I personally believe that community service extends beyond the actions we take within a community. Community service is also about building relationships that are centered on listening, empathy, and selfless love. I have met a lot of people in East St. Louis through various field trips and volunteering efforts, and I can say that they are some of the most optimistic, resilient, and caring people I have ever met.
I volunteered in East St. Louis because I wanted the people there to have the greatest opportunities possible in life – the same opportunities afforded to me as I grew up with tremendous financial, educational, and emotional support. I helped to create Partners in East St. Louis, because I wanted a group that was about the people of East St. Louis and not about its volunteers. I want other students to see the people of East St. Louis for who they are, and to care for their friends and family the way that they want to. I hope that you, who choose to join Partners, will be able to build those relationships, to celebrate the success of the people, and to grow to love the city of East St. Louis.
I still remember my first week at WashU, hearing all the negative and derisive comments about East St. Louis. But the more negativity I heard, the more curious I became about what this community was and who the people were. Under Professor Kirkland’s wing, I was able to learn more about how East St. Louis became the way that it is, tour the community and meet the wonderful people who live and work there. Following my own personal experiences with Professor Kirkland, I wanted to provide this same learning opportunity for a wider audience on campus.
I helped to create Partners in East St. Louis because I wanted to create sustainable, volunteering opportunities that adapted to work desired by the community to meet its ever-changing needs. I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to step outside of their comfort zone and to take active learning into their own hands. But most of all, I wanted to show the people of East St. Louis that others in the greater St. Louis community believed in them and that they were supported. The community is much richer and deeper than what it may look like on the outside, and I hope that you will join to learn more!