Kelsey Montondo ’18 cried when she learned she had been selected as a Remembrance Scholar, an honor she considers “the most incredible experience of my life.” Each year, the scholarships are awarded to 35 of the University’s most accomplished students in memory of the SU students killed in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. For Montondo, a Falk College public health major and nutrition minor from Buffalo, being a Remembrance Scholar helped her understand the event’s significance as part of Syracuse University’s history. And she developed a deep personal connection with Julianne Kelly, one of the victims. “I learned about her story and her values, what her family and friends said about her,” Montondo says. “It resonated with me. That’s exactly how I would like to live my life. I care so much about this person I never met. And it’s nice to think that I’m carrying on her legacy, and that, hopefully, I’m doing a good job of what she would be doing if she were here.”
Montondo’s compassion for others shines through in all of her activities at SU, including her enthusiasm for her studies. “I didn’t even know public health was a thing before coming to Syracuse,” she says. “And I fell in love with it. It’s the perfect fit for me, because it’s more of an overarching view of health care—learning about cultural competence and health literacy—rather than just focusing on the hard sciences.”
She especially appreciates the service learning classes that provided opportunities to volunteer at community-based nonprofit organizations. At ACR Health, which provides support to people with chronic diseases, she worked at a mobile clinic and designed a survey to help the agency better serve individuals with substance abuse disorders. She also assisted at West Side Learning Center, which offers programs for adult English language learners who are newcomers to the United States. Additionally, Montondo assisted with the Syracuse Lead Study, a research project led by Brooks Gump, Falk Family Endowed Professor of Public Health, exploring how lead affects the cardiovascular system in children.
Montondo’s extracurricular involvements also center on her care for those around her and her passion for promoting health and well-being. As president of Phi Delta Epsilon premedical fraternity, she offered guidance and support to her fellow students interested in the health professions and organized fundraisers for Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse. She’s a counselor for Camp Kesem, a summer camp and peer support program for children affected by a parent’s cancer. And she helped establish a new student organization devoted to training service dogs. “We got our first puppy over the summer,” she says. “People on campus get excited when they see her, so it’s a great way to talk about why we’re training her and why people need service dogs.”
Among her most valued experiences at SU is her work as a certified New York State emergency medical technician for Syracuse University Ambulance (SUA), a student-run SU Health Services organization that provides round-the-clock emergency and non-emergency services during the academic year. Montondo’s efforts at SUA helped affirm her goals to become a clinical health care provider with a focus on preventative medicine. “It’s cool to be giving back by doing something beneficial,” she says. “I think that’s super important. But I’m in it for helping people—trying to make an uncomfortable experience a little bit better for someone.”