During an unsettling year, Celine Reinoso discovered the kind of clarity that will have a lasting positive impact. Reinoso is the 2020 recipient of the OPRFCF’s Kathleen Marian Garrigan Leadership Fund Award, which provides financial aid to 18- to 25-year-olds who have completed an extended domestic community service project and are transitioning to school or work.

“I’m thankful for the award, and for the opportunity to tell my story because that’s what I try to empower each person I work with to do – to express the often silenced stories of young people working in this field, or women of color working in this field, or immigrants,” Reinoso says.

She says her desire to serve and lead has its seeds in her own story of the forced separation of her Filipino-American family when she was a child, which involved her returning with her mother to live for a time in the Philippines. Born from that experience, her advocacy for marginalized families and individuals and her commitment to accompany them through healing gained momentum during college. Before graduating from St. Louis University in May 2019, the journalism major said she was reporting “meaningful stories of people doing direct service work and realized: I don’t just want to write about people doing it, I want to actually do it.”

Following graduation, she volunteered with El Paso Villa Maria in Texas, a transitional shelter that provides services for women affected by complex circumstances related to homelessness, such as domestic violence, addiction, abuse and mental health. She interacted with residents daily until COVID-19 began to spread. Although different from her face-to-face encounters, she realized while working remotely that she could continue helping clients on paperwork that can be difficult to navigate, such as resumes, job applications and government forms.

“Each day I learn something new, whether it be about the world, social work, service, my clients, or myself,” she wrote in her application. “However, the most important lesson I learned, which I will carry with me through my career, is the importance of empathy, compassion and accompaniment in social justice work.”

Reinoso will begin studies for a graduate degree in social work at the University of Missouri-St. Louis in January 2021.

To learn more about scholarships and enrichment grants available through the Foundation, visit oprfcf.org and click on the For Students tab.

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