Finding the Right Words

For some new college graduates, job interviews can be daunting. Not so for Alverno alumnae like Sarai Melendez, who has developed the confidence to communicate what she brings to the table.

“A lot of women say ‘I helped’ or ‘I feel’,” says Melendez, who in December 2017 earned her bachelor’s degree in Global Studies and International Affairs. “At Alverno, we learned that we should instead be using phrases to promote our work, like ‘I led’ or ‘I think.’ They teach us to stress what we have to offer.”

Melendez has witnessed the importance of words, including their ability to empower, firsthand. She has translated more than 100 blog posts into Spanish for SisterStory in order to introduce people, particularly Latinas, to the work and the lives of women religious.

SisterStory is just one component of the National Catholic Sisters Week project, which not only seeks to inform but also celebrate nuns. Other initiatives include the development of an online curriculum for K-12 religious education programs and partnering with 10 dioceses to better engage young adults.

For her translation efforts, Melendez worked closely with Sister Ann Oestreich, IHM, who is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the National Catholic Sisters Week project from Alverno’s campus. The ongoing project is funded by a $2.7 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, under the leadership of Alverno President Andrea Lee, IHM.

Melendez, who grew up in a Spanish-speaking home, says the translation work has not only elevated her Spanish grammar to a more advanced level but also opened her eyes to the important and varied roles that Catholic sisters play in their communities.

“I learned how well-educated and active the sisters are,” she says. “They’re leaders.”

Melendez found a particular role model and mentor in Sister Ann, expressing her admiration for the nun’s active work in the fight against human trafficking. For her part, Sister Ann has taken Melendez under her wing, keeping her well-supplied in clementines and encouraging her, only somewhat jokingly, to become a nun.

Now that Melendez has graduated, she hopes to continue translation work and aspires to one day practice international law.

She is proud of her contributions to the SisterStory project and grateful for the growth she experienced as a result. Her final translation was also a first – the first time she wrote original content for the blog.

“I have no idea what awaits me or what surprises are lurking around the corner, but I am ready to face them head on thanks to the opportunities for growth that working on this project has allowed me,” Melendez writes.

Click here (aquí en español) to read Melendez’s reflections on the project.

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