A house divided didn’t stop Alyssa Baron from getting in touch with her Jewish roots.

Baron grew up in Boca Raton, Fla., with a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. Growing up mostly under Catholic influence, Baron as a young teen confided in her family about her interest in the Jewish youth group BBYO.

After six years of involvement, Baron, a 19-year-old business administration sophomore, earned the BBYO Community Engagement Fellowship on Nov. 19.

The fellowship aims to make Jewish students’ transition between high school and college easier while enhancing Jewish life on campus, said Elyse Goldberg, BBYO communications coordinator.

About 40 students across the nation applied for the fellowship, and Baron is one of nine recipients.

“I was already doing the duties of a fellow at UF before the title,” Baron said. “The fellowship will just help me to further my connection to the Jewish students on campus.”

BBYO, formerly known as the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, helps Jewish teens in middle schools and high schools build leadership skills, and it provides an outlet to make friends within Jewish communities, Goldberg said.

This is the first year the organization offered a fellowship for college students. Baron said each recipient is offered $1,000 each semester to put on events for the Jewish community.

Baron said she is planning career services events for UF’s Jewish community members so they can network with each other and BBYO alumni. She plans to recruit one member of BBYO’s board of directors to help with resume and interview critiques for Jewish students in Gainesville next semester.

Baron said one of the most important aspects of her leadership role is getting students involved with organizations that fulfill their cultural needs.

“When I was a freshman at UF, my BBYO mentor was a senior who basically took me under her wing,” Baron said. “She helped me get involved on campus, and now I want to provide that connection for students.”

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