While keeping up with social media during the Holiday season, I constantly see stories that inspire and uplift. The stories are abundant this time of year but I am reminded that people are making a difference year round. I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing college students during their time attending Oxford College of Emory University. During 2014, I am committing my time and writing to share their stories and stories of other college students in the Southeast region. Here is a preview of some the stories that will be shared.
Julie Dunn is a junior at Emory University from Marietta, Georgia majoring in Cultural Anthropology and Political Science. She is motivated to do service because of the interaction she is able to have with the people she works with. As a student at Oxford College, she served as a Bonner Leader and feels that she “learned to view service as not something you do to try to ‘save’ people but rather service is there to help people when they need a hand.” Julie worked closely with an organization called Newton Reads and did a lot of service with them behind the scenes. Not thinking she made much of an impact, a thank you card from one of the students at the end of her term helped her see the reality of the difference she made.
Neha Kamat, a senior from Princeton Junction, New Jersey is finishing up her Biology and Anthropology degrees at Emory University. During her freshman and sophomore years, Neha had the chance to get her “feet wet” in a variety of service opportunities from volunteering at an after-school center, at a domestic violence shelter, at a food bank and more. She was “a tutor, a leader, a construction worker (albeit a novice one), an environmentalist and overall a community resource”. Neha’s experiences led her to focus her energy in becoming a Spanish medical interpreter and now volunteers at underserved Atlanta clinics. She feels that her involvement has allowed her to be surrounded by people who are role models in different ways. She said, “Their passion, dedication and patience have allowed me to learn more than I ever expected and I hope to emulate them some day.”
Elizabeth Mack is also a senior at Emory University. She is from Phenix City, Alabama and is pursuing degrees in Educational Studies and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies. She feels she got a start doing service from being part of a large family so helping out and working together was always a way of life. She considers herself very blessed and has benefitted from the support of different people. In return, she feels it is her responsibility to give back and share that same kindness to others. Elizabeth’s most rewarding service accomplishment happened with Emory’s Jumpstart program. After a year of working with preschoolers, Elizabeth grew attached to them and had to learn how to best meet their needs. Although there were frustrations, by the end of the school year five of her students could all recognize the letters in their names as well as the letters in other classmates’ names. Elizabeth finally felt like she had provided a service that really did matter.
Falak Mawani is a junior Political Science major from Memphis, Tennessee. When asked if there is a service accomplishment she feels most proud of Falak replied, “I honestly can’t think of a specific accomplishment. Why? I cherish all of them.” So far, Falak has helped tutor students, served at nature centers, and shelved books so that children and adults would have plenty to read. She continues to serve as a staff member with Volunteer Emory. She leads other volunteers in a weekly service trip to Clarkston Community Center to work with adult refugees hoping to learn to read, write, and speak English.
Amy Van Pelt, a Spanish major on the Pre-Med track at Emory University, is from Cape Coral, Florida. Amy had a very busy sophomore year while attending the Oxford College campus. As a Volunteer Oxford Coordinator, Amy was involved in developing projects for 275 registered volunteers. She now serves as a Volunteer Emory staff member and uses her experience to plan special event projects, a weekly service trip to Global Village Project (school for refugee girls) and is coordinating an Alternative Spring Break opportunity focusing on youth advocacy. It is through service that Amy feels she can understand her strengths and recognize how to apply them.
Sagar Vira is a junior at Emory University studying finance at Goizueta Business School. He is from Woodbridge, New Jersey where he served as an EMT before coming to Georgia. Sagar feels that his experience with an organization called The PATH Project has impacted him the most. He said, “Helping organize the program to assist kids living in trailer parks was definitely one of the most impacting experiences. It was amazing to see the kids look up to us college students as role models, and it was rewarding to see that we were actually making a difference in their lives. It’s difficult to have somebody come into your home and accept help from them, but these kids were very open to receiving help and getting to know the college students. This experience taught me a lot and has impacted me in ways that words can’t explain.”
During 2014, these students’ individual stories will be shared along with fifty more people who inspire others by their actions and service work impacting the community.