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A passion for service and helping her fellow classmates find ways to give back earned Grettel Gomez Reyes the St. Catherine Medal for the 2023-24 academic year.

The medal is awarded by Kappa Gamma Pi, the National Catholic Honors Society, to a sophomore or junior who has demonstrated strong academic achievement and outstanding service.

“Grettel Gomez Reyes is a remarkable individual who embodies the core values of Dominican,” wrote Nacho Montiel, lecturer of graphic design, in her nomination. “Her resilience, commitment to education, and dedication to her community make her a worthy candidate for the St. Catherine Medal.”

Gomez Reyes is a sophomore with a major in communication studies and minors in pre-law, translation and interpretation, and theology. During her short time at Dominican, she created the Community Actions Network (CAN), a civic engagement project that pairs students with volunteer and fundraising opportunities.

“Winning the St. Catherine Medal isn’t just for me; it’s like the network is winning it too,” she said. “I’m proud of the recognition of the network and the work we’ve been doing.”

Gomez Reyes has partnered with the Quinn Center in Maywood and Chicago HOPES for Kids to find volunteer opportunities for interested students, and CAN also connected volunteers to a November meal distribution for recently arrived migrants at a Chicago police headquarters.

“I have had a lot of students ask me how they can get more involved,” she said. “A lot of them don’t necessarily want to devote their lives to community service, and that’s fine. I think whatever career field a student chooses will allow them to give back to the community in some way.”

Outside of her work with CAN, Gomez Reyes trained to become a domestic violence crisis call handler for Sarah’s Inn, a social services agency in Forest Park and, last July, she joined Catholic Relief Services in Washington, D.C. to lobby for the extension of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which provides financial support for America’s farmers and ranchers. Gomez Reyes met with staff from the offices of U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin of Illinois, and North Carolina Senator Ted Budd, who represents her home state.

Gomez Reyes has been involved in civic engagement since was 16 years old and joined the Latin American Coalition in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. She helped residents access housing and food assistance, medical care and more. She eventually became an intern for the coalition and returned to work there last summer.

“I just fell in love with the work,” she shared. “One of the things I say is, ‘Why not do it?’ It doesn’t cost us anything to help people.”

At Dominican, Gomez Reyes has also led causes important to her. She helped organize Take Back the Night, a campus-wide stance against sexual violence; Coming out of the Shadows, a march in support of undocumented students with the Undocumented and Immigrant Allyance (UIA); and a Nov. 6 student walkout in solidarity with citizens of Gaza impacted by war. 

Gomez Reyes has aspirations of becoming a college professor of communication and one day starting a nonprofit organization.

“I think Dominican has been the best place in which to grow in a safe manner,” she said. “I’ve been able to organize events, walkouts and protests, and that’s something I have never done before. I have had great mentors here at Dominican who have guided me.”

She will receive the St. Catherine Medal at a ceremony this spring.

Other nominees for the 2023-24 St. Catherine Medal are Dominican students Sofia Alessandrini, Bryan Gonzalez Delgadillo, Zoey Mitchell, and Jashui Zarate Torres.