As a prospective high school senior, still desperately searching for the perfect college, I first read about the Shepherd Program in a pamphlet that I had received in a package of various W&L materials. At the time, I was just curious about what community service opportunities were available on campus and in the Lexington area, and wondered how strong the presence was of students that participated in such activities. In high school, I had always been involved in community service, particularly with a food pantry that delivered to low-income senior citizens, but I had never thought of integrating service activities into educational opportunities. That was what truly struck me about the Shepherd Program for it espouses the need not just to do service on a one-time basis or even sporadically, but to relate service activities to something you are studying or some overall social problem that you are working to alleviate. While the Shepherd Program acknowledges that sometimes we only have time to work on a Nabors Service Day project for one day out of the year, at the end of the day, Shepherd Program participants really strive to have service result from or be integrated into an area of study or career endeavor.
So, when I arrived at W&L I immediately jumped at the opportunity to begin immersing myself in everything the Shepherd Program had to offer: from Volunteer Venture, to work study, to Nabors Service League, to the Alliance, to courses in psychology, sociology, and finally the capstone course. All of these experiences I had on campus, in the community and in the Mississippi Delta, were united under my passion for integrating service activities into my education.
As an alumna, I am truly capitalizing on all that I learned and experienced while in the Shepherd Program and actively seeking to improve the world in which I live. The discussions that I have had, the scholars that I have read, and the experiences that I have partaken in inspired me to consider what role I wanted to play in working to alleviate poverty in the United States. The most meaningful experience to me in the Shepherd Program was my internship in Phillips County, a highly impoverished Arkansas community in the Mississippi Delta. Seeing the faces of those children and witnessing how poverty and missed educational opportunities had affected these kids truly resonated with me and compelled me to think about how I could make a difference beyond just that one summer. For many rural areas where education is the easiest pathway to escaping poverty, teachers can have the biggest influence on increasing the capability of students. Therefore, I decided to join the movement Teach for America to help rectify these inequities. I happily chose to return to the rural communities of the Mississippi Delta so that I could resume this responsibility of directly working to alleviate poverty in our country.
The Shepherd Program certainly played a critical role in my education at W&L and in my selection of a career for my pursuits after W&L. Moreover, the program is of great necessity to W&L because it demonstrates that Washington and Lee and its students care about making a difference in the world. W&L seeks to equip its students not just with the knowledge of what problems exist but also the capacity to make change happen. The aim of our university is not to coddle its students and prepare them merely to join the ranks of the privileged, but instead to take the experiences gained and the challenges overcome while a student and to act with fervent compassion to improve the state of our world. The Shepherd Program and its students are the greatest demonstration of that, and the calling to do my part to alleviate social problems is one that I have eagerly assumed.
Capstone Paper Topic: The Economic Necessity of Social Capital: A Case Study in Phillips County, Arkansas
Community Service at W&L:
• Nabors Service League: Special Projects and Events Co-chair and General Chair
• Tutor at the Rockbridge Area Occupational Center (RAOC)
• Campus Kitchens volunteer, serving meals at RAOC
• Supported literacy projects through Pi Beta Phi sorority