23°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Service Trip After Katrina Sparked Joane Etienne’s Inner-Activist

Psychology+and+Sociology%2C+2012

Psychology and Sociology, 2012

“There’s somebody who’s hungry somewhere in the world,” Joane Etienne says. “It might be as far as Africa, and it might be as close as down your street.” 
At the University of Massachusetts Boston, Etienne exercised her passion for helping people in need, and discovered the power of mentorship. 
“I will always find a young person to speak to and encourage and empower because I benefited from that so much myself,” she says. “One thing that I’m always going to do is see where there’s a need, and look to see how I can be a contributor.” 
Now she works at the Boston Youth Sanctuary, a therapeutic atmosphere for children who have experienced trauma. 
“These kids experience a lot by the age [of] eight,” she says. “In one child’s case, she witnessed her dad murder someone. These things happen every day in these communities to young kids. There’s a lot of mental health work that goes into trying to help them be kids again.”
Etienne’s time at UMass Boston gave her the tools to seek out the needy, to be outspoken, and to be the catalyst of change, whether or not she gets to see that change come to fruition. 
“I’m sick of hearing students say, there’s nothing at UMass,” she says. “Do something about it. Start something.”
In her senior year, Etienne participated in FLI, Freshman Leadership Institute, as a peer mentor.
“Freshmen come in and they’re hungry,” she says. “If you can kind of give them something, they will run with it.”
One of her mentees, Maritza, was passionate about having a fair trade community at UMass Boston. It was not something that Etienne knew well, but all she had to say was, “You go girl.” Maritza took the challenge and now Fair Trade UMass Boston is thriving, raising awareness for the workers behind our food. 
“Stop complaining. Get up and do it,” Etienne says. “If you can’t do it, then find someone who can.”
Growing up in Boston, Etienne had been to UMass Boston before. When she was in elementary school, Etienne’s cousin dragged her along one day to the urban scholars program. But she never thought she would end up becoming a UMass Boston student. 
“I actually applied because my parents begged me to,” she says. “I wanted to go out of state. I am a person who loves to travel. I love adventure. I love something new. I was born and raised in Boston. I didn’t want to stay in Boston.” 
Fate had different plans for her. After getting pregnant at the end of high school she decided to stay in Boston near her parents. She went to UMass Boston for convenience, and found several opportunities to travel. 
“One thing that sparked everything for me was doing the Alternative Spring Break trip to New Orleans and doing Katrina relief. It was just that ‘Wow’ feeling that I can actually make a difference. I can read about something in the paper, or watch something in the news, and go out there and actually do something.”
“Katrina was huge, and it impacted so many lives out there, everyone’s lives out there. Being in that environment where it’s overwhelmingly disastrous, there’s no way not to be impacted. Something that resonated with me was how hopeful, and how appreciative the people were. Even though the help we offered was so small compared to what they needed, it was so much appreciated.” 
Most of the experiences that influence her work today came from Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement (OSLCE). She was their first Program Assistant for Community Engagement, so she did a lot of service work. She planned the first two Days of Service, one in the spring and one in the fall. 
“It was great. It was just overwhelmingly great,” she says. “Students got together and did all of the planning, and gathering volunteers, and registering. The students who actually showed up made it count. We had about 100 people the first time around.” 
“The students that find something to do have to seek it out. I think that the university just needed to do a little more to let students know that those opportunities are out there. There are students who are looking for something to do and are not as proactive at seeking out what is out there.” 
In addition to that she joined the sorority Sigma Gamma Rho, helped plan the Woman’s Leadership Initiative, and started a chapter for Habitat for Humanity on campus. Her favorite class was taught by Melanie Joy. 
“Whatever she taught, she taught it so well that you were able to leave class with a concept and apply it to your life. She would just somehow connect everything. It was amazing. After I took one class with her, I tried to take every single one with her.” 
Jean Rose’s research on mentoring sealed the passion. She had so many great mentors at UMass Boston, especially Sherrod Williams. 
“I just love him. I credit him for my whole college experience. He’s my college father. I succeeded because Sherrod was right there, just mentoring me, and that was invaluable.” 
“The professors were always willing to help, willing to support, willing to actually get to know you. They know you have a real life, and I appreciated that. You have real things that really matter, and so they didn’t make their classes pointless and full of nonsense. They cared, and respected your time.” 
UMass Boston is full of non-traditional students. 
“You have the 18-year-old freshman and you also have the 40 year-old freshman in your English 101 class. There’s a wide population that UMass caters to, but everyone has different needs. It’s a mature atmosphere at UMass. Some people want to get in and get out. Some people want to get in and get involved. Most of the people at UMass are culturally competent and very focused on social change, and not just sticking to status quo. Activists.”
As a student she learned that there is always room to push forward for social change. 
“Every experience counts. Every voice counts,” she says. “College is a whole different environment from the workforce, and the spark for change can start right at UMass Boston.”

About the Contributor
Caleb Nelson served as the following positions for The Mass Media the following years: Editor-in-Chief: Fall 2010; 2010-2011; Fall 2011 News Editor: Spring 2009; 2009-2010