Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Paresky fellow: Jennifer Salazar ’10

650_salazarJennifer Salazar loves teaching kids. But she didn’t just want to teach; she wanted to focus on urban education, going into America’s poorest neighborhoods and working with disadvantaged children.

For her, it’s a way of giving back. Salazar herself grew up in a low-income section of Brooklyn (she’s still a Yankees fan), where her father was a janitor and her mother was a homemaker. She received a Posse Scholarship to attend Wheaton, where she saw firsthand the value of passionate, dedicated educators.

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“My professors invested in me,” she says. “I knew they cared about me, and that made all the difference. ”

In her history and education classes, her eyes were opened to inequalities in our public education system. And she was determined to change that.

After graduating from Wheaton, she pursued a master’s degree in education at Tufts University, with the aid of a Paresky Fellowship.

Upon receiving her master’s degree in 2011, she was immediately offered a position teaching 10th grade social studies at Boston Green Academy, a public charter school in South Boston.

She believes reforming our education system is not a choice, but a fundamental part of an ethical and just society.

And, for Salazar, the adventure continues: she just accepted a teaching position for sixth and seventh grade social studies at Hyde Leadership Charter School, which is in the Hunt’s Point neighborhood of the Bronx in New York. It is one of the poorest congressional districts in the United States; more than half the population lives below the poverty level.

“There are lots of struggles there,” says Salazar. “But there’s so much potential. I see it in the kids. I have faith in them. It’s the reason I became a teacher.”

Photo by Flynn Larsen

Paresky fellow: Joshua “Jay” Weimer ’96

Joshua “Jay” Weimer ’96

650_Jay Weimer-25Joshua “Jay” Weimer knew exactly what he wanted to do when he graduated from Wheaton. A double major in philosophy and political science, he had been trained to think critically.

“I liked to argue,” he says with a laugh. “And I wanted to do it professionally.”

Weimer wanted to pursue a career in the law. After graduating from Wheaton, he attended Yale Law School. He received a Paresky Fellowship, which relieved much of the financial pressure of law school, allowing him to focus on his studies.

Today, he argues cases as assistant district attorney for the northern district of Texas, a massive area covering 100 counties and almost 96,000 square miles.

He enjoys the energy of the courtroom, the daily challenge of thinking on his feet in critical situations. Rather than wilting under the pressure, he thrives on it.

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He has worked in cases ranging from health care to immigration, from terrorism to bank robberies. But what brings him true meaning in his career? Justice, he says.

“I’m fortunate as an attorney because I don’t have a ‘client.’ My client is the United States of America, and my job is to apply the law fairly to all people.”

Even though he is busy upholding the law on the plains of Texas, he still maintains close Wheaton connections. His senior-year roommate, Jason Neal ’96, was recently married and Weimer was best man at the wedding.

Photo by Stewart F. House

Paresky fellow: Christine Parzych Vigneux ’91

650_Vigneux Christine 2When she was a freshman at Wheaton, Christine Parzych Vigneux had already planned out her career. After she graduated, she figured, she’d go into politics.

But a funny thing happened. The political science major, who even interned at the State House, began to tutor students at nearby Norton High School.

“I remember working with kids who were really struggling,” she says. “And then there would be that moment—that ‘aha,’ where they’d suddenly get it.”

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Vigneux felt she was directly impacting the students, helping them on a tangible, individual level. Parents of Norton High students began to seek her out to tutor their kids.

“I loved the excitement of politics,” she says. “But I had found my calling.”

She decided to get her master’s degree from the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, where she received a Paresky Fellowship.

From there, it’s been a whirlwind: she taught social studies in Belchertown,  Mass. Four years later, she was promoted to assistant principal. Then, at only 28 years old, she was named principal of Belchertown High School. She was one of the youngest high school principals in Massachusetts. But she jumped into the challenge headfirst—and she’s been there ever since.

She loves shaping the education students receive, and she credits her professors at  Wheaton for being role models in how to treat students.

Education is a family affair in the Vigneux home. Her husband is an English teacher at Belchertown High, where, fortunately, he has a good relationship with his boss.

In May, Vigneux attended the reception for fellows at Susan and Joseph Paresky’s home.

“I am grateful to both of them, for what they’ve allowed me to do in my career,” she says. “I hope I’ve made them proud.”

A tale of two cities

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Boston and New York; New York and Boston. The distance separating these two metropolitan areas often feels much greater than the 200 miles of Route 95 that lie between them. When the gulf is at its widest, say any time the Yankees visit Fenway Park, the differences appear to be unbridgeable.

Given the history, anything that unites the residents of the two cities is noteworthy. For example, the reactions of alumnae/i to the college’s second annual March Matchness challenge. The campaign, which coincides with March Madness, pits the graduates of even years from 2000 and later against the graduating classes of odd years starting in 2001.

Inspired by the theme, recent graduates in both cities decided to throw a party to coincide with the event. The Young Alumnae/i Club of Boston acted first with an informal gathering on March 6 at the appropriately named sports-theme bar, Game On, which is located just beyond the third-base-side grandstand at Fenway. [Read more...]