Social Justice Game Changer: Sister Ann Kendrick

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

Name: Sister Ann Kendrick

Game Honored: Orlando Magic vs. Phoenix Suns (3/24/21)

Background: In high school, between her junior and senior year, Kendrick applied for a study abroad program. She figured it was a good opportunity to experience an adventure while boosting her college credentials.

She assumed she’d be heading to a place like Paris or some other tourist-heavy international destination. Instead, to her surprise, her assignment brought her to Guatemala, which gave her a broader scope of the world.

As a U.S. exchange student in the Central American country for the summer, Kendrick was exposed to conditions unfamiliar to her. Aside from the language barrier, which is expected when traveling to a foreign country, she discovered what people in disadvantaged living situations have to endure.

That new perspective ultimately had a transformative effect on her.

“I came home full of experience and culture,” she said. “You can’t go to a country like Guatemala without seeing the impoverished, indigenous class of people who were living in garbage dumps. That began to have the scales fall from my eyes of looking at the world.”

Kendrick went on to college at Trinity Washington University in the nation’s capital and was eager to talk about her experiences in Guatemala. While not everyone was receptive to her stories, she felt it was important to talk about them anyway.

Over time, it became increasingly clear to Kendrick what she yearned to do, and that was to help others reach their full potential. Along the way, she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame, a Catholic institute founded to educate the poor. Kendrick taught Spanish, which she started to pick up in Guatemala, to students at the high school and college level. She’d bring the students to neighborhoods where residents predominantly spoke Spanish and where they can experience the culture and make new friends.

In 1971, the same year Walt Disney World opened, Kendrick flew down to Orlando to start an organization, now called the Hope CommUnity Center, that provides the underserved community in this area the resources needed to move toward social and economic justice. She expected to be here for a year only, but quickly she fell in love with the community.

Now 50 years later, the Hope CommUnity Center continues to empower Central Florida’s immigrant and working poor communities through education, advocacy and spiritual growth.

“I’m lucky,” said Kendrick, who has a BA and honorary Doctorate from Trinity Washington University, a MA in Latin American Literature from the University of Maryland and an Honorary Doctorate from Rollins College. “I found a slot in life that just filled my heart, my spirit. People are amazing. People are wonderful. They’re humble. They’re noble, generous. I don’t bring evangelization or the word of God to them. They teach me every day. I love them.”

The Hope CommUnity Center offers many programs and services that focus on education, immigration, youth and families, service learning and community organizing. Seeing people turn their lives around, overcome obstacles and enhance their education through those resources is incredibly fulfilling for Kendrick.

“I get to be in the middle of all of that and watch those miracles happen,” she said. “People who don’t have a voice, get a voice. People who don’t think they have value see their value.”

To learn more about the Hope CommUnity Center, please visit https://www.hcc-offm.org/.

Working with the Magic: Hope CommUnity Center is one of many Central Florida organizations that has received grant money from the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation over the years. Grateful to have the Orlando Magic in their corner, Kendrick has seen firsthand the difference it makes when a pro sports team is active in the community.

“Bo Outlaw, Nick Anderson (Community Ambassadors), I know those guys. They are my buddies. Over the years, they’ve brought STUFF (Magic mascot) to us at Christmas time and other times. We’ve been at a bazillion (Magic) events over the years. It’s beautiful to see the Magic’s high-end personnel show up at community events and the financial support that we’ve gotten over the years has helped us incredibly,” she said.

About the Program: As part of the Magic and Steve Clifford’s continuing efforts toward social justice reform, he created the Social Justice Game Changer program to honor one local leader who has made a difference in the realm of social justice issues. A cause close to his heart, Clifford is extremely active in programs that support equality and justice for all people in the Central Florida community.

Through this program, Clifford looks to put the spotlight on those continuously doing the hard work, day in and day out, fighting for sustainable change. As part of his program, one person is selected and honored each game. The honorees are given tickets, provided by Clifford, to the game and featured in-arena on the Magic Vision screen at center court.

“The purpose is to honor and to celebrate so many of the people in the Orlando community who are fighting for change and who commit their lives to making Orlando a better place,” Clifford said. “It’s just a way to celebrate them, what they stand for, and what they do for our community.”