Student Spotlight: Gabrielle (Bri) Rooks C’22       

Gabrielle (Bri) Rooks C’22                                    

What attracted you to Drew?

I was born and raised in Vermont and when I was looking at colleges I was not sure what I wanted to major in but I had been doing service my entire life so I was looking for a civic engagement program. I also wanted to be close to the city but not right in the city. I had grown up in a small town with less than 2,000 people and no stop lights so I was very nervous to move to the city. When I saw Drew’s campus it gave me a similar feeling to Vermont while providing me access to the city where there are so many opportunities.

Did you know what you wanted to major in when you started at Drew?

I came in undecided thinking that I was going to pursue psychology but after taking a few classes I was not sure that it was what I wanted to do. I volunteered a lot my freshman year and found that I wanted to share the ways that people come together to make a change in our community. That is when I started filming and taking photos

Why did you choose English and Media & Communications as majors?

The Civic Scholar program and other service projects showed me how much I love working with others to make positive change. I had done some internships in high school working in local government where I worked with different constituents to see how we can help improve their lives. I found that making bills takes a long process to get passed and I wanted to see quick immediate changes. I found that Media and Communications helps me to share stories and inspire others. Communication has so many avenues and I love exploring them all. English is a subject that I have always struggled with and writing well is so important. I decided to major in the thing that is hardest for me to make it no longer a challenge.

Have you done any internships?

As of now I have interned with an organization in Morristown called Kids to Kids that focuses on high school students helping kids with special needs. For my internship I started a sector of a non-profit where I teach kids with special needs how to dance. I do this twice a week and I just received a Gold Presidential Award for my program.

I have also interned with Family Promise in Summit where I helped to create videos and other infographics for social media the non-profits media platforms.

Most recently I have interned for JMG Public Relations in New York City, where I worked with clients to pitch and promote to different magazine companies, celebrities and news channels. As well as creating mockup/summaries, writing pitches, and creating media lists.

 Can you talk a little bit about being a Civic Scholar?

I have done a lot of projects since being a Civic Scholar. Every year starts with a bonding trip for all the Civic Scholars not just the ones in your year. We typically got to what is called America’s Grow A Row. We also go to the food pantry every year which is always really nice. I made this video from when we went to the food pantry. Something amazing about the program is you will have a placement (which is basically an internship) your first semester on campus, WHICH IS CRAZY! Not a lot of schools give you that opportunity. I was partnered with Neighborhood House where I helped low-income kids with their homework. The second semester I worked at the YMCA where I helped kids with special needs learn how to swim. Whatever your interest is you are able to find a civic project that fits your interest. My second year doing an internship, I worked for an organization called kids2kids where I started a sector of a non-profit where I now teach kids with special needs how to dance. I actually just received a presidential award for my program which was really exciting. There are also a lot of different workshops that you can go to and network and learn more about nonprofits… a really amazing opportunity. It is also cool because there is a minor at Drew called Applied Leadership which is really awesome because you get a minor in civic engagement work essentially.

There are also some other clubs on campus that allow students to do different service trips. I have actually had the opportunity to lead a few trips myself. Here are some trips and activities that I have done with Drew and videos that I made about them.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

Yes! One of my mentors, Carol Bassie, Director of Alumni & Parent Communities, I met my first week at Drew when I interviewed to be the office assistant for the Office of Alumni and Parent Communities. Carol is a mentor that I will be forever grateful for because she has taught me skills that I know I will carry with me forever. She has supported me and other work study students to grow in many different ways by providing us with countless opportunities. Carol is a mentor that I know will be in my life forever.

Amy Sugerman, Assistant Director, Civic Engagement, is a mentor of mine who has taken me under her wing along with many other students and provided me with knowledge and opportunities that will take me far. Amy has supported my dreams since I first walked onto Drew’s campus before even committing to Drew. Amy is always down for a walk around campus and she is truly a light at Drew University.

Dr. Sandra Jamieson, Director of Writing Across the Curriculum & Professor of English, was my first professor at Drew and she is also my advisor. I can never thank Sandra enough for handling my crazy schedule. I love to do a lot of things and Sandra somehow helps me be able to manage it all. Sandra supports all of her students and has helped me to achieve my goals.

Shawn Spaventa, Director of Instructional Technology, I met during a crazy spring semester my freshman year when I first started getting into film. Shawn supported my passions for film by giving me the opportunity to help record videos for the school and work on other projects to help work on key skills. Shawn has provided me with so many opportunities and has taught me so much.

There are so many others that have helped me on my journey at Drew and I cannot thank everyone enough for all of their support.

Have you studied abroad? Done any short or nycTRECS?

I did the New York Semester on Social Entrepreneurship where I learned so much about how nonprofits and for profits are structured. We also had the opportunity to meet with many people who are working for companies like Ben and Jerrys and Ford Foundation. I was partnered with a  non-profit organization called NGO-CSW where I helped to develop a mentorship program, made revisions to mission and vision statements and developed a new paid position for the non-profit.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

There are so many issues in the world that mean a lot to me. Something that I have worked with a lot since moving to Jersey is issues pertaining to homelessness. A lot of the organizations that I volunteer for help with homelessness in our communities. Another issue that is very important to me is helping to make sure there are programs that help kids with special needs get the resources they need. Working with organizations like EPOCH and Kids2Kids has really shown me the importance of providing kids with special needs the proper resources. I also started a podcast with fellow Drew students that focuses on sharing stories. Everyone has a story that deserves to be heard so I have been trying to find ways to share those stories.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew? 

Some of my favorite memories at Drew are its traditions. Holiday Ball, midnight breakfast and Thanksgiving are always so much fun because they bring people together. I also loved dancing at Drew. Being in a dance show was fun because it is a completely student run show and it is just cool to see the way people come together.

Do you identify with any Launch identity/affinity communities and if so how has it informed your journey? 

I identify with “Faith, Religion & Spirituality.” Growing up a lot of my family members have been Methodist pastors. My grandfather preached at the largest Methodist church in South Dakota and when I got to Drew I actually found out that he received his degree in seminary at Drew. My church has provided me with so many opportunities to do service and I found Drew because of that.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I hope to be working either for a consulting firm or a company that focuses on communications. Within the next five years, I hope to be climbing the ladder in this field.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

Don’t rush the process. Everyone is going to be asking you a million questions about what you want to do and where you want to go. I changed my entire college list a few weeks before applications were due. I felt like everyone had their career path figured out but that is not true. A lot of people change their majors as they learn new things about themselves. I would say try everything. Go to the club fair, sign up for everything and see what you like. You can always take things away from your schedule. You never know what you will learn about yourself when you try something new.

Any fun fact (s) you would like to share?

  • I am a black belt in karate
  • I ran for Miss Vermont and won Miss Congeniality
  • I ran a half-marathon
  • I can do a headstand for 2 minutes
  • I play the flute
  • I played basketball for 14 years and still play all the time
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