Growing up near New Haven, Connecticut, Jaclyn “Jackie” Tordo learned to be a survivor. The honor student had to work evenings and weekends as a teenager while her peers enjoyed their high school years. Although Jackie missed that whole experience, she succeeded where many others wouldn’t have. She gained a work ethic that has kept her strong and on a steady mission… a mission to help others. It is what she lives for and what makes each day special.
Although her first years of life were rough, it’s safe to say the best is yet to come for Jackie, a 2008 recipient of the Foundation’s Graduate scholarship.
When asked to describe what the scholarship meant to Jackie, who’ll graduate in the spring of 2012 from Washington University of St. Louis with a dual degree in Social Work and Law, she explained that, quite simply, it allowed her to achieve her passion of working with the less fortunate and to “give back.”
“In high school and then in undergrad (at Elon University in North Carolina), I couldn’t take advantage of many of the opportunities my school or community offered because I was too busy working trying to finance my education and living expenses,” said Jackie.
In North Carolina she worked for three different non-profit organizations, because that was her way “to give back to the community but also provide for my own needs.” She graduated in three years to save on expenses “but my whole college experience was rushed – I had a high course load and long work hours.”
Then the Foundation entered her life.
“With the scholarship, I have more time to do the things I love – to give back to the community,” she said.
One of those things she loves happened in early 2011. Instead of going on a ski vacation with other students, Jackie packed her bags and flew off to Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in India to work with and give comfort to the poor of that city.. It was what she hoped it would be -- an eye-opening, life-changing experience.
“I worked in an interdisciplinary team made up of Indian students, community members from the Pansheel Nagar slum, and members of an Indian organization, Prayas, to engage the Pansheel Nagar community in community-driven system dynamics,” Jackie said. “My team was focused mainly on housing issues faced by the slum community, and by the end of the three weeks, we were able to leave the community knowing that they were united across religions and castes, and had a more holistic understanding of the housing issues all members of their community face.”
As Jackie looks forward to her final year of graduate school, which will include a semester interning in Washington, D.C. at a Federal agency, there are many people and organizations she wanted to thank, but three teachers in particular had a profound influence on her: Beth Warner and Prudence Layne, both professors at Elon, and her mentor and instructor from her high school days in New England, Carolyn Stanworth.
The future is wide open for Jackie. In the spring of 2012 when she graduates with her dual degree, a career with the federal government may await. If not there, somewhere where she can do what she does best: help marginalized people, wherever they may be.