The 2020-21 academic year posed several unforeseen challenges to the Boston College community. Despite the pandemic and other obstacles of the past year, students and staff across all divisions worked together to keep campus afloat, push for institutional change, and keep the campus spirit alive. There is still work left to be done, but certain members of the BC community showed a special dedication to making BC a better place in whatever ways they could.
Current and former students, BC employees, and members of the BC community all exemplified what it means to fight for a better BC. The Heights is proud to award the following individuals the 2021 Momentum Awards.
– Anna Lonnquist, Stephen Bradley, and MC Claverie, The Heights Magazine editors
Isabella Feliciano, CSOM ’23, translated her feeling of powerlessness after the murder of George Floyd into action and urged the BC community to join her. Alongside Elena Shaker, Julia Warchol, and Maria Ibanez, all MCAS ’23, Feliciano wrote a letter urging BC affiliates to uphold BC’s mission statement by giving a tangible response to the national tragedy, including urging BC to donate to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Alongside the letter, Feliciano helped circulate a petition they wrote, which gained over 2,300 signatures, calling for BC to support the NAACP and other organizaitons working to eliminate race-based discrimination. A day after their petition was released, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. released his first statement.
“We did our whole petition and letter before his first statement because he took a while to come up with that statement, and when he did it was honestly disappointing,” Feliciano said. “I remember it not really addressing anything, and kind of just saying their sorries and basically taking no action.”
Leahy did release a second statement, but institutional change requires campus-wide effort, Feliciano said.
“It’s the little things,” she said. “I feel like when people think of the word ‘advocacy,’ they’re thinking straight politically, but there’s so many ways to show advocacy and support for diversity and inclusion. Even just showing my support at different events, like I know the African Student Organization is having a fashion show and that’s really fun—I wish that more people would show up to things like that … it’s not out of everyone’s control.”
Chinenye Ugocha, former chair of UGBC’s AHANA+ Leadership Council (ALC) and BC ’21, took many strides to fight for institutional change regarding race this past year. Within her role as ALC chair, she pushed for concrete improvements, in addition to open conversations about race and racial injustice. She met with Associate Vice President for Student Engagement and Formation Tom Mogan to discuss incremental changes that can be made in order to create a campus environment where AHANA+ students can feel welcome, she said. Some of her ideas were that the University change the cultural diversity core, update the DiversityEdu module, and make events run by AHANA+ students mandatory for all students.
“They need to implement more than just a forum,” Ugocha said. “This has to be structural change.”
To read more about student activists from last year, click here.
From the moment students were sent home from campus in March 2020, custodian Sherrise Trim was thrown into a whirlwind that never truly slowed. She was responsible for clearing out student dorms after a hectic week of campus closure last spring, and continued to go the extra mile last year, frequently picking up overtime shifts to help keep campus clean.
“We’ve been doing a lot. We haven’t stopped [in]… over a year,” Trim said. “We haven’t stopped since March. … It’s, like, an ongoing thing. Gotta keep going.”
Keeping students as safe and healthy as possible during a pandemic produced a never-ending stream of work, but Trim said that when students express their gratitude it goes a long way.
As custodial staff were making adjustments in the spring and summer of 2020, BC administration and University Health Services were also adapting. Knowing that requiring COVID-19 testing for the student body and faculty was going to be vital to remaining on campus for the entire semester, employees in athletics and human resources were tasked with filling these essential roles.
Although testing was far outside their usual job description, employees were quick to embrace this new role in the fall, Jade Morris, Senior Associate Director for Student-Athlete Development, said.
“It was just kind of understood that this is what we needed to get our feet back under us and be successful,” Morris said. “And it’s gonna require you rolling up your sleeves and doing … something a little different, so it was just kind of understood, like, ‘Here’s what we need.’”
BC Dining Services had to implement precautions on extremely short notice back in March 2020, but the changes weren’t finished. As students returned to campus in fall 2020, masks, Plexiglas, the elimination of self-serve stations, and social distancing measures altered the dining experience. New precautions limited the ability of dining staff and students to interact like they used to.
