Meet Our Volunteers and Interns: Julia Gaetano

Julia Gaetano has a very special role with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. She is our Chatham Bonner Leader, which means she gets to serve as a long-term member of our team. Rather than one semester with us, as most interns have, Julia spends all four years of her college experience with the Center! We are so appreciative of all she has already done, and cannot wait to see all that she will accomplish with us in the upcoming years!

Julia Gaetano

When did you start volunteering for the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh?

I’m now a Sophomore at Chatham and started at the beginning of my first year—so since August or September. I was accepted into Chatham’s Bonner Leaders program which allows students to serve at a nonprofit for all four years of their undergraduate education; it’s a pretty great gig!

What do you like about volunteering with the Holocaust Center?

First and foremost, I absolutely adore everyone at the Holocaust Center. I truly could not have asked for a better group of people and I’m endlessly grateful that I get to work with them. I also wholeheartedly believe that the mission of the Holocaust Center is urgently important, perhaps now more than ever. Getting to take part in this work is extremely fulfilling; I feel that each project or event or program is without a doubt making the world a better place.

Why did you want to volunteer with the Holocaust Center? What interested you about what the Center does?

Just to give a little bit of background, new members of the Bonner Leaders program go through a matching process that is essentially like speed dating with local nonprofits. It was a totally nerve-racking experience; I think we only had three minutes with each representative from over ten nonprofits before we had to rank our top three choices, knowing that the nonprofits were simultaneously ranking their top choices, too. There were so many great choices, but the Holocaust Center claimed my number one spot. I’ve always been interested in the subject matter, and I thought the range of programs and projects would provide so many great opportunities. Plus, Christina and Lauren are great saleswomen!

When did you first become interested in the subject of the Holocaust, and/ or what got you interested in the topic (book, movie, meeting someone, etc.)?

I don’t think there was a defining moment, but many of them that cultivated my interest from a young age. I remember watching Life Is Beautiful with my grandparents when I was relatively young, and they encouraged my interest after that. I also read Number the Stars and Night in grade school, which had major impacts on me, and had a fantastic middle school social studies teacher who recently wrote a blog post for the Holocaust Center! I also visited USHMM in high school and that definitely strengthened my connection with it.

Julia and survivor Judah Samet at the Lest We Forget opening

Describe your most memorable moment of volunteering with the Holocaust Center to date (bonus points if you can enclose a photo from your favorite memory!)

While they’re all so memorable, I’d say the opening of the Lest We Forget exhibit at Pitt was my favorite. That might be a bit broader than a singular moment, but there were so many moments throughout the event that it’s too hard to narrow down. I feel blessed to have been able to talk with so many survivors and be there for the opening of such a beautiful exhibit.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I’m always spending time with my two dogs when I’m at home and hanging out in Squirrel Hill when I’m on campus. I have a ton of hobbies, so I’m always bouncing between painting and writing and reading or whatever I feel like trying that day. I’m also very passionate about activism, so I often find myself planning or getting involved with lots of different causes.

Share a “fun fact” about yourself, or just something that people would be surprised to know about you?

When I was 17, I gave the closing speech at the March for Our Lives Pittsburgh. Crowd estimates that day were around 30,000, so it was definitely a surreal experience!

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