The spring 2020 semester marked the beginning of a partnership between the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership at Saint Peter’s University and the Fox Scholars Program. The Fox Scholars Program is designed to provide students with real-life public-sector experience and advice through mentorship and networking opportunities, with the goal of facilitating knowledge of and access to public service employment opportunities. The Program was established by the James P. Fox Memorial Fund to honor the legacy of Jamie Fox, who had a lifelong commitment to public service. Saint Peter’s is the second academic institution to offer the program.
Following a competitive application and interview process, Gineen Abuali ’21 and Barbara Bazemore ’20 were selected as the first Fox Scholars for Saint Peter’s for the spring 2020 semester. Abuali, a history and political science major, was assigned former New Jersey Assemblywoman Joan Quigley ’77 as her mentor. Quigley currently serves as the president and CEO of North Hudson Community Action Corporation. Bazemore, a sociology and psychology major, was partnered with her mentor Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, founder and CEO of AngelaCARES Inc.
Though the in-person semester was cut short due to the coronavirus, COVID-19, the students still had the opportunity to meet with their mentors several times. They also accompanied the mentors to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s FY2021 Budget Address in February.
“When my fellow Fox Scholar and I took the trip to the State House Annex in Trenton we were both swelled in excitement to meet the heavy hitters and understand more about the budget process,” explained Bazemore. “I sat with Angela [McKnight] and listened to the governor speak about things like property taxes and more funding for schools…It was a marvelous day.”
During their visit to the State House, Abuali and Bazemore had the opportunity to practice public speaking, speak with Hudson County legislators and meet with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and the First Lady Tammy Murphy, which was a noteworthy experience for both students.
The overall impact of the program proved to be tremendous. Not only did both scholars receive $1,000 from the Fox Fund, but they also learned lessons that will influence their lives moving forward. According to Bazemore, she came to understand how you cannot please everyone in politics and what it means to be a black woman in a leadership role.
Abuali developed a unique perspective on the challenges that came with the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic. “My third meeting with Joan [Quigley] happened during the COVID-19 outbreak, and it was really an eye-opener and a sobering experience,” explained Abuali. “Joan invited me to a board of directors meeting for the North Hudson Community Action Corporation. At that meeting, I got to see how politics translates into the real world and impacts people’s day-to-day lives, which was one of my main goals when applying for this program. It was inspiring to watch the board of directors in action and observe them dealing with such a global pandemic on a local scale. I was also inspired watching a great leader like Joan take charge and lead the community.”
The Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership was truly pleased with the Fox Scholars Program experience and looks forward to engaging more students.
“When students are exposed to accomplished mentors who nurture their aspirations and help them make connections, futures are changed,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, executive director of the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership and the Saint Peter’s Fox Scholars faculty adviser. “I am grateful to the Fox Memorial Fund for making the Fox Scholars Program available to our students.”
Visit the Guarini Institute for Government and Leadership for more information.