Working to Serve
By Neal Burdick '72
|Peter Dalton '94
Peter Dalton '94 works for Habitat for Humanity. Christopher
Burns '95 is employed by the Peace Corps. E-Ben Grisby '99,
a schoolteacher in the Bronx, is actively involved in community service.
Whether "doing" service professionally or as volunteers,
these three young alumni, like many others, have one thing in common – they
started on their paths at St. Lawrence.
Peter Dalton, a resource development manager at Habitat for Humanity
International's Northeast Regional Office in West Chester, Pa.,
was one of the founders of the campus chapter of Habitat, although
he points out that "While I was the founding president and worked
with the board of the local affiliate for my last three years, it was
my roommate, Adam Prime '94, who had the carpentry skills that
I completely lacked.
"Now-retired Chaplin Ted Linn is the one who brought Habitat
to campus," says Dalton. "I had the good fortune
to have Ted as my instructor/advisor my first year. Ted knew that my
interests and outlook would respond well to the opportunity for hands-on
service. I was also a local kid, from Massena. So with
Ted's guidance, my friends and I started a campus chapter that fall.
"Habitat is a good representation of my college experience," Dalton
continues. "St. Lawrence improved my understanding of certain
inequalities in our society in a way that also showed me that I could
play a constructive role in addressing them. I came away with
a mindset that there is an abundance of resources rather than a scarcity," says
Dalton, one of whose responsibilities is to support Habitat's
209 affiliates ("and nearly as many campus chapters," he
says) from Delaware to Maine. "The success of any non-profit
is its ability to express its mission, its vision and its plan to address
issues, and St. Lawrence certainly helped me refine and improve my
writing and communication skills."
Dalton recalls that "St. Lawrence was very supportive
of the campus chapter developing, particularly with our getting a theme
cottage and access to University vans and other resources. There
was a strong social component to this as well. As like-minded
people with a common interest we were able to get together and work
as a team," says Dalton, who met his future wife, Jennifer Joyce '94,
on a Habitat project (they have a Welch corgi named Gunnison). "I
saw that people will respond to the opportunity to make a difference
in their community."
|Christopher Burns '95
On the academic side, Dalton notes that in classes in his majors,
government and environmental studies, he gained insight into how government
and non-profits have interpreted and responded to issues. "I
saw the roles for both and how non-profits in particular can have a
significant impact on our communities," he says.
Caption if you want it: Peter Dalton '94, a resource development
manager at Habitat for Humanity International's Northeast Regional
Office, speaking at the Habitat Northeast Executive Directors Conference
in Mt. Bethel, Pa., in March.
In the years following his graduation, Chris Burns '95 was an
agro-forestry and sustainable agricultural Peace Corps volunteer in
Ghana, an experience about which he wrote in the Summer/Fall 2001 St.
Lawrence. He now works for the Peace Corps at its Washington, D.C.,
headquarters, as a country desk assistant for Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic,
Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
"My primary role is to act as a liaison between headquarters
and the field offices," Burns explains. "I am charged with
keeping abreast of and understanding cultural, social and political
events in the region, and passing this information on to potential
volunteers and others." He also prepares trainees for their 27-month
assignments and represents the Corps in meetings with embassy and U.S.
Department of State officials.
"The opportunity to work for the Peace Corps to some extent
dropped into my lap," Burns relates. "I had just returned
from being a volunteer when this position opened on the Central Asia
desk. Working at headquarters has been a perfect transition back into
the U.S. since I am among like-minded individuals, many of whom were
volunteers themselves. The mission of the Peace Corps still resonates
with me today as being simple yet effective, and I believe volunteers
do most of the best grassroots development work around," says
Burns, whose flex-schedule allows him to pursue a Master of Science
degree in development management at American University. "Once
I complete my graduate program, I plan to return to Kenya or elsewhere
in Africa to put my education and professional background to use in
sustainable and rural development," he vows.
"My participation in the Kenya Semester Program, and my studies
with top-quality professors like David Lloyd, Alan Schwartz, Pat Alden
and Paul Robinson, sparked my interest in rural development," Burns
indicates. "Working in the field is the only way to truly understand
the contextual realities about people, their needs and their interactions.
Our field courses in Kenya demonstrated this.
"I would like to thank St. Lawrence for setting this all in
motion," Burns says. "I am always quick to give credit
to SLU when family and friends ask what sparked my passion for Africa
and working at the local level."
Caption: With Harmattan (dry, dusty) winds swirling around him, Chris
Burns '95 surveys his Peace Corps village in Ghana during his
"I have been involved in community service since graduating
from St. Lawrence," says E-Ben Grisby, a special education teacher
at PS 112 in the Bronx, N.Y. "As a member of the Schomburg Center,
which is a branch of the New York Public Library, and a history major,
I enjoy being able to help put a spotlight on Black culture, whether
local or global. It has been a passion of mine to help children and
teens learn about the diversity of Black culture outside of the television
screen and in the ‘real world.'"
Since 2001, Grisby has volunteered in the Martin Luther
King Community Center in the South Bronx, helping with tutorial services, gardening
and landscaping. "I believe that the inner city needs beautification
beyond high-rise buildings and more congestion," he says. "Green
spaces are important especially since there is a high case of asthma
in communities such as the South Bronx."
Grisby, one of the youngest members of the Alumni Executive Council,
says, "My experiences at St. Lawrence stirred my interest
in community service. During my first two years I was involved
in the Alternative Spring Break programs. From working at a soup kitchen
in Baltimore to taking part in a Habitat for Humanity project
repairing a church in Portsmouth, Va.'s, African-American community
that had been damaged by arson, I thoroughly enjoyed networking with fellow
students who came from a cross-section of the campus community. I was
a member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, which further allowed
me to engage in tackling the needs of the Canton community, which is seen
as separate from the SLU community, even though each is interdependent.
"Community service is vital to growth beyond the classroom," Grisby
says. "It keeps one in touch with the people whose needs are
either being met or need to be met. It also exposes one to places
one may only hear about on television or from second-hand stories and
places him or her into a world outside of his or her
own culture zone."
Although he has not been a young alumnus for a very long time, St.
Lawrence editor Neal Burdick does volunteer for the St. Lawrence chapter
of Habitat for Humanity.