My W&L: Emily Warner '14
It is hard to put into words what Washington and Lee has done to shape me over the course of four years. I came from a low-income family in Southern California where I had become accustomed to hardship. With the help of Tracey Chainey, an amazing woman at my high school who worked with me to apply for just about every opportunity that would allow me to achieve greater things, I received a full-ride scholarship from QuestBridge to a prestigious school that I had never seen or heard of before. I left California and landed in a radically different area of the country than I had ever seen.
Four years ago I didn't know that I would visit eight different countries, complete various research projects, and have the privilege of working beside some of the most talented professors and peers in the country. Most importantly, I didn't know that I would look back today and smile at the thoughts of my past. These past experiences are what drove me to become involved with one of the most meaningful endeavors of my college career—the Shepherd Poverty Program. I began with Poverty 101 during the first semester of my freshman year, and found myself sitting in front of one of the most amazing professors I could have hoped for—Dr. Harlan Beckley. From this point on, I was ready to change the world. I may not have as lofty ambitions today, but the passion I developed in that classroom has never left me. Since then, I have spent a summer in an emergency housing facility for homeless women and children, another summer working with Campus Kitchens and researching food insecurity in Rockbridge County, and I have even had the opportunity to develop my own alternative break trip to New York City to work with homeless individuals. It was during this trip that I knew my career would be dedicated to serving those who were not able to serve themselves.
One of the best aspects of the Shepherd Poverty Program is that it seeks to inform students so that they can use their knowledge in whatever field most interests them. Consequently, I have been able to meld my passion for resolving the issues of homeless individuals with my love of psychology. I have recently developed a project investigating homelessness and stigma in the lab, which I am continuing to work on today. I have also applied to several Ph.D. programs, with the hopes of working to improve the lives of homeless individuals through research.
Reflecting on these fours years, I cannot believe how far I have come as a result of being a student at Washington and Lee. Four years ago I woke up every day fighting to rise above my circumstances. Today I wake up every day imagining what my life will be like if I am honored with an invitation to join a Ph.D. program. Washington and Lee is truly a place where the sky is the limit.