Sean Sheppard (C’90) believes that service to others is a value best instilled at a young age. His nonprofit organization, Embrace, seeks to mobilize local college students to help those in need in the San Diego county area. Founded in 2000, Embrace’s programs connect these student leaders to the community in the areas of social and physical wellness through service learning and volunteerism.
This volunteerism includes the “Embrace the Streets” program, which delivers meals to the homeless twice per week in San Diego's East Village. The “Healing Our Heroes Homes” program focuses on rebuilding the homes of low-income, disabled veterans and Wounded Warrior homeowners.
Sheppard’s father was an Army combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and also helped serve veterans in need.
Sheppard believes that his father’s influence and the Catholic values he learned and cultivated growing up—he attended Catholic institutions for both grade school and high school—impressed upon him a the importance of being of service to those in need. His experience at Georgetown instilled these values on him as well.
“I wasn’t very spiritual during my four years of college, but being at a Catholic and Jesuit school, I was never too far from my roots,” said Sheppard. “It has a lot to do with what I’ve been able to do today.”
While at Georgetown, Sheppard was active on campus in many areas. He played football during his freshman year and part of his sophomore year. He also spent three years on track team scoring a medal in javelin in the 1987-88 Big East Championships.
During his senior year, Sheppard also served as editor-in-chief of Georgetown’s first yearbook for African Americans entitled Young, Gifted and Black. He and his fellow students set out to create this publication to show another side of the Georgetown experience—one that more closely reflected their own.
“I really wanted to highlight black students’ contributions to Georgetown,” he explained.
Last November, Embrace garnered San Diego media attention when the organization hosted its first Stretch 4 Vets event on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway, thanks to a partnership with CorePower Yoga. A wildly successful event, approximately 500 area yogis came out to practice yoga for a great cause. Twenty-one teams of local residents, active military, veterans, and college students helped raise $15,000 and promoted awareness for Embrace’s programs.
The event also included a military salute featuring the San Diego Chapter of the Buffalo Soldiers 9th & 10th Horse Cavalry, a group that is close to Sheppard’s heart.
“I’m often saddened and surprised that so many people don't know the legacy of the Buffalo Soldiers, so when we do these events that benefit the veterans in our area, we invite them to come and march in colors,” said Sheppard.
In 2011, San Diego Buffalo Soldiers 9th & 10th Horse Cavalry bestowed Sheppard with honorary membership, a rare honor in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the veteran community.
On April 9, Embrace will host its 6th annual EX 4 Vets event, a bootcamp-style, turbo kickboxing workout that, like Stretch 4 Vets, will raise money and awareness for Embrace programs, as well as student organizations, ministries, and military groups.
Embrace also recently entered into a formal partnership with CorePower Yoga to host Stretch 4 Vets events around the country. Planning has already begun in multiple cities, including Washington, D.C., that have both a strong military presence and a strong CorePower Yoga presence. The new Stretch 4 Vets events will continue to support Embrace’s work to help disabled veterans, and will provide the opportunity to support the local veteran organizations in each city.
After more than 16 years with Embrace, Sheppard has no plans on slowing down his work.
“When you serve [others] as a young person, there’s a great chance you will be doing so for the rest of your life,” he said.
Visit the Embrace website for more information on current and upcoming events.