Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Change makers

President Hanno, students, professors fuel entrepreneurial spirit in Africa

PrintBack when Dennis M. Hanno was growing up on an isolated farm in upstate New York, he would not have believed it if you’d told him he would one day transform the lives of teenagers in Africa. “I was a curious kid, but not about global travel,” Hanno said. “We never went anywhere.”

Fast-forward half a century, though, and talk to Jonathan Iyandemye, a 21-year-old Rwandan now attending Harvard: He’ll tell you in no uncertain terms that the efforts of Wheaton’s president have made all the difference in the world to him.

“The impact he’s had is immeasurable,” Iyandemye said recently from his home outside Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. “You can’t talk about it or write about it enough. I feel like I owe who I am to him and a few other people like him who invested in me generously and selflessly, and who believed in me and saw the potential in me.”

“And it’s not just me,” he said. “There are a lot of people out there who have had such a change from Dennis Hanno’s work. I’m just so, so grateful to him.”

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The Big Uneasy

Henry Meyer ’94 fights crime in New Orleans

One hundred and ninety-three people were murdered in New Orleans in 2012, and none shook the city to its core more than the tragic slaying of Briana Allen.

On a warm and clear May afternoon, the 5-year-old girl was shot twice in the stomach by an AK-47 on the front porch of her grandmother’s home in Central City while attending the birthday party of her 10-year-old cousin, who was also shot in the melee but survived. All told that day, two were killed and three were injured in the hail of crossfire in a fight between rival street gangs.

Henry âHankâ  Meyer â94“The city was all up in arms, and rightfully so,” Henry “Hank” Meyer ’94 recalled. “When a five-year-old girl gets slaughtered by an assault rifle, enough is enough.”

Meyer spends his days—and often nights—trying to keep horrors like this from happening.

He is a senior special agent with the U.S. Department of Justice in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and an investigator with the Multi-Agency Gang Unit (MAG), which combines the resources of the ATF, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshals Service and the New Orleans Police Department. The gang unit was created in response to the murder of Allen and encompasses an unprecedented collaboration between local and federal law enforcement officials and prosecutors targeting violent crime and gang activity in the city. [Read more...]

Making housing a home

Colleen Shea Doherty ’90 offers a hand up rather than a handout

Colleen Shea Doherty ’90 grew up in Taunton, Mass. Her mother never had the opportunity to go to college herself, but she instilled a hard-work ethic and an appreciation of education in her daughters.

Both Doherty and her older sister, Kristen Shea Bettencourt ’89, attended Wheaton. In order to help pay for tuition, Doherty got a part-time job at the Taunton Housing Authority her freshman year.

Working on-site, Doherty can remember noticing how the people in the public housing projects were full of potential but also faced barriers. For example, the single mother in her early 20s with two kids who was clearly intelligent but had no family support and no job connections.

“I worked here every Friday while I was at Wheaton, so I would take the bus from Norton,” said Doherty during a recent interview in her office. “There were times riding that bus when I would think, ‘Wheaton is a world away from what I’m coming to.’ How can you close that gap where kids are going to college and families are becoming self-sufficient?” she wondered.

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Far reaching goals

“The overarching goal of my work starts with the desire to introduce new ways of thinking to the youth I work with. I believe that education is a powerful tool for effecting positive change and that using what you know to take action on problems in your community can be transformative for both individuals and their communities. What I strive for is to teach people that using what they know and the resources they have, taking action can lead to creative solutions. Clearly, a secondary goal of what I do with my various projects is to connect people with each other who would otherwise never have that opportunity. The hundreds of people who have worked with me on these projects have probably been transformed as much or more than the people we teach in the programs. It's amazing to watch the human connections form and what happens because of those. It's clear to me that Wheaton has long been a school focused on impact. We have a unique set of characteristics that transforms the students who come here, and through those transformations we impact the world.”

—President Dennis M. Hanno

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