


Jasmine Mitchell

Jasmine Mitchell 2024


Jasmine Mitchell

Pre-College Programs (Notre Dame)

This summer Jasmine was a Course Facilitator with two Summer Scholars courses: Malcolm X and the Beatles with Professor Jaime Pensado and "Confronting Poverty" with Professor Connie Mick. Summer Scholars is one of three Pre-College programs offered to high school students (the other two are Leadership Seminars and Study Abroad). Jasmine learned about Pre-College Programs from the assistant director in Howard. She describes the role as similar to a TA. " I communicated with students, lead class discussions, answered questions, helped with Zoom issues, and distributed readings." She also worked with other course facilitators to plan social activities for the high school students. What surprised her most was learning about resources at Notre Dame for students who are interested in studying poverty. "I learned there is a poverty studies minor, opportunities through the Center for Social Concerns and research you can do with LEO. I also learned about resources on campus that I did now know about before." Jasmine says she would definitely recommend working as a course facilitator for Summer Scholars. "You get a chance to see behind the scenes of a class and show high school students what it's like to be a student at Notre Dame. "

Aiden Robertson
Aiden Robertson 2024

Aiden Robertson

Physics REU (Notre Dame)

Aiden learned about this research opportunity through Physics professor (and AnBryce Selection Committee member) Philippe Colon. With the help of Professor Colon and Associate Dean Nyree McDonald in the Graduate School, Aiden joined peers from across the United States as they engaged in diverse physics research. The Physics REU is a 10-week summer appointment. Participants take part in seminars, GRE prep, an ethics workshop and field trips to nearby laboratories. The project Aiden worked with needed engineered bottle caps to properly administer the correct amount of fluid. Aiden spent weeks with a 3-D printer testing and retesting prototypes to ensure the best result. Though the process was tedious, he appreciated how important it was to engineer the best fit and how valuable it was to do it in-house. Students in the program live on campus, but Aiden was able to also  spend time with AnBryce scholars who were in South Bend doing local internships and research projects. AnBryce hosted Wednesday dinners in the lounge, a tradition we plan to continue in future years.