Nancy Fett, an associate professor of Social Work at Loras for the past 22 years, has been honored with the Amate House Founder’s Award. The award ceremony won’t take place until April 21 at the Amate House’s annual benefit, but the honor of being the recipient matters more to Fett than the idea of having an award to display.
Fett was a social work major at Loras who graduated in 1990. After graduation, she signed up for a year of service working at the Amate House, a domestic peace corps, living in the house with thirteen other people on the south side of Chicago. She says the Amate House Founder’s Award, rather than recognizing a particular action, recognizes all of her work over the 27 years since she left Amate in 1991.
“My understanding of the Founders Award is that it is for someone who left Amate — which is a Latin word meaning a command to love —and continued that work; someone who continued their work in social justice, defense against discrimination, etc. It’s not so much that I did something specific, but that I’ve continued to live the mission,” Fett said.
At Amate House, volunteers worked in different areas and communities. Fett worked primarily with the “I Have a Dream Foundation,” striving to help the African-American community in Cabrini Green, a housing project known for its violence.
“For me, that was really exciting,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons I really encourage students to do a year of service after they graduate, because sometimes you get opportunities and job offers that you get as a volunteer that you would never get your first year out of college. I never would have been hired, but because I was doing it as a volunteer, I had the opportunity.”
The “I Have a Dream Foundation” wanted to help youth in the inner city graduate from high school. College scholarships for students were funded by the sponsors of the program.
Fett worked with high school sophomores.
“I learned a lot more from them than they ever learned from me,” Fett said. She then worked for another year as assistant director. Afterwards, she went on to grad school, then came back as the director of the “I Have a Dream Program.”
Fett was nominated for this award by her former roommates at Loras. Finding life-long friends at Loras, she says, can enrich a person’s life.
“A year of just being surrounded by those very good people, and knowing that you are doing good things, you’re fighting the fight together, was really powerful. I really believe that Amate House is what set me on my path to where I am today.”