Ignatian College Connection Prepares Students to Live Greater
Eric Jackman ’15 living in Jesuit tradition
Without the influence of his lifelong Jesuit education, Eric Jackman ’15 isn’t sure where he’d be today.
A graduate of Gesu School and Saint Joseph’s Prep, Jackman earned a psychology degree from Saint Joseph’s in May and returned to Gesu as the service program coordinator. Jackman credits the University’s Ignatian College Connection (ICC) with helping him complete Philadelphia’s Jesuit education trifecta.
“The ICC provided a stable support system,” said Jackman, who volunteered at the Bethesda Project’s My Brother’s House men’s shelter and played club rugby. “The ICC program was there for me. Without it, I wouldn’t have made it financially or emotionally.”
Reaching out to Philadelphia’s diverse cultural, educational and socioeconomic students, the ICC emulates the mission of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the first Jesuits who provided educational resources to anyone with a desire to learn. Rev. George Bur, S.J., then-rector of the University’s Jesuit Community, launched the program in 2004. The Jesuit Community at Saint Joseph’s University initially funded the program. Since then, many alumni, friends, corporations and foundations have supported the program.
“Our purpose is two-fold,” said Jennifer Dessus, who was hired as program coordinator in 2007 and succeeded Fr. Bur as program administrator in 2008. “Through pre-college programming, we prepare underrepresented high school students for higher education success, and create a connection between Saint Joseph’s and Philadelphia’s communities. ICC is a support system to prepare students who are already on their way to great things for the rigors of higher education and to help them see themselves as part of the equation.”
Upon being accepted to SJU, ICC high school program participants are encouraged to compete for the ICC Scholarship, which provides eight semesters of tuition. Scholarship awardees are expected to excel in the classroom and encouraged to assume leadership positions within the SJU community. Scholars participate in recruiting, mentoring and programming with high school populations. For some, like Eric, this extends to teaching during summer programming.
Since the ICC’s founding, 41 ICC Scholars have earned SJU degrees. More than four of every five ICC Scholars graduate within four years. The University welcomed four members for this year’s 12th cohort, bringing the ICC Scholars enrolled at SJU this academic year to 20.
“The Jesuit ideals have carried me,” said Jackman, a member of the Jesuit Honor Society Alpha Sigma Nu. “The most prevalent to me is ‘being a man with and for others.’ I gain personal satisfaction from helping others and it makes me feel useful to be a part of a cause bigger than myself.”
Jackman’s return to Gesu as a member of the fifth cohort of the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE-SJU) is a testament to his desire to help students from backgrounds similar to his own, according to Dessus. ACE-SJU is a two-year service program matching recent graduates with teaching or administrative roles in under-resourced Catholic schools in the Philadelphia region while pursuing a master’s degree at SJU.
At Gesu, Jackman, who is looking toward a counseling/guidance counselor career, helps students view themselves as part of a larger community, similar to what the ICC program provided for him. “It starts with community service, but extends to talking to each student and making him or her feel like someone cares about them,” he said. “I go beyond the job description to be present in their daily lives by assisting with basketball practice, playing and talking to them at recess and being involved with their afterschool activities.”
Sounds like Jackman’s Jesuit education has given him a great start.
– Kevin Kaufman