SCVi Alum Reflects On Her Journey from iLEAD to Italy
iLEAD is an acronym that stands for International Learning, Leadership, Entrepreneurial Development, the Arts and Design Thinking. To many in the iLEAD Community, these are more than just words. They represent a mindset and an approach to the world. Not only do iLEAD staff take these words to heart, but the learners often do as well. That’s the case with iLEAD SCVi Alum Amanda Lopez-Fasanella – one of the inaugural iLEAD learners and member of the first SCVi Graduating Class of 2014.
Her life and career since leaving SCVi have been everything from exciting to unique. And through all of her educational, work and life experiences, she said she has carried the lessons she learned from the people she worked with during her days at SCVi.
Currently, Lopez-Fasanella is starting her master’s program in Art History at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy. She had always planned on living and working overseas. Her initial plan was to volunteer in Ukraine in 2020. However, the pandemic derailed that plan.
“It has always been my dream to live in another country for an extended period of time,” said Lopez-Fasanella. “Since my hopes of volunteering in Ukraine were put on hold, I looked for other opportunities.”
Her Undergraduate College Experience
Lopez-Fasanella studied Anthropology / Archaeology at Franklin & Marshall College, a small liberal arts institution in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In addition to the coursework in her major, Lopez-Fasanella said she discovered Art History in her fifth year.
“My soul was touched. I discovered that I was naturally inclined to the subject,” she said. “I quickly understood that I was not finished with my education.”
Although her college experience was not project-based, she said her PBL background from SCVi became relevant once again as she prepared for graduate school and work beyond.
Lopez-Fasanella said a professor described the skills and attributes she would need for a career in Art History. This professor listed things such as being detail-oriented, self aware, innovative and being community oriented to name a few.
“What she described aligned perfectly with the skills that are cultivated at SCVi,” she said. “I realized then and there that I could do this because of my project-based learning at SCVi.”
The Impact of SCVi
Lopez-Fasanella acknowledges that most schools encourage their learners to dream about a better future, but that not all schools create and foster the necessary culture where all learners believe that is possible. She said that SCVi cultivated and instilled a particular kind of independence in her and her peers where they each enjoyed unique and special opportunities.
“SCVi operated this way at their core,” she said. “They sincerely encouraged us to ‘dream big’ each and every day.”
When it comes to transferable skills and mindset, Lopez-Fasanella cites what lesson is at the forefront of her SCVi memories and what has served her well throughout college and beyond.
“SCVi taught me to never pretend to be anyone else other than my best self,” she said.
Influence of the SCVi Community
Ultimately, Lopez-Fasanella said that it was the people who made the difference for her. She said that all of the SCVi facilitators and staff were highly engaged in appreciating where each learner was on their learning journey.
“Our facilitators fostered creativity, imagination, innovation and encouraged us to present work that represented a true version of ourselves,” she said. “They led by example and I consider all of them role models.”
Of all the lessons learned at SCVi, Lopez-Fasanella said ultimately that she was and continues to be inspired to change the world. She said when she reflects on who has influenced her the most, she always thinks of her SCVI family. She said she fondly remembers the impact and influence from Cheryl Sena, Dustin Lengning, Elsa Williamson, Danjila Kuric, Kim Adams, Gris Ibarra, Malaka Donovan, Dan Molik, Matt Watson, Luke Salzarulo, and Sheldon Sparks.
“They all really had an impact on me too great to put into words,” said Lopez-Fasanella.
She said all of the aforementioned offered her thousands of life lessons. However, she does admit that some stand out to her. For example, she said Cheryl Sena was like a mother figure who taught her the value of being reflective. She added that Malaka Donovan taught her to look at the world differently and openly. Finally, she said that Dan Molik taught her the impact of doing what you love and doing it well.
“Together they changed my life,” she said. “They helped me realize that I have the power to change my life and the lives of others.”
Finally, she said the collective lesson from SCVi was that we all have the ability to impact the lives of others. She thanks SCVi for this lesson and for acknowledging that learners are more than curriculum.
“I’ve learned to treat the rest of the world like my peers, and my life like my classroom,” said Lopez-Fasanella.