She’s still 21 with a freshly minted degree in psychology, but Cory Stein is already racking up some “firsts.”
Stein is the first student from Barry University to be accepted to join Dominican Volunteers, a mission program that works with the poor and marginalized around the U.S. She is the first Jewish student ever to work with the organization. And she’ll help create a course for girls while serving with the Dominicans.
And yes, she’s excited to be on the front lines this summer, bringing Barry values to teenagers in Chicago.
“I’m thrilled to work with the Dominicans,” Stein says. “I’m eager to get to planning.”
In Chicago, Stein will work at Sara’s Inn, a nonprofit organization run by the Dominicans. Sara’s Inn aims to combat domestic violence in several ways, including education. Stein will craft a curriculum for high school girls, focused on “women’s empowerment” -- everything from beauty to breast cancer to self-esteem.
Working with a team at Sara’s Inn, she will introduce the teenage girls to topics including health, mass media, body image, and cultural views of womanhood. She finds that teen girls often have image problems, which can lead to addictions and eating disorders. The problems can also make the girls vulnerable to predatory men and to domestic violence.
“This is my passion – female empowerment,” Stein says. “How to have relationships. How to be treated. Every woman has value and is valuable.”
She will also teach the girls about role models of female leaders, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Condoleezza Rice. But she adds that all women, – bus drivers, lawyers, dentists, nurses, flight attendants, stay-at-home moms – have innate worth.
Without an established protocol, Stein will draw heavily on what she learned at Barry. As a psychology student, she wrote a research paper on domestic violence. “That’s why the Dominican Volunteers were so interesting to me,” she says.
And Stein already has some experience in the work she’ll be doing in Chicago. As a Barry student, she worked with the Community Leadership Partnership of Greater Miami. She convened a roundtable of middle and high school students and worked with them on community service projects.
She also produced a documentary of interviews with school headmasters and the chancellor of the Miami school system. On May 21, she was scheduled to receive an award from the partnership for her work.
Stein’s interest in the Dominican Volunteers was born during her tenure at Barry University. “I was wondering how I can distinguish myself from other graduates,” she says. “The Dominicans offered a chance to reaffirm Barry University’s values, and to mirror my own.”
Stein learned of Barry’s Core Commitments in her freshman year, in her Introduction to Theology course. She found they overlap heavily with the Conservative Jewish values in which she was raised, including “sanctity of human spirit.”
Knowledge and truth, social justice, collaborative service, an inclusive community – those Commitments are Jewish values as well, she says.
As for the organization she’ll work with, Stein says, “Dominicans – Catholics in general – have historically taken people in and helped them.”
In Chicago, collaborative service and community integration will be woven into her living arrangements. She’ll live in a house with two volunteers and a nun or two. An in regards to inclusivity, Stein was elated at the Dominicans’ consideration for her Jewish heritage.
"I’m the first Jewish volunteer they’ve had there, and it’s a beautiful thing,” Stein says. “They’ve been nothing but accommodating and kind.”
Her schedule calls for her to travel in mid-August to Wisconsin for some initial training, then move to Chicago at the end of the month. Dominican Volunteers asks participants to sign up for one year, then renew if they wish.
“I don’t expect a cakewalk,” Stein says. “But I get to use what I know, and try some creativity. I’m excited.”