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Perspectives Transformed


Everybody says “PULSE changes lives.” Does it really?
For these two recent graduates, the answer is a resounding yes. PULSE students often say that the emotionally intense experience of working with the disenfranchised combined with the academic and reflective work required by the course helped them identify a direction in life, or gave them a perspective that has remained powerful. Victoria “Tori” Crawford ’17 and Bryan Paula Gonzalez ’19 share their stories of how PULSE shaped their futures.

It’s worth pointing out, as well, that while these two students were profoundly personally affected by PULSE, the impact extends beyond them. Tori made powerful connections with mothers and children in great need of an ally, and now plans to help social service agencies achieve success so they can serve their clients better. Bryan offered empathy and hope to the depressed, often suicidal, callers to his crisis line. He hopes to educate and inspire urban youngsters.

This is PULSE’s ripple effect in action.

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Bryan Paula Gonzalez ’19
Bryan is currently teaching English in Brazil on a Fulbright award. When he returns to the States, he’ll join the Donovan Urban Teaching Scholars program at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development. Born in the Dominican Republic, Bryan moved to New York City as a child and is the first member of his family to go to college.

“I’m an immigrant student. And I had the idea that in order to make it in life, you have to be a lawyer, an engineer, or a doctor. That’s how I was ingrained growing up. So I came to BC premed. I was like, I’m going to change the world, because I’m going to help so many people. I didn’t realize how good I had to be at science. I was staying up insane hours trying to learn the material but I wasn’t doing well.

“I struggled my freshman year and didn’t really have a sense of self, or sense of purpose. I actually had thoughts of maybe I shouldn’t be in college. And then I spent my summer taking a sociology class. I found myself dealing with a lot of questions that I didn’t have answers to, particularly as a student of color.

“And that’s why I joined PULSE: it was answering bigger societal questions. You are able to place yourself in the problem. You’re able to ask, what is my role in society? What can I do? What can I contribute? What am I good at?

“I answered calls to a Samaritans helpline. It was heavy stuff for a 19-year-old. But it made me see that there are different ways to help the world beyond being a doctor or being an engineer. PULSE pushed me toward redefining how I saw service and what it means to help people. It changed my idea of who I was and what I was interested in.

“Now I see myself teaching. I am really interested in history. A lot of times as a student, I saw my narrative, a narrative with people who were like me, left out of history. I think it’s so important when we’re talking about things like racism and classism to understand: Why did this happen in medieval China? Why did this happen in medieval Europe? How does that play a role today? How is that important to us? Why there are certain people who tell stories and others who don’t? And what does that actually do for our history?

“I see myself teaching students who are like me and have a similar background the importance of knowing history and understanding it.”

Victoria Crawford ’17
We interviewed Tori the day before she packed up her apartment and moved from Chestnut Hill to New York City to begin a master’s degree program in social work at Columbia University. Like Bryan, she thought she’d major in premed at BC; PULSE, she says, changed everything.

“One of my really good friends took PULSE as a freshman and was like, if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, ‘Take PULSE. It’ll open your eyes.’ I think it was the best jump I could have made.

“Now, I was new to Boston; I’m from the Midwest originally. I thought it was very important for me to learn about the city that had been taking me in, about the East Coast and the social issues here that are different from home, and not just stay in this bubble. Having this structure pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Because I’d never even ridden public transit before, you know?

“I served at St. Mary’s Center for Women and Children in Dorchester, particularly with Margaret’s House, which is single-parent households living in the residential center until they are able to get housing. I worked very closely with the moms and the kids, helping with homework, helping with childcare. I baked a lot; I would make cookies and say, ‘Talk to me! I have cookies!’

“I credit PULSE completely for where I’ve gone with my life. I found that I was really interested in the way that people interact with each other and with their communities. I decided to major in psychology and minor in philosophy. And I really started getting a better feel for the nonprofit sector in particular.

“So I’m going to get my MSW for macro social work, which is nonprofit program management and development. That’s what I’m very passionate about. There are so many wonderful organizations we work with, but not all of them know how to maintain funding streams or manage their human resources; there’s a lot of turnover, which can be hard on staff and hard on the constituents they’re working for.

“PULSE showed me first that I could do psychology, clinical work, and then even beyond that, how I can help make sure that the organizations themselves are running well.”


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