Please note that this article was written during Spring 2015 semester and was delayed in posting.
If you go to Manhattanville, you probably already know Danielle DiNapoli. She is one of those people that is so involved on campus that you probably see her every day. As a junior, she is a Resident Leader (RL) on the third floor of Spellman, the founder and co-president of Breaking the Silence, the treasurer of the Manhattanville Dance Ensemble, and a Duchesne scholar. In other words, she’s quite busy! Luckily she was able to set aside some time to talk about how she balances her busy week and how she was able to find the right major for herself.
According to Danielle, her weekly schedule is a must. “Every week, I make a schedule and map out when I’m doing everything I need to do!”
But does she ever have time to relax? When I ask her that, she laughs. “That’s why I’m in the Spellman Resident Assistant (RA) office; I’m avoiding my responsibilities with Bryan.” Bryan Torres, also lounging in the RA office with us, just laughs. Danielle continues, “My friends, my boyfriend, A.J., and I have planned out meal times and that’s the only quality time we have before the weekend!” Planning time with friends and significant others is so important to maintaining sanity when you’re crazy busy with homework and extracurriculars like Danielle!
Our conversation then switched gears as we began to discuss her academic and service past and future. In her junior year at a Catholic high school, Danielle went on a service trip to New Orleans. “I finally began to love community service work because I was able to build relationships with the people that I was able to help.”
During her freshman year of college, she was able to return to New Orleans and see the houses that they had worked on. That second visit made her trip come full circle.
Also during her freshman year, she took Psychology classes because it was her assumed major. But she eventually realized that she didn’t want to be a therapist, which is the path that most Psychology majors take. So she felt a bit lost.
Danielle found a calling during her sophomore year of college. She took a Social Justice class on the Civil Rights movement, and says that it changed her life. She was able to find a way to merge her love for psychology and her desire to help others. But she had a problem; Social Justice is only offered as a minor at Manhattanville. Therefore, Danielle self-designed her own major. That process involves writing a paper to the college, showing how combining areas of study will give you an education in your desired major. Her paper was accepted and she is officially a Social Justice major.
Danielle made the decision to not make her major extremely specific. Yet she still felt the need to help others in some way, big or small. During her sophomore year, the Connie Hogarth Center partnered with the Duchense Center to give hours for a discussion on rape culture. It opened Danielle’s eyes to the effect of rape culture on her life, without her even realizing it, and also the failures of colleges in terms of sexual assault victims. Danielle realized, “I hadn’t even heard the word ‘rape’ until college so I wanted to learn more and try to do something about this!” Danielle and a suitemate, Jess Donovan, began to share articles and videos, attempting to educate themselves. They eventually became so passionate that they decided to start a club. “Our goal was to create a safe space on campus for discussing these issues, to make a support system for people to share their stories, and to raise awareness and education on campus.” They filled out the appropriate paperwork, got friends interested, created a team of board members, and made a rough list of goals for their first year.
Breaking the Silence started in the Fall of 2014, during Danielle’s junior year. She said of all of the things that the club had accomplished, she was most proud of three things: the interest meeting, the photoshoot, and the panel. “I was worried that no one was going to go to our first meeting. I prepared ice breakers and candy, but I was afraid it was just going to be me, the rest of the board members, and our friends. But I was so wrong. Like fifteen or twenty people came and they were all so passionate. Whether or not they had learned about sexual assault before this, they were all so interested in learning more.” The support photoshoot was the first big event for the club and it was a huge success. In October 2014, 30 to 35 people came to the event to be photographed with messages of support for survivors of sexual assault. Messages included, “this was not your fault,” “you are not alone,” and “I support you.” “After the event, students came up to us and were so grateful for our show of support. They felt that they had a community of support, and they do!” Finally, toward the end of the Fall 2014 semester, Breaking the Silence partnered with RA’s Adrianna Segura and Caroline Serrano Lafontant and the Duchesne Center to offer hours for a panel discussing sexual assaults on college campuses. There were representatives from Residence Life on the panel, including the director of Residence Life, Benjamin Grant, and Resident Director (RD) of Dammann, Tenney, and Non-Traditional Housing, Anthony Nicosia, as well as the Director of Campus Safety, Anthony Hermann, and Dean of Students and one of our school’s Title IX Coordinators, Sharlise Smith-Rodriguez. Also, RD of Spellman Javon Joslyn was in attendance to answer questions for freshmen. Many people came, and students that she hadn’t even met before came up to her, thanking her for doing the event.
On top of running a new club, the Spring 2015 semester brought a new set of challenges for Danielle– she was offered the position of Resident Leader on the third floor of Spellman. She was an RA alternate, meaning that she would be given the opportunity to be a RA or RL if a position opened, so when one did, she jumped on the wonderful opportunity. So now Danielle is an RL on top of her previously full plate! But she has managed well by planning her programs and community building activities in advance. And of course, relying on her weekly schedule and her support system that includes her family, boyfriend and friends!
So what’s next for Danielle? She’s excited to start RA training for next year. She plans to grow Breaking the Silence to be even more successful in it’s second year. She plans to write her senior thesis on sexual education for college freshmen. So she’s not slowing down any time soon! You can still expect to see her at dance, Res Life events, and service activities next year!