About katrina

Hi! My name is Katrina and I am a freshman at Rollins College, studying environmental science and international business. My hometown is Crown Point, Indiana. Throughout my life, I have enjoyed the art of dance and am continuing to carry the discipline taught to dancers into my studies. At Rollins, I am active on Hall Council, a Fern Creek mentor, and an immersion trip leader. My true passion lies with the plight of the environment. I one day want to be an environmental consultant for major corporations, aiding companies in their journey to lessen the environmental footprint of their endeavors. As a sophomore, I will travel to Australia for a semester to work in the field of sustainability. My loving parents, Lisa and Michael, and two younger brothers, Leo and Matthew, have always supported my dreams. I couldn't be happier with their encouragement of my attendance at Rollins. I feel I have found an institution that will see my goals to fruition. I am currently enrolled in courses that are extremely pertinent to my interests, along with the added bonus of a sailing class. I can't wait to embark on this new adventure!




Our final intercession dinner was an extremely moving experience. I’d known that I was in the presence of extraordinary, caring people all week long, but the final presentations proved exactly how thoughtful and ready to change the world my peers are. I’ve never met more motivated young people. Everyone’s projects captured the mood of the week perfectly, and I know that I won’t forget the lessons we’ve taught each other anytime soon.

My final act of commitment is to overall change the way I present myself to people I encounter day in and day out. Whether rich or poor, cheerful or depresses, I want to engage my fellow citizens with warmth and understanding. This can be as simple as lending a hand or smile when someone truly needs it.

The second part of my commitment is to use the hope I’ve seen in both my peers and the people we’ve met this week to encourage me to follow my dreams as well.  I’m passionate about the environment and want to lead a career that allows me to protect our world. In terms of being a conscientious citizen, holding a career that makes an impact is beyond important to me.

I wrote the following poem to remember both the lessons of the week and my act of commitment. It includes the names of several people who have inspired me this week. I hope you enjoy it. 🙂




Learning and growing in the Rollins way,

Building a house that will be a home someday.

For Nina and her children we braved new skills,

With thoughts of no shelter giving me chills.

Into their roof we built our souls and our hearts

So that the Nelson family may never be apart.

The tresses and beams served as a physical sign

Of the hardships of dancing with the poverty line.

But the impact was not made with hammers and nails,

But in the way that my mind has blazed a new trail.

Throughout my life it was always important

That the shelter I knew was from the world’s misfortunes.

But after this week I can finally conceive

That ignorance is never bliss, but naïve.

So from this day forward I solemnly swear

I will never pass through my day without a thought or a care.

Whether walking through campus or down Division Street,

I will acknowledge with a smile every soul that I meet.

Not a smile of pity or one that dismisses,

But one that sees battles and hearts full of wishes.

In the poor and forgotten, the face with no name,

I will see Nina’s laughter and the pride that filled James.

Little by little, I’ll transform my life

Until I’m ready to make my complete sacrifice.

Careers that exude our passions and goals

Allow us to give back when life takes its toll.

So I will follow my passions for the trees and the lakes,

Protecting the world’s beauty no matter what it takes.

I’ve seen a spark in Allan and a fire in Ilene,

They’ve given me the courage to follow my dream.

And so I will grow from simple member to active

By combining my experiences both thoughtful and interactive.

In this life we’re all students, and teachers too,

And this trip really altered all I thought that I knew.

And to my peers I will say, now that we’re done,

Never forget to be someone else’s ray of sun.


By Chance

At the Homeless Coalition, the cycle of poverty became alarmingly apparent. We were in charge of leading a jewelry making class for the women of the Coalition, meaning that many children also had to tag along and be included in some way. It was interesting to be leading a class in a subject that we were all pretty much novices. I tried really hard to pretend to know what I was doing, but I still had the directions strategically placed in front of me the majority of the time. Making that kind of jewelry is legitimately difficult, despite how easy Sneh made it look. 😛 The women had to use most of their focus and attention to make sure they were stringing their bracelets, earrings, and necklaces the correct way. So when one of their children came and tagged on their elbows, the patience was limited. I saw children turned away, reprimanded, and scolded for simply wanting to show their mommy what they made.

But these women were not necessarily cruel or bad mothers. I discovered this firsthand after working with a particularly overbearing mama. Jody came to my table, bossily instructing me to begin two sets of friendship bracelets for her two daughters, making them in different colors so that they wouldn’t get mixed up. She continued to direct my actions the entire time, irking me just a tad. I’m no expert in jewelry design, but we were there as the hosts of the event. I thought that maybe possibly gave me a little bit of a leg up. Not with this mom! As I sat by, unsure of what to do with my hands when Jody took over my job, I began talking to her. I found out that she’d been planning to attend the event for weeks, ever since the Coalition first announced it. She said she had wanted to do something special for her daughters.

Jody’s intentions were good. She didn’t carry out her plan in the way the mothers I’ve grown up around would have, but she had the same basic need to make her daughters feel loved and nurtured. Maybe she’d had a less than loving mother, or had spent hours that day working hard, or was struggling without a father in the girls’ life. I have no idea, but I realized that I can’t be quick to judge a person before knowing their story. These are mothers who can’t leave the room when they’re about to lose their temper with their children, or pay for babysitters to ease the strain that raising children can bring. Jody’s little girls, Jamie and Emily, were really no different than me…they’d simply been born into a different life. Their hardships, the ones that landed them at the Coalition, were situational, random circumstances that they did nothing to incur.

