Allanah Dykes ’16 was chosen from a national pool to capture the excitement of Pope Francis’ visit on social media

Allanah Dykes ’16 was chosen from a national pool to capture the excitement of Pope Francis’ visit on social media

During Pope Francis’ historic visit to New York City in September, Fairfield had its own representative “on the street” covering the event.

Allanah Dykes ’16 was one of just 50 college students and recent graduates across the country chosen this summer to be a member of a “Digital Street Team” by @PopeIsHope, a special project sponsored by the Magnificat Foundation and Aleteia, a Christian faith network.

Participants submitted a variety of digital and social media focused on the theme of “#GoodIsWinning.” During the two weeks leading up to the Pope’s visit, they gathered stories of faith, love and compassion and shared them through social media with the aim of spreading hope, despite a turbulent world.

Dykes, who is majoring in communication and politics, was drawn to the fact that the project did not specify that applicants had to be religious.

“I’m a Christian, but I loved the idea that the citizen journalists would be able to capture the good in everyday people and hopefully spark a positive movement on social media surrounding the Pope’s visit to the United States,” she said.

Dykes submitted a blog entry, “Even if the World is Spinning #GoodIsWinning,” about how her relationship with her aunt and grandmother influenced her spirituality.

“Both my Grams and my aunt passed away last year and it was a hard time. Both of them were really faithful women. One of the biggest lessons these women — and my mother — have taught me is that ‘can’t’ is never an option. You have to have something to believe in, or life will bog you down,” Dykes said.

The Pope’s visit inspired a wave of pride about the value of being Jesuit educated, and Fairfield — along with the other 27 Jesuit colleges and universities across the country — took advantage of the opportunity to promote the Pope’s travels in the U.S.

For two weeks on campus, Allanah went into high gear, interviewing other students and hearing their stories about spirituality, strength, overcoming adversity and service. (View the videos on fairfield.edu/leaders.) She was also interviewed by FOXCT, FOXNY, WTNH News12, Fairfield Daily Voice and the Hartford Courant.

“Besides seeing the Pope,” Dykes said, “my favorite part of this experience was interviewing Fairfield students. It was a chance to highlight the differences on campus and show the student body that even though our everyday experiences may be different, we all have similar stories, fears, hopes and dreams.”

Friday, September 25, was a gorgeous, early fall day. Dykes and her friend, Brooke Braccia ’16, took the earliest Stag bus to Metro North and headed directly to Central Park when they arrived, lucky to get in close to the barricades.Eventually 80,000 people crowded into four zones, awaiting a sight of Pope Francis.

The day was not without its frustrations. Due to the high volume of internet traffic in the city on the day of his visit, tweets and posts were delayed. The back-up charger Dykes brought didn’t work. Because they didn’t want to give up their forward spot, she and her friend had to make do without food or water for the five hours they waited.

But the trip was well worth it.

“People say that New Yorkers are the most unfriendly people in the world, but that day everyone was willing to talk and share their stories and excitement,” she said.

Dykes met people from Mexico, Italy, the Philippines, Jamaica and Haiti. “I identified with what Pope Francis was saying — that we’re all immigrants,” she said. “You could see that in the park — there were Christians, of course, but also Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews. We were all there to see someone who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, to promote kindness and dialogue.”

And then the Pope rounded the corner, just yards away.

“It was an emotional experience. We only saw him for 10 or 15 seconds, but he pointed right at us. He tried to connect with as many people as he could,” Dykes said.

Dykes took over the University’s social media accounts for the day. There were 670 “likes” on her Instagram photo of the Pope. Multiple tweets throughout the day garnered more than 2,000 impressions. Besides her blog, Dykes has a personal and “professional” Twitter account, Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as a new live-streaming video app, Periscope, that she tried out on the excursion.

She has finished up her stint as a Digital Street Team member, but her passion for social media continues. Dykes has a social media internship this semester in New York with Martha Stewart Omnimedia. “Social media does not need to be all fluff,” she said. “You don’t need to craft a fake life. Social media can be used to give a voice to those who don’t speak.”

“To see the Pope affect so many people makes me want to work so much harder. Before, I would have said my goal was to graduate and get a good job — but besides that, I now feel compelled to inspire others and find ways to help people feel they matter. Everyone deserves to feel they matter. If you dream and are the best version of yourself, you can make a difference. That’s what I want my platform to be.”