BY BRITANI BEASLEY
This semester you have probably seen new faces on campus, including students and faculty members. Also, there are new offices, such as the Center for Community Service Office (CCS), formally known as the Center for Public Service Office. With a new name, office, and program coordinator, The Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service is now located in Bothwell Chapel and is directed by St. Louis University graduate Jessica Trout.
Trout graduated from St. Louis University with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and International Studies in 2009, and she continued her Masters of Science in Social Work with an emphasis in International Social Work and Social Policy at Columbia University in 2013. While she was in school, Trout not only graduated Cum Laude, but she also was a Martin Luther King Scholar and received the Mev Puelo Scholarship to Nicaragua.
Trout has a substantial service background which includes her service at the following places:
- The Women’s Safe House (a domestic violence shelter)
- Karen Catholic Worker House (a homeless shelter)
- Center for Survivors of Torture and War Trauma (an after-school program where Trout volunteered as a leader for refugee program)
- International Institute (IISTL) (a company where she served as a Social Work Student-Caseworker with refugees)
- El Salvador Canton El Cedro (an after-school program and soup kitchen)
- Nicaragua Dos Generaciones (an institution where Trout volunteered to work with a community psychologist outside of a garbage dump in order to do community education)
- volunteer work at Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Chuuk and Pohnepei
- Micronesia (a region where she taught high school and directed students to the Higher Achievement Program.
Trout chose to pursue a job at McKendree University because college was such an influential part of her life. She wanted to give students a chance to have similar serving opportunities like she did when she was in school. She also stated that she feels she can relate to all students. She may have grown up in a small white community, but she has also lived in diverse cities and various countries. She hopes to reach out to the campus community through the community service office by keeping her office door open so students can feel welcomed if they need a place to go to. In the same sense, if they want to serve and be a part of CCS they can do that, too.
When asked what she hopes to accomplish at McKendree University she stated, “I hope students will want to be part of making a difference in others’ lives while also letting themselves be challenged.”
I then continued on in the interview asking Trout additional questions, here were her responses;
What was your most meaningful service experience?
“Hard to say. Each new experience taught me something different and helped me grow in unique ways. The Women’s Safe House taught me about my privilege and opportunities, disparity in the education system, and society as a whole. Center for Survivors and IISTL taught me about the struggle people face to get into our country, further struggles they face once here, and about different religions. El Salvador taught me about poverty, love, brokenness and passion. Every experience taught me to be more open to others and helped me to learn about myself and pushed me to understand my stereotypes and viewpoints on the world. Each experience expanded my worldview. Chuuk was the rawest service I did. It was the most underdeveloped country and the toughest service by far. It taught me about a culture way different than my own, and that when things get hard, sometimes we have to stick with it because other people count on us. It also helped me to understand my own culture and see culture all around me.”
Why is volunteering important?
“To expand your worldview, to grow, to learn to love others that are different than yourself, to hear other peoples’ stories, to provide opportunities for others that you were given.”
Do you feel that service/volunteering plays a roll on this campus? How?
“I think it’s part of the educational experience. It’s part of growing into yourself and become more of who you want to be. At least it was for me. It helps you understand how to connect to people after college, how to analyze the world in a more holistic way, and how to understand the content of classes while holding them up to the light of what you see while serving. Not only do students give back to people and help make the world better, but they grow from the service they do. They learn to love more fully, to understand themselves better, and to challenge their peers to think deeper. Not to be a broken record, but all of us on this campus have been given an opportunity and it’s our obligation to give back. That’s the starting point, but what you get out of it is so much more.”
I then concluded by asking if there was anything else that Trout would like to add, she responded in saying “Community Service is complex. It takes questioning of others and self. It’s worth it though! It not only helps the people you serve, but it helps the person serving as well.”
For ways that you can volunteer and take a service learning course visit http://www.mckendree.edu/student-life/involvement/org/service/public-service/index.php or email Jessica Trout at firstname.lastname@example.org