Syracuse Scholar: Joyce LaLonde ’17
Joyce LaLonde is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and in international relations in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. A native of Albion, N.Y., and a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program, LaLonde led a group of students to Uganda this summer through Nourish International, and works locally with the Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse.
Q: What were you expecting when you first came to SU? What surprised you the most?
A: When I first came to SU, I was expecting to follow in my parents’ footsteps—to make them proud by finding a home in a place that they, along with my grandparents, once called home. Ultimately, I did find a home, but I made it my own. It surprised me just how easily I could do that. Instantaneously, I was opened up to some of the most wonderful experiences I could be presented with. Syracuse is a campus that is home to what feels like 14,000 of my closest friends, but it still manages to offer a customizable experience for every single person.
Q: What has been your favorite thing about going to school at SU?
A: My first thought would be the people. I have made such wonderful connections and relationships with students, faculty and staff. But also, I think of the opportunities. I led a trip to Uganda, worked on live newscasts, will be studying in India, South Africa and D.C. within the next few years, and have learned how and what to critically think about. So, what really is my favorite thing about going to school at SU is the combination of both. The people here are so uplifting, so empowering, and so supportive of all the opportunities that the university provides. It is not a hostile or cutthroat environment like I had feared, but it is one that seeks to engage and empower student leaders and peers to their full potential.
Q: What are your goals for the future and how has SU helped prepare you for those goals?
A: I cannot write out a dream job description because, quite frankly, I have no idea what that is quite yet. But what I do know is that SU continually prepares me for the day when I figure it all out. If I end up in the Peace Corps leading a sustainable health initiative or reporting in a small-town in Montana, I know that I will be ready for whatever lays ahead. I have the skillset, mindset and connections to do so thanks to this campus community.
Q: Describe your on-campus involvement. What student organizations or programs have been most meaningful to you?
A: Before classes started my freshman year, I happened upon the then first-year organization Nourish International through an International Relations Learning Community event. Since then, I have expanded my practical skillset along with my global mindset. Through collaboration on campus and in rural Uganda, I have learned so much about not only planning a sustainable global project, but also about others and myself.
Also, I have recently started working at the Boys and Girls Club in Syracuse thanks to an opportunity provided by Professor (William) Coplin, and I am ever so excited to give back to the community that has given so much to me. Seeing the kids’ faces light up as they learn biology through cheerleading or apply math to basketball brings ultimate satisfaction. Making learning fun with some of the smartest kids I know is the highlight of my week. Although I have only been at the club for a short time, I have already realized that tutoring and mentoring these kids will be something I continue for the rest of my time at SU.
Q: Describe your experience in Africa this past summer? What motivated you to study abroad?
A: Through course work and connections at Syracuse, my mind was opened up to frames of thought that I had never considered before. My inclusivity, competence and thoughtfulness expanded alongside my skillset. This, along with my unending passion for volunteer work and global development projects, motivated me to join Nourish and lead a group of 14 SU students to Lira, Uganda, to work with the Global Health Network of Uganda.
While abroad, I saw things that I will never be able to forget and made connections with people that I could never replace. Through this experience, a cultural bridge of understanding and impact was built. Whether it is dancing alongside one another, shoveling a pit latrine together or talking about personal experiences such as gender inequality, the complexities of cultures and people were exemplified through mutual respect and admiration. I would never change those six weeks, because during those six weeks I grew in ways I never thought imaginable.
Q: What has been your biggest challenge at SU and how did you overcome it?
A: Beside my bed on South Campus is a journal that my Mom gave me the summer before I came to college. In her handwriting on the first page is Mother Teresa’s “Anyway.” Last year, during my first semester of freshman year at Syracuse, my mom died of stage-four breast cancer after a 15-year battle. More than anything, I cherished the pieces of her and home that I had with me at college, but those alone did not empower me to overcome the situation and persevere through the academic year. What did was the family I had made only one month into college. I was surrounded by floor mates that stayed up the night before I went home to put together an inspiration box for her to have at the hospital and that later drove over two hours to say goodbye to a woman that they could never meet. Alongside my peers, I had professors and staff of the University that constantly sought the best for me during this time through academic help and mentorship. A year later, this support system has only expanded. The orientation leaders here at Syracuse have become another family of mine. I suppose through losing my absolute best friend, who doubled as my mother, I was not broken down, but instead lifted up by an irreplaceable campus community.