Why hadn’t I been born into such a family? What did I do to deserve the love and support and necessary resources that I am always surrounded by? In the end, we are no different from the rest of the world. We are all victims of random chance.

I hope to use my chance opportunities to improve the opportunities of those around me.





Just as all good things must come to an end, so does this immersion trip. But trips of this nature have a way of ending beautifully. Tonight, each member of the group went around in a circle and mentioned a moment in which the person next to them was truly inspiring. I’m in love with these types of activities. They allow me to really reflect on the actions of my peers and hone in on exactly how amazing they are. So there I was, thinking about all the cool things Matt did the past couple of days, when Vivian touched my heart with her kind words. She began by talking about the work I’d done on the house, and then she proved herself to be so insightful, so understanding, that I was left nearly speechless.

Vivian and I had spent the trip riding together in Meredith’s mini van, getting to know each other here and there over the intense noise of the backseat. I knew about her Cambodian heritage, and she had learned of my home in Northwest Indiana. When giving me her kind reflections, Vivian somehow knew to mention the difficulty of being away from family. She knows the hardship of living far apart from her loved ones, and she was sensitive to my situation. Little did Vivian know that all day I had been homesick, missing my parents and the fun my younger brothers and I always have. Christmas break had been a special time for me, but it felt like a tease as soon as I had to depart early in order to travel to St. Petersburg. I was so comforted that she acknowledged and understood my feelings, letting me know that it was totally normal and would become more manageable. She ended by telling me that Rollins really was my home too, a fact that I’ve always known but was having a hard time seeing at the moment. I can’t thank her enough for giving me exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it.

I have been pondering the gift that Habitat for Humanity would be for Nina Nelson and her family, a permanent home for her and her children to live in, a home of hope and fun and love. I pray that we have helped to give her a sense of what Vivian gave to me tonight, a sense of community only found in a permanent, caring home environment. Nina is an extremely special woman, putting her children above all else, and she deserves a sanctuary that will last a lifetime. Your home is where your heart is, and I really believe that our immersion team has aided in housing the hearts of the Nelson family in a sturdy, safe haven.

Tonight, I am thankful for the gifts of giving and receiving. Back to Winter Park tomorrow, can’t wait to apply my newfound world views back home, at Rollins. 🙂



Winning the Lottery

Tonight at dinner, I was lucky enough to be seated next to a man named Allan, a speaker presented to us by the Homeless Leadership Board. During his speech, Allan described a life-changing experience in which a man he had met only once randomly gifted him $4,000. This seemed an astronomical sum from a near stranger, and the story lingered in my mind as a tale of awe and extreme generosity.

Seated next to each other, Allen and I shared stories ranging from his Native American background to my hopes for future career paths. He teased me for my ability to clean my plate in record time, saying that “those Indiana girls” sure didn’t waste any time. Apparently my Midwestern appetite is more impressive than I thought! 😛 I couldn’t shake Allan’s story from my mind, so I asked him about his reaction to that one stranger’s kindness. “It was like winning the lottery!” he proclaimed. I conceded that it must have; $4,000 is a pretty crazy sum. He didn’t agree with my explanation, though. He told me he didn’t see money that way; his sudden influx of riches came in the form of the selfless gesture alone. I then understood the magnitude of his benefactor’s impact: Allan saw goodness, winning a lottery of human understanding.

How amazing is that? We, as individuals, have the ability to change the way a fellow human being views the world with sheer positivity and love. I saw glimpses of this concept constantly today on the Habitat for Humanity work site. I was even on the receiving end a few times. A moment that stands out to me is Courtney’s rush to help me when I was using a long, forked piece of wood to help raise one of the tresses for the roof. She came over, offering much appreciated relief to my arms, and complimented me on my cheerfulness. I probably could have struggled through on my own, but she didn’t let me. I hadn’t even know anyone was paying attention, and her little act of kindness brightened my day.

Awesome first day of work to all of my peers, I know we can bring it again tomorrow! 🙂



Day One: If you can’t handle the heat…stay out of the kitchen

Tonight, our first night in St. Petersburg, I was assigned to a team whose responsibility it was to cook dinner for the entire cohort of immersion members (members who are on the road to becoming conscientious citizens). The catch was that we were only allowed to spend $50 on our group of 18. Ian, Bethany, Nelson, Scott, and I raced down the aisles of Publix, up to the challenge and eager to test our thriftiness.

Publix is a grocery store of many options. It was simple to find deals, and I easily bypassed the brand names I had grown up with for cheaper variations. I could practically see my own mom cringing as I reached for 2 for $4 spaghetti sauces that almost certainly contained high fructose corn syrup and not a bit of organic goodness. I didn’t even look at the content of most of the foods; I was single-minded in coming up with the most frugal choices.

After this experience, it wasn’t difficult to understand how mothers such as the poverty-stricken caregivers mentioned in The Working Poor: Invisible in America were limited to focusing on prices as opposed to nutritious value. I’m a little embarrassed to admit how sheltered I’ve previously been to the way so many in America live. This immersion trip is honestly the harshest eye-opener I’ve ever been given. While it certainly is unsettling, I feel that I’m creating a completely different worldview that is so much more realistic and is helping me to see how I can be a solution rather than a bystander.

Can’t wait for tomorrow’s adventures, working with Habitat for Humanity is one of my dreams!