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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.

How to Land Your Dream Job

Spoiler alert: your dream job does not exist. Sorry.

That is, it does not exist if “dream” means “perfect”. There is no job that you are absolutely going to love 100% of the time. It is very common that a person’s idea of their “dream job” is based solely on fantasy and is an unrealistic hobby that they would love to get paid to do…like taste test ice cream all day or play video games for a living. No matter where you work, the alarm will still go off in the morning and, some days, you will hit the snooze button. You will still have meetings that are boring. 

There is no job that will not exhaust you. There is no job that will not take you out of your comfort zone. If “dream” means “easy”, then it definitely does not exist.

However, if we’re talking about “dream job” in terms of being fulfilling and an outlet for you to use your gifts to their full potential, then YES it absolutely exists!

What are you passionate about?

What gets you fired up? What could you talk about for hours? What do you know “way too much” about? When you think of the world, what specific need hits you the hardest? There is a reason that you have seen this need. Maybe it is something lacking in the Church, the business world, the medical field, but whatever it is, you have the capability to satisfy it! God gave you passions in order to drive you toward your vocation. Your talents and passions were formed in such a way that they align. If you are hesitant of the challenges or changes that your talents are leading you towards, you don’t have to go in all at once. Shadow professionals who work in the field that you are interested in and ask questions! Apply for an internship in that area. Take up a temporary position at a company that interests you. You should always evaluate a job before you accept the position, this way, you’ll know if it is really your dream, or just a nightmare. At the risk of sounding like a Disney princess: follow your heart!

What are your talents?

What are you good at? “Nothing” is not a valid answer. You were created wonderfully, fearfully, and intentionally. You have something necessary to bring to this world. Personally, I love to communicate. Whether by writing or speaking, this gift has been validated many times by kind both words from other people, and opportunities that have presented themselves. Think about the compliments that you receive. Think about the classes that you’ve excelled in. You have talents for a reason. You are good at things for a reason. Find an outlet that allows you to put your talents to work and use your gifts to their full potential. 

If you aren’t certain about where your strengths lie, fear not! Maybe you haven’t had the chance to develop and explore them to their full potential. Online resources such as StrengthsQuest and the Myers-Briggs personality test allow you to identify your strongest attributes and turn them into life-skills. Each person is unique and has a skill set that only they can bring to the world. If you allow yourself to pursue the things that you excel in, not only will you find enjoyment in what you do, but you'll be able to do it for a lifetime! 

Where do you see yourself working?

Before you begin applying for jobs, it is of utmost importance that you evaluate your past work experiences. Were there things that you loved about a certain job? Things you hated about another? What tasks in past work experiences made you happy or proud? What was your biggest accomplishment? These seemingly small details should not be ignored! When you acknowledge what qualities make up your ideal workplace, you are more likely to gravitate toward a job that will suit every facet of your personality and introduce you to an environment where you will thrive! 

Once you have determined your strengths, it is so important that you do not limit your career choices based on the path that people with the same degree as you generally take. If you are skilled in the realm of science, for example, you may assume that the only career-path you are suited for is to be a doctor. This could not be further from the truth! As someone who is scientifically skilled, you could be a teacher, a researcher, a lab technician, an astronomer, a member of a drug discovery team, a forensic scientist…the list goes on and on! Keep an open mind until you explore your options and are able to determine for yourself what you like and dislike.

What gives you energy?

What makes you feel the most alive? My roommate is completely changing her major after being in Guatemala for a service trip. She found so much joy working with underprivileged children that she cannot imagine doing anything else for the rest of her life.

Often, the vocation to which we are called is not what is easy. Will there be hard days and hard moments? Always. But you know it is right when not doing it is harder than doing it. A life lived in mediocrity cannot stack up to a life lived excellently. Glorify the Lord by accepting the challenges that He puts in your path so that at the end of your life, you can look back and say, “That wasn’t easy, but it was worth it”. Perseverance brings more peace than giving up.

What is your end goal?

We all have to work, but we often do so for different reasons. What do you desire most from your work? Is it personal fulfillment? Is it to be helpful to others? Is it to gain professional opportunities? Oftentimes, an ideal job will combine some mix of all these traits. Identify the goals that you have for yourself personally and professionally, and choose a career that best helps you reach those goals. For example, if you aspire to be an ambassador to a foreign country in an effort to promote world peace, you probably should not major in Mathematics and look for a job out of college as a elementary math teacher. Instead, major in Politics or International Relations and participate in summer internships working for foreign embassies. Your life is shaped by the decisions you make every single day. Be extraordinary!  

Earning your just rewards

We all have to work, but we often do so for different reasons. What do you desire most from your work? Is it personal fulfillment? Is it to be helpful to others? Is it to gain professional opportunities? Oftentimes, an ideal job will combine some mix of all these traits. Identify the goals that you have for yourself personally and professionally, and choose a career that best helps you reach those goals.

One of the chief end goals for many people is to make a decent living, so it is worth talking about money. Some people choose jobs just for the money, and other people think money is evil, making career choices with a complete disregard for it. It is essential to be wise when planning for your future. While not the end goal of a job, money should be considered a reward for work well done. Money can also be the difference between a hobby and a job; if you take a job where the salary is not enough to live your life in a reasonable manner, the anguish this causes can be extreme, and you may even begin obsessing over it. That should never be the case. Choose a job where you can make a comfortable wage, but also understand that what God calls us to do, He provides for. Whatever we do, we should be using our talents in such a way that we glorify God in all we do and all he has given us. There is a job out there that is going to give you an outlet to do that, you just have to find it!

 

In the pursuit of landing your dream job, take the steps necessary to advance yourself toward the career that excites you! Be proactive in your job search by shadowing professionals, doing your research on the companies that you are interested in, and exploring all of the avenues that appeal to you. Don’t sell yourself short! Meditate on your talents and the unique gifts you have been given in order to determine your vocation. Determine the lifestyle that you would like to lead, and choose a job which will produce the monetary gains that will allow you to live it. Keep striving to listen to God in prayer, and He will lead the way. He is the God of clarity, meaning that you do not have to convince Him to let you in on His plan. He wants you to participate in it! God gave you desires for a reason, and He longs to satisfy them. Trust yourself. Do not be afraid to drastically change your life. Do not be afraid to switch majors or let go of a lesser dream. Do not be afraid to dream big dreams, because God dreams still bigger! You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!