Despite this, dining staff still worked hard each day to make BC students feel welcomed and appreciated, Ann Hewson, who works as a cashier in line for BC Dining Services at McElroy Commons, said.
“It’s very different now,” Hewson said. “We’re surrounded by Plexiglas—we can’t really chat with the students like we used to. … It’s very hard to have a conversation, so I miss that side of it. I miss, like, the connection that we used to make. Now, we always say hi, and [we] are more friendly, but to have a little chat, it’s … more difficult.”
To read more about BC’s essential workers, click here.
Class of 2021
For a BC student as involved as Ellie Rueve, BC ’21, senior year unfolded far differently from what she had imagined. Rueve was a manager for the BC women’s lacrosse team, co-president of BC’s charity:water chapter, and an avid BC Football fan. These commitments were all altered due to the pandemic, but Rueve made it her goal to find the silver linings.
Because most classes and club meetings at BC were held online, Rueve had to find new ways to spread awareness online and recruit Zoom speakers for charity:water. As a result, the club first raised $10,000, a goal that they had not previously reached during Rueve’s four years at BC. She then helped the club dream bigger, and they hit $20,000.
Despite the difficulty of adapting to a modified senior year, Rueve said that she and her peers were able to preserve what they could in a safe manner, while also appreciating the new and unique experiences to come out of the pandemic.
“I think [that] our theme for the year is … it’s not going to be able to happen and don’t just like sit around and cry about it, but instead … either try and mimic it or just like have a positive attitude because that’s all you can do,” Rueve said.
Brendan Barnard, BC ’21, and his former Mod roommates also made it their goal to make the most of their final year at BC, especially since the pandemic put a damper on the typical senior experience. As a way to add some fun and laughter into their daily routines, Barnard and his roommates created a dare jar and made a game out of it. They documented the dare jar on TikTok, and the account amassed over 2.6 million likes at the time of publication. Barnard said the dare jar tradition will be the first thing he remembers when he looks back to his final year at BC.
“I think a big thing I’ve learned during COVID at BC is the importance of breaking routine,” Barnard said. “I found that by kind of breaking routine and getting off campus and doing, you know, just different activities with my friends and roommates that we’ve been able to kind of make the most of our time here and slow down the limited time we have left.”
To read more about the Class of 2021, click here.
Nancy Mignosa, BC ’86, had dreamed of becoming a nurse since a young age and has been in the medical world ever since. This lifelong path put her in a unique position with the onset of COVID-19 in 2020.
Being in the medical world, Mignosa saw the severity of COVID-19 firsthand. This experience prompted her to enroll in a vaccine trial. In her view, the vaccine was the only way to move forward from the pandemic, she said.
She received her first Pfizer trial vaccine dose in August 2020 and the second in September 2020.
“I was really excited,” Mignosa said. “That first day was crazy, when I came out with my shot. I sent pictures to my whole family with my Band-Aid. It was historic, and it was life-changing.”
In mid-December, Pfizer unblinded those who had participated in the trial, and Mignosa found out she had received the placebo vaccine. She couldn’t help but laugh at her luck, she said, but she was able to get her first real vaccine soon after on Dec. 21st.
To read more about Mignosa, click here.
Flat Breads Cafe, just across the street from Lower Campus, doesn’t just share a physical proximity with BC. Because of its owner John Acampora, Flat Breads has long been committed to serving the BC community.
Acampora treats BC students like his own children, he said, but his service also outpours beyond BC. He has also gone out of his way to support homeless community members or anyone struggling.
In 2020, this generosity toward the community was repaid. When Flat Breads was in a dire financial situation due to COVID-19 closure and an empty campus, Acampora started a GoFundMe page to help cover expenses and support employees. It garnered the attention of community members and BC students and graduates, raising over $11,000.
“Flat Breads is not just a sandwich business,” Acampora said. “For me, it’s a way of life. It has given me the distinct opportunity to give back.”
To read more about Acampora, click here.
Graphics by Olivia Charbonneau / Heights Editor