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Alumna of the Year Christine Abalos Tsu '02 reflects on being a Wildcat
Alumna of the Year Christine Abalos Tsu '02 reflects on being a Wildcat

Alumna of the Year 2018

by Christine Abalos Tsu, SI '02

So many years after high school, I have remained involved with SI because it grounds me. Being surrounded by Ignatians reminds me of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be. As students, we were reminded every day to live a life of service for others. It is built into the curriculum: in the one hundred hour community service requirement, in the letters AMDG written at the top of every assignment, in the required reading of the English department, and in Kairos, our final spiritual retreat. We were surrounded by administration, faculty, and classmates who were all doing the same. We did not realize that our biggest challenge would simply be continuing to do this work in the real world, outside the walls of the Prep.

Not every profession or life circumstance easily lends itself to the Ignatian mission. How can I be a person for others when I'm in a place that does not traditionally focus on that? Do I take the tried and true success route that focuses on the individual or do I take the longer, more challenging route of being an Ignatian? I struggled with this question recently in my career until I was reminded one day at mass: "Start from a place of love."

Sixteen years ago, during my senior year at SI, Brother Draper shared a letter during second period announcements. At Stonestown, an older man's shopping cart toppled over and the contents spilled all over the sidewalk. Two young men saw, stopped, put the items back into the man's cart, and ran off... But not before the older man noticed the words "St. Ignatius" on one of their sweatshirts. Since he didn't get the chance to thank them in person, he wrote his letter of gratitude to the school. I do not know if we ever found out who those two young men were, but I like to think that it could have been any Wildcat.

"Start from a place of love."

Over my years of involvement in the SI community, I have had the opportunity to see others live a life of service in many different ways, in many different professions. From Yvonne Sangiacomo, whose generosity will give so many deserving children the chance to become Ignatians, reminding us at the President's Cabinet dinner that "one handshake can mean so much" to Colin Stretch telling us at the Downtown Business lunch that he continues to use the Ignatian principles to "be attentive, reflective, and loving" to guide him as Facebook's lead attorney. Each of these Ignatians found their own way to continue our work outside the walls of the Prep.

Being at alumni events reminds me of who I was, who I am, and who I want to be.

-- Who I want to be: an alumni that has lived a lifetime of service for the community, not just the SI community but the communities they have created in their personal and professional lives. We see examples of this in the Christ the King award recipients, the Downtown Business lunch speakers, and in the alumni faculty, administration, and board members who have served for decades.

-- Who I am: the young alumni who is still trying to figure out how to continually be a person for others in my personal and professional life, trying to set up my own unique path based on my interests and strengths. The continued bond I share with my own class through our annual class reunions and attendance at alumni events reminds me that we are forever Wildcats. We are here to celebrate each other's triumphs but more importantly support each other through our challenges. We are lifelong learners of faith, integrity, and compassion. My role as a class representative and alumni board member is to ensure that we have the events and opportunities to continue connecting with each other.

-- Who I was: an SI student -- a bright-eyed, awkward but confident 14-year-old who was given an opportunity to live the Ignatian mission of education, leadership, service, and justice in a community that starts at the school and continues after graduation. We do not need to look further than Genesis to see that current students continue to step up to this challenge. Let's celebrate SI and its mission through our support and contributions. Let's give that same opportunity to the next generation of 14-year-olds.

Being an alumni of SI is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility. It's an honor to walk alongside such remarkable women and men, it's a privilege to be in a position to make a difference in the world, and it's our responsibility to continue in the work of St. Ignatius long after we have graduated.

I am honored to be able to serve the SI community and look forward to continuing the tradition of building future Ignatian leaders. Let's surprise strangers with our acts of kindness. Let's be attentive and reflective. Let's start again from this place of love. We are SI.