Meet #CrusaderIntern Juliana Holcomb ’19, The Ana Grace Project

Dr. Noel Casiano, my supervisor (L) and me (R)


Full Name: Juliana Holcomb ‘19

Summer Internship: The Ana Grace Project


1. What were you up to this past summer?

This past summer, I was a research and data intern at The Ana Grace Project in New Britain, CT.   Created after the tragedy at Sandy Hook which took the life of Ana Grace Márquez-Green as well as many others, this not-for-profit organization is dedicated to bringing social emotional learning, trauma-informed care, and school-based mental health services into New Britain Elementary schools through their “Love Wins” program.  In this role, I analyzed teacher, school administrator, and faculty-reported responses from the ARTIC (Attitudes Related to Trauma Informed Care) measure; collected, organized, and explained trends in disciplinary-related outcomes between 2012-2018 from the Connecticut State Department of Education; and wrote, edited, and prepared APA-style manuscripts for publication.  I was able to contribute to three manuscripts that will hopefully be published in the near future and two manuals for the “Love Wins” program.


2. What was your favorite part?

My favorite part was learning about the specific ways in which the “Love Wins” program impacted the elementary school-aged children of New Britain.  Through the data and trends I analyzed, I was able to witness the ways in which the implementation of “Love Wins” quantitatively improved school-based outcomes such as in- and out-of-school suspensions and chronic absenteeism.  On a more qualitative level, I was able to learn about individual stories of how “Love Wins” impacted the New Britain community which was equally as inspiring. Hearing these testimonials made me very hopeful for the future of school-based mental health services.

I also was awestruck by the strength, dedication, and passion of Nelba Márquez-Green as she worked tirelessly each and every day to improve the educational system for low-income students and students of color so that a tragedy like Sandy Hook, which took the life of her daughter, would never happen again.  Her dedication was unlike any I had ever seen before, and I was fortunate to work with her.


3. What surprised you?

I was surprised by the amount of collaboration that took place within The Ana Grace Project.  People from all different backgrounds and career paths came together to create this not-for-profit and manage its implementation within schools.  For example, mental health professionals such as Marriage Family Therapists, Licensed Mental Health Counselors, Social Workers, Psychologists, and Psychiatrists all worked together in order to provide the school-based mental health services to students as well as counsel them individually and in a family or group setting.  Teachers, within the many elementary schools of New Britain, were also a critical piece of the “Love Wins” program which I saw when I went to a talent show at one of the schools. The administrators and staff of the school were also highly involved. Seeing this community collaboration was a happy surprise I saw during my time at The Ana Grace Project.  They practiced what they preached and emphasized community relations and support in all that they did.

Meet Alumna Nerelly Checo ’18, Teaching fellow at Nativity School of Worcester

Name: Nerelly Checo

Class Year: 2018

Current Title/Employer: Teaching fellow at Nativity School of Worcester


In one sentence, what does your job entail?

My job entails teaching 15 5th grade boys, living in a community of 7 additional fellows, coaching a sport and operating as an outreach coordinator.  

How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?

I wanted a job in which I can make a difference in the community. This school serves low income boys of color- a community that I myself relate to. Because I was given many opportunities that have helped me get to where I am today, I wanted to also have an impact in the lives of these boys. I knew that this job was something that I was capable of doing with great interest, yet also challenge me to help me grow.

What were you involved in when you were on campus?  

On campus, I served on the executive board of the Latin American Student Organization for 3 years. I was a mentor for the Peer Mentor program and a mentor and program coordinator for the Odyssey program. I worked in the Office of Student Involvement and in the Center for Career Development as a Marketing Peer Career Assistant. I also worked as a caller for the Phonathon and held the job of a Hogan student manager. Additionally, I studied abroad in Argentina for a semester.

What was your major and how has it affected your career decisions?   

I was a double major in Sociology and Psychology. As a result, it has allowed me to become passionate about issues that people are affected with daily, specifically related to social justice. I tend to look at career paths that will lead me to make a difference and change the issues that our world faces. In addition, whenever I interact with a student, I keep in mind the many different societal and psychological layers that go into their lives.

What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?

One skill that I developed at Holy Cross was being able to maintain strong, interpersonal relationships. My majors and involvement on campus required me to develop communication skills, both written and orally. In addition, I also developed the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities and meet deadlines. Being involved in many different things on campus prepared me for the array of things thrown at me at my job, often times unexpectedly.

Meet Alumna Kelly Garcia ’15, Special Education Teacher at Excel Academy Charter High School

Meet Alumna Kelly Garcia ’15, Special Education Teacher at Excel Academy Charter High School


Name: Kelly Garcia

Class Year: 2015

Current Title/Employer:

  • Special Education Teacher at Excel Academy Charter High School – East Boston, MA
  • Vice Chairwoman of the Chelsea School Board – Chelsea, MA

Graduate Degrees (if applicable): Master’s in Education from Boston University


In one sentence, what does your job entail?

As a Special Education Teacher, my job entails the implementation of Individual Education Plans (IEP) for students with learning disabilities, such as, Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

(ADHD), and etc. and accommodating the curriculum so that they are successful in the classroom.


What if any, unplanned events connected you to your industry and your first employer after Holy Cross?   

During my sophomore year, I went on a service trip to Dangriga, Belize where 12 other Holy Cross students volunteered at Holy Ghost, an elementary school. It was on this trip that I fell in love with working with children and discovered my passion for teaching. Then, I tutored at a local school in Worcester the remaining years at Holy Cross. When senior year came, I applied to Teach for America and got in! I am now in my third year of teaching and am also an elected official in my city. I serve as the District 7 School Board Member and Vice Chairwoman of the board in Chelsea, MA.


How did you learn/decide it was a good fit for you?

Giving back to my community and advocating for students in urban school districts is a passion I developed shortly after my years at Holy Cross. I am fortunate and eternally grateful I found my passion  and will continue finding innovative ways to improve my community.


What were you involved in when you were on campus?  

Pernet Family Health Services, Community Harvest Project, Pathfinder (Passport Program), Study Abroad (studied in Argentina for a semester), Multicultural Peer Educator, Teaching Assistant in Dangriga, Belize, CASA, BSU,  and LASO.


What was your major and how has it affected your career decisions?   

Majoring in Psychology allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of the differences that exist in our society, and taught me to accept everyone for who they are. Developing an acceptance of all differences and all personalities has truly benefited me in the classroom, and has made my job incredibly rewarding.


What are one or two skills that you developed at Holy Cross that you use in your work?   

The importance of genuinely listening and the art of networking.

-Asking alumni for advice instead of a job

-Stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging the “norm” allows you to GROW! Don’t be afraid to go against what is socially accepted