Fellows Spend Summer Making a Difference in the Community

group photo of Rhodes Summer Service Fellows
Rhodes Summer Service Fellows at Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA)

The 15 participants of Rhodes’ Summer Service Fellowship program fanned across Memphis this summer, each completing 35 hours per week of community engagement. Now in its 20th year, the program gave Rhodes students the opportunity to work with a Memphis nonprofit organization of their choosing.

Brandon Washington ’26, who is majoring in Russian and international studies, worked with the development team at Youth Villages, which provides services for children and young people who face emotional, mental, and behavioral problems. “They offer these services in their foster homes, group homes, and residential campuses,” he said. “And I worked mostly with the volunteer and donor engagement coordinator, which meant I was able to help put on different volunteer events both on and off campus.”

Washington, who has lived in foster care, added that, “I have learned so much more about the system’s inner workings that many of our youth must endure until they turn 18. Now when I’m advocating for changes to the foster care system, I can also do the same for those living in group homes and on residential campuses.”

Dylan Morris ’25, an environmental science major, spent the summer working for and helping to raise funds for the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, one of the largest urban parks in the United States. “As a member of the development team at the conservancy, I conducted onsite interviews with park guests, asking them what can be improved in the park and how the park can do a better job creating programs that are for all of Memphis.”

As part of the Summer Service Fellowship, participants attended five hours of reflective programming each week. “On Tuesday, we came together to talk about how nonprofits work in the city, what issues there are in the city, and how we can address some of them,” said Morris.

image of Rhodes College students in front of Memphis sign

Political science major Isaac Vigoren ’25 said that hearing other fellows share their experiences and the work being done by Memphians to make the city great has made him more optimistic, despite some of the negative aspects reported about the city. Vigoren served as a literary coach for the Refugee Empowerment Program (REP), which assists the refugee and immigrant population of Memphis through education, advocacy, and support programs. Families placed in REP come from war-torn areas such as Syria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Honduras, Afghanistan, and Somalia.

“I’ve been working with the middle school and elementary school kids, helping them develop their English skills and making sure that they stay competitive with their peers,” said Vigoren. “Additionally, I reviewed internal data collection and management strategies to aid REP in its grant application process. From this,  I’ve  learned just how complicated and demanding the federal and state processes can be and can impact day-to-day operation. The skills and relationships gained this summer will undoubtedly stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Lily Broadaway ’25, who has been dancing competitively since the fifth grade, used her expertise at New Ballet Ensemble and School to work on a curriculum for the school’s outreach summer camps that focus on building dance training, language arts skills, confidence, and cultural appreciation.

“I’ve really learned that running a nonprofit takes everyone wearing a bunch of different hats,” said Broadaway. “As an English major, I’ve gotten to combine two of my biggest passions into one while working with New Ballet. However, service teaches you so much that a book can't. You can read books and empathize with a character. You can learn how to analyze the character. You can write a paper on their characterization. But this does not match being face to face with what you're fighting for or what work you're actually doing every single day. While being a student at Rhodes is a very fulfilling experience in and of itself, I could not recommend the Summer Service Fellowship more.”

For more information about the program, visit here.