By Kathleen Strycula
A large group of graduates, dressed in caps and gowns, stood before the gathering of family, friends, and students at last year’s Catholic University of America Graduation Ceremony in 2015. They were recognized—in a special part of the ceremony—for their commitment to an upcoming time of service. The Catholic University’s President John Garvey commended the students for their readiness to serve, and the audience supported his words with resounding applause. Now, a year later, these same students can be found all over the country and even on different continents, giving their time and using their talents in service to others. Patricia Yoritomo, a Phi Beta Kappa member and a student in that 2015 graduating class, reflects on how her liberal arts education and her love of learning led her to serve with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).
Yoritomo has a BS in physics, with minors in theology and mathematics. At a Notre Dame High School in Peoria, Illinois, she teaches physics, chemistry, and principles of engineering classes while also earning her Master’s in education through the program. Thinking about her journey so far, Yoritomo said: “My liberal arts education helped form my mind and also instilled in me a great appreciation for all disciplines—art, literature, philosophy, and the social sciences. My liberal arts education helped me look beyond myself, to learn to engage with difficult concepts and ideas, and to think critically. It taught me the importance of engaging with our world, whether through actions, service, or appreciation of art.”
For Yoritomo, looking beyond herself and taking the next step meant dedicating time to service. “After spending the majority of my life worrying about myself, where I was going to go to college, what I was going to major in, and who I was going to be when I grew up, I realized that I wanted to spend some time giving back and…dedicate my life, even for a short time, to helping others,” she said.
Within every service program, there are many different placements and types of service. Yoritomo, being a passionate, enthusiastic, and natural teacher, chose to serve with Notre Dame’s ACE program, which is centered on teacher formation, community, and spiritual growth, and is committed to bringing quality education to underserved and under-resourced children. ACE’s mission of cultivating an excitement for learning and education shares the same spirit of Phi Beta Kappa, which supports excellence in liberal arts and sciences and works to advance the philosophy that “love of learning is the guide to life.”
“As I am finishing my first year of teaching, I am realizing that being a teacher means that you have to be willing to be a lifelong learner,” Yoritomo said.
“Every week I am learning new methods of presenting difficult concepts to my students, new trends and fads from my students, and new ways of engaging my students,” Yoritomo noted. “I also believe that to be an effective teacher you need to be willing to show your students that you are still a learner, and every day I try to demonstrate to my students my love of learning, my curiosity about how the world works, and my passion for knowledge, with the hope that they will be inspired by my example,” she added.
Yoritomo has now finished one of her two years of service with ACE. “The gift of your time is one of the most precious gifts you can give to others, especially those of great need,” she reflected. “Serving others has taught me many important lessons about myself, for example how to work tirelessly with little reward and how to persevere because others are relying on you.”
When we approach the world in a spirit of service, we are bringing minds and hearts that are alive to the world around us, forever opening ourselves to giving, serving, learning, and teaching.
Photo: Patricia Yoritomo. The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education.
Kathleen Strycula is a senior at the Catholic University of America majoring in psychology and minoring in studio art. The Catholic University is home to the Beta of the District of Columbia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.