Student Spotlight: Gabriella Forte

Gabriella Forte, a sophomore from Jacksonville, Florida, exemplifies what it means to be a dedicated student. Majoring in Politics and minoring in Theology, she has a lot on her plate, yet carries the load with grace and poise. Gabriella spent last summer as an intern for the U.S. Attorney in Jacksonville, and looks forward to the exciting opportunities that this summer holds. 

How do you usually go about getting a summer job?

All of the jobs that I have had so far have been given to me. Each boss I have had has come to me and asked me if I want the position, which is not normal. This past summer, I was not sure if I wanted to go into law after college, so I figured that an internship would show me whether or not that would be the right path. I was looking for different legal internships but no one wanted me because I was a freshman, undergraduate, undeclared political science major, with no experience at all in the field. I was starting to get really frustrated. I called my sister during the process and I was telling her that I was really struggling to find an internship. She said, “Well, my AP calculus teacher’s husband is a U.S. Attorney, and she mentioned in class that he was hiring interns". She offered to put in a word for me, and he got my number through her. He called the next day at 8pm saying that if he could have my resume and cover letter by that night, he would put in my application. Unfortunately, at that time, I did not have a resume, but I stayed up until 4am writing a resume and cover letter and I submitted it to him and got the job!

What was it like to work for a U.S. Attorney?

Overall, it was incredibly exciting. I got to meet FBI, Homeland Security, and Secret Service agents. I was able to tour government facilities and go through a lot of exciting cases with my supervisor. Some were very gruesome because the man that I did most of my work for worked on child exploitation cases. Going through those cases was very hard and, at first, I did not like them at all. Over time, however, those became my favorite cases because it gave me something to work towards. I was able to see the effects of these peoples horrible acts and help to put them away for it. 

What was the highlight of your experience?

I think the highlight of the internship was my boss’ trial at the end of the internship. The case’s subject was a man that thought he was communicating with a 14 year old girl, who, thankfully, was an undercover officer. I had to transcribe his interview with the police, which was over 100 pages long! That was a lot of fun to do. It was really neat to see my work being projected on the screen during the trial in front of the entire jury. The trial was very difficult because all I had known about the case was preliminary, and at the trial, a lot of nasty details came out that I was not expecting. It really broke my heart and made me realize how much darkness there is in the world. That is definitely one of the scarier things that came out of the internship.

If an Ave student was interested, could they apply for this same internship?

Absolutely! My boss is Catholic, and the joke around the office is that he favors Catholic students, even though the work environment is not at all conducive to the Catholic faith. I know he would be very pleased to have another Ave Maria student!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I really would love to do something with religious liberty, but I’m not exactly sure where God is calling me. I’m still discerning.

What are your plans for this year to get closer to your goal for the future?

Right now, I am applying for two internships - one with with the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in DC, and one with the Family Research Council, also in DC. I applied for a couple of study programs as well. I submitted an application for Alliance Defending Freedom Arete Academy, and by tomorrow I will have submitted an application for the Hudson Institute. All of them would be amazing opportunities so I will be happy no matter what happens, but I am really hoping to get into the Arete Academy because it integrates politics and the Christian faith.

What is the highest honor/ award that you have ever received? 

My high school was named “Bishop Schneider” after a bishop we had two bishops ago. He founded three schools in my area and started two summer camps for individuals with mental and physical disabilities. In addition to that, he volunteers on death row all the time and comes to the high schools in the area regularly for sporting events and to say mass. He has so much humility, peace, and joy and just exudes the love of Christ. There is an award given to a senior each year that, in essence, says, “You represent the qualities that Bishop Schneider exhibits”. I received that award when I graduated and it was very humbling. I definitely don’t think that I deserved it. He’s such an amazing man!

Do you have a favorite space in your home?

My favorite spaces are the kitchen and my bedroom. I love to cook. My sisters and I will go to Publix at one in the afternoon and not be finished cooking until my parents come home at 7pm. When we are home together, that is what we love to do…just be in the kitchen and cook homemade meals and desserts. Also, my bedroom at home is my favorite place to be if I get stressed out. Last year, Father Dunn told me about perpetual eucharistic adoration on the computer. I pull that up on my tablet and set it up so when I walk into my room it is like a mini adoration chapel. 

What has been your happiest moment?

Two summers ago, my family and I took a vacation to South Carolina and stayed in the mountains. We had never done anything like that before. We went white water rafting and zip-lining. My family usually likes to plan everything out to the smallest detail, but this vacation was not planned out, so it was just spontaneous fun the whole time! There was a lake that the cabin we were staying at was on, so we did some activities on the water, which was amazing. We also found out that there were waterfalls nearby, and being from Florida that was so exciting and so bizarre. Being outside together, laughing, and tripping over sticks was such a joy. 

Why did you choose Ave Maria University?

I wanted to come to Ave because I was going to study theology. I started looking for Catholic universities in the state of Florida, so Ave Maria stood out immediately and I fell in love with it. I wanted to make a prudent decision though, so I put Ave aside and looked at other places like CUA, Franciscan, Villanova, and Belmont Abbey. When it came down to the end of senior year, I decided that maybe I wanted to study politics instead. CUA had a great politics program, and it was right in the heart of American politics, but it had two barriers. First, the distance from home, and second, the cost. However, they had a Presidential Scholarship, which I met all of the qualifications for except for the ACT; I had a 29 and I needed a 30. I took the ACT again, and super-scored, it was a 30. Unfortunately, CUA doesn’t superstore the ACT, so I didn’t make the cut. About an hour later, Mary Reed, from Ave, called me and said, “We just got your new ACT score and it bumps you up into the next scholarship bracket!”. I was looking for a clear sign, and there it was.