When urban studies major Lizzie Choy ’17 was a junior in high school, her grandmother, who then resided in Memphis, sent her a newspaper clipping about Rhodes College’s national recognition for community service. The article was to give her some hints: one, to come visit, and two, to tour the school. “When I got here, I thought it was amazing,” says Choy, a Birmingham, AL, native.
Once a student, Choy quickly got involved on campus, becoming a Diplomat and a Peer Assistant, joining the Women’s Chorus, assuming leadership roles for her sorority, and working as a writer in the Office of Communications through the Rhodes Student Associate Program. She also served on the publicity and fund-raising committee for the Bridge, Memphis’ only street newspaper, which was started by three Rhodes students to help people dealing with issues of homelessness.
Choy originally planned on becoming a business major, but her studies took her in another direction. “I found that urban studies combined my interest in social justice, nonprofits, history, and politics,” she explains. “With my involvement with the Bridge, I decided I needed to do something that I was passionate about.” As a result, Choy has focused much of her attention on serving as an intern for ALSAC, the fund-raising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She says her interest in the nonprofit sector was spurred by her academic advisor, Dr. Elizabeth Thomas, who helped her think more broadly about the role of nonprofits in the city. She first served as the summer event marketing intern for ALSAC, then twice as an executive communications intern, and once as a public relations intern. Interns become integral team members, generating ideas, developing strategies, and finding solutions that help ALSAC provide the sources needed for St. Jude to help children battling cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
Throughout her various internships, Choy says that no two days were ever the same. Some were spent at her desk compiling survey results; other days meant running around to keep up with media personnel covering St. Jude events. The most hands-on projects that she got involved with were the Intern Innovation Projects, where she collaborated with ALSAC interns from around the country to create new fundraising or awareness campaigns to pitch to senior leadership.
“I've received so much support and positive reinforcement, both from Rhodes and ALSAC,” says Choy. “The supervisors at ALSAC were really good at giving me new challenges to work on and letting me know if I wasn’t doing something right, or giving positive praise when I was doing something right. It has been meaningful to support a mission in a way I didn't know was possible, and it has afforded me the opportunity to make strong connections in the community.”
Many of the Rhodes students who serve at St. Jude do so as researchers or volunteers. Choy says she’s glad she has been able to contribute to the fund-raising and marketing efforts that support the hospital. She adds that she is able to directly connect with others from the Rhodes community who benefit from the work of St. Jude, whether they are students involved in St. Jude Summer Plus, volunteers, or even patients. “Knowing that the work I do personally relates back to St. Jude and can help to save a friend’s life is really meaningful to me,” says Choy. Two weeks before her 22nd birthday this year, Choy created her own fund-raiser for St. Jude, with a goal of raising $600; by the time her birthday came around, she had surpassed her goal, raising more than $1,000.
She also has used her knowledge about the nonprofit sector taught in her urban studies classes to think about St. Jude’s role in the Memphis community. For her senior seminar project, she studied St. Jude’s role in the revitalization of the Pinch District in downtown Memphis.
Choy sums up her time at ALSAC and St. Jude this way: “I was wondering what I was I was going to do with my life. Having these internships has given me direction and shown me what I’m interested in and what I’m good at. It’s an ideal place where you see the best in people. There’s just so much resilience there, and I know that someday I’m going to have a great career at ALSAC.”
By Katherine Hancock ’19