Each year for the past 13 years there is a closing conference for the Shepherd Alliance. This is the meeting that concludes the eight-week internship program, and it provides an opportunity for each individual or team of individuals to report on their experiences to the rest of the group.
My wife, Nancy, and I have wanted to attend this closing conference over the years, and this year we were there! It was very informative and exciting. There were so many presentations that Nancy and I each attended half. The presentations described experiences in a wide variety of communities who are dealing firsthand with the effects and the reality of poverty. These communities include large cities, smaller cities mostly on the East Coast, and rural communities in Appalachia and the Delta.
The participants not only reported on their agency assignments, but also on their personal interactions with individuals in the communities, and their interactions with fellow team members. These experiences were in many cases eye opening and in most, if not all, they developed a real comradeship with their fellow interns. Additionally, they felt broadened educationally and socially by their work assignments and personal associations.
The agencies with which the interns work are carefully vetted by the Shepherd Poverty Program staff, and the interns are selected for each individual assignment through a thoughtful and informed process both by staff and supporting faculty. Nancy and I heard precious few interns who were less than excited and engaged in their individual assignments.
This belated visit on Nancy's and my part was a real high point of the year. The opportunity to hear and view the interns' presentations was really very gratifying and engaging. Likewise the opportunity to visit with many of them personally was a real treat. When the program first got underway, I had high hopes for its future, but recognized that like all brand new efforts, there was risk as to how it would fare. It represented an effort to comprehend the issues associated with poverty much better. Additionally it was designed to provide a bridge for those on both sides of a very real chasm to better understand each other and potentially contribute to reducing this chasm in both the short- and long-term.
The Program initiated at W&L is indeed an original! It is unique, and the working relationships with other institutions have proven to be mutually beneficial. Thanks to Professor Beckley, his dedicated staff, and all of the interns, we were privileged to share this experience.
Tom Shepherd '52
Program Benefactor and Shepherd Program Alumni Advisory Committee Member