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Desmond Hendricks ′09

Hometown: Chattanooga, TN
Major: History
Solid gold: Desmond spends every Monday and Thursday afternoon helping at-risk youth get a new start.

What brought you to Rhodes?
I came here to play football, major in math, eventually become an engineer, and also to get away from home. Like most people, I wanted to change the scenery that I had been used to since middle school. Rhodes wasn’t too far from home but far enough. Becoming part of the Rhodes community brought new challenges in the classroom and life. Once I got inside I began to understand those challenges and grew as a result of them.

What have been some of those challenges?
At the very beginning of my Rhodes career I struggled in some of my classes. Looking back, I can see it was because I was majoring in the wrong thing. Before I figured that out, I had to change the way I applied myself. I did this by using what I have learned in football—you don’t always get what you put in, but the more you put in, the more you get out. Your whole perception of life changes when you are on your own. It’s scary at first but you get used to it, with guidance and help.

What made you decide to change your major?
That’s easy. When I took Professor Charles McKinney’s African American history class I was suddenly aware that what I did not know far surpassed what I did know. Professor McKinney’s dynamic and passionate way of teaching made me want to get up in the morning and go to class, and learning something new every day has been a huge motivating factor. When it came time to declare my major, I chose history and have never looked back.

Has playing football at Rhodes lived up to your expectations?
Absolutely. It has been a huge stress reliever and one of my best experiences at Rhodes so far. I believe competition makes people better—sharper—and can be applied productively both on the field and off. It comes with its challenges as well as its rewards. It has made the process of becoming a part of the Rhodes community a lot smoother because I know so many people. I have met professors that I will never take a class from, alumni that I would never have encountered otherwise, advisors that have allowed my Rhodes experience to have meaning, coaches who are always in my corner, and more friends than my Facebook could tell you.

What do you do for fun?
The same things most people do—hang out with friends, spend too much time in the BCLC, listen to music and any physical activity. Where I get the most satisfaction, though, is the Grizzly Academy, a “second-chance” program that accepts at-risk youths who have fallen behind in school but still have hopes of receiving their high school diplomas on time, so they can go into the workforce. These kids need positive role models, and I saw first-hand what struggling really was. I go every Monday and Thursday afternoon and lead the kids in physical recreation activities to give them a chance to excel outside of the classroom as well as in it.

How do you find time for that?
You know, I wouldn’t be where I am today if someone didn’t take time out of their lives to offer me some positive words and given me opportunities to become a better person. I have been blessed by so many people and hopefully these kids see me in the same light—that’s me giving back.

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