“I was very lucky I was raised in a place where service is important,” said Danielle Flood over coffee one morning last summer. She was on a break from her job organizing student service and mission opportunities in the Office of Campus Ministry. She talked about growing up the oldest of four girls in Bergenfield, New Jersey, in a home where care for the least among us was modeled from an early age.

“Service to the poor and seeing God in them was important,” she said.

For the last 20 years, her parents have operated a nonprofit that takes children with physical and developmental needs on an annual Easter pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. Danielle, 24, went on the trip several times as a girl and now serves on the group’s board.

It’s no wonder, then, that Danielle came to Catholic University to pursue an education in social work and a lifetime of working for justice.

I didn’t know what social work was, didn’t know it would align so closely with my values and what I wanted to do.
– Danielle Flood

Having earned her bachelor’s degree in 2015, she returned, after a gap year spent as an AmeriCorps Vista volunteer (at Catholic, naturally), to get her MSW with a concentration in social change. She completed her master’s in the spring.

“I didn’t know what social work was, didn’t know it would align so closely with my values and what I wanted to do,” she admits with a laugh. She just knew she wanted to make a difference; a full scholarship from the Pope Francis Scholars Program made her graduate studies possible.

She leaves behind an impressive record of helping others. As an undergrad, she was a dedicated volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, eventually taking a leadership role, coordinating service trips and lobbying for housing policy change on Capitol Hill.

During her AmeriCorps year, she worked out of the University’s Campus Ministry office for Beacon House, a local nonprofit serving low-income youth. She built up the Girls in Action program, engaging significant numbers of student athletes in mentoring and service work, a legacy that remains.

Over the summer, Danielle wrapped up her work as a part-time Campus Ministry staffer before moving down the road a few miles to Gonzaga College High School to begin a full-time position there as a campus minister planning retreats and service opportunities. “My hope is to take my skills as a social worker and translate them to working in campus ministry,” she said, “to develop programs and then send students off to use their own skills and go out and have conversations with the poor.”

Emmjolee Mendoza Waters, associate director of campus ministry and community service, has known Danielle since her undergraduate days and has watched her grow and mature in her faith and love of justice. “For Danielle, it just lives and breathes in her. It’s not an activity, it’s not something extra for when you have time and don’t have extra work,” she said. “It’s integrated, and that’s what makes it really special.”