Making a difference with a liberal arts education

Avery Blankenship - Simple Gifts

Since August of 2014 I have been attending Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn. with the help of the Simple Gifts Fund, and while I have been able to do a lot in my short time at Rhodes, so far, there is something that stands out in my mind.

One of the most rewarding parts of getting to attend a great school like Rhodes College is the work that students here put into bettering the community. From newspapers that provide job opportunities for the homeless to boxing up food from the cafeteria for those less fortunate, Rhodes is constantly working towards making the City of Memphis a better place for everyone who lives here.

One way that I have been able to contribute to the ongoing work that Rhodes does, is to assist in setting up writing centers in local public high schools. Along with some of my classmates, I’ve been allowed the opportunity to visit Memphian schools and work with the students on setting up a safe place for them to discuss their writing that facilitates a collaborative learning style and acts as an additional resource for English classes.

The best part about being allowed to set up writing centers for the students is the shared enthusiasm that we all have for really putting in the work to make the center a fun place for students to write. The tutors who we have worked with are all very excited about the writing centers and have contributed a lot of input in terms of the center’s design and session layouts. With the students’ help, the writing centers are sure to be a popular hub on their schools’ campuses and hopefully, will serve to develop and strengthen the individual voices of the students who attend.

At first, I had no idea what to expect when we started the project, but working with our high schools has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my college career thus far. The eagerness that the students show to change the way writing is done at their schools for the better is really heartwarming. It’s nice attending a school like Rhodes that doesn’t confine itself to a bubble. It’s amazing being able to work with students who may one day even attend Rhodes, too.

Liberal arts education has many values, but one of the most important values, which I think Rhodes holds in extremely high regard, is a commitment to making a difference. The great thing about a liberal arts education is that what I am learning in the classroom is applicable in a variety of different subjects and thus can easily be applied to real world situations like I have with my students. I’m so happy to be attending a school that really cares about the people in its city and I’m even happier that the students who attend Rhodes feel even more strongly about providing service to those in need.

Without help from the Simple Gifts Fund, I would have never been able to attend a school as great as Rhodes and without Simple Gifts, I wouldn’t have been able to, in turn, make a difference in the education of an entire group of high schoolers and learn from them, as well. What I’ve learned through this experience, is that education is an act of collaboration and I’m so thankful that there are so many wonderful groups of people who contribute to mine.

Avery Blankenship

Simple Gifts

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