Faces of Rhodes
Sherrie Lemons ′14
Hometown: Atoka, Tennessee
Major: Religious Studies
Academic interests: While at Rhodes I’ve taken classes on religious studies, art history, gender and sexuality studies, and biblical interpretation, all of which I would like to consider in my future academic pursuits.
Extracurricular activities: Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), Voices for Planned Parenthood (VOX), Queer Advocacy, NCBI, and SafeZones. I also try to keep up with activities put on through the other clubs under the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
Tell the story of how you got to Rhodes College.
It’s a nerdy story. When I was eight years old I was at my mom’s family house around the corner by Sam Cooper when I heard someone talk about Rhodes College. Despite being little and knowing nothing about the college, I piped up and said, “I’m going to go there!” and then I did. Through high school I came to every open house I could. I was determined. I made backup plans to attend the University of Memphis for criminal justice, just in case things didn’t work out. But one day at the end of senior year I got my acceptance letter, and I knew that I was going to have an amazing next four years.
How have you changed since beginning your studies at Rhodes College?
I was very shy upon arriving freshman year. I didn’t know anyone on campus, and I felt very under-qualified to be studying here. It was a bit of a shock. It took a while to figure out how the classroom dynamic worked in comparison to my high school, where I took more hands-on classes. I applied to go on European Studies during my freshman year in order to get a change of pace and got accepted. I can confidently say that that study abroad experience transformed my life. It gave me a new perspective for learning and got me about 2,000 miles outside the classroom, and I found something that came very easily to me and that I knew I wanted to pursue further. I changed my major to religious studies after returning to Rhodes, and gained a new feeling of confidence. Also, having a group of friends in GSA gave me a foundation on which I could grow into myself. Knowing that they would still be there when I came out at the beginning of freshman year has helped me learn how to fill that role for other people with whom I have developed relationships over the course of my time here.
You’re involved with several on-campus organizations that revolve around issues of social justice. Can you tell us about your work with GSA, Queer Advocacy, and VOX?
GSA is my baby. I’ve served on the executive board all four years, and in the process of doing so I’ve tried to give back as much support as I have received from those who preceded me. GSA is a group that this school can’t afford to not have for the sake of the minority of LGBTQIA students here. We have game nights and movie nights and try to co-sponsor events frequently in order to show our support and get our name out there on the campus. Queer Advocacy and VOX are a lot of fun since they provide the opportunity to discuss current events and do service off campus with the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Friends for Life, and Planned Parenthood, among other places. Everyone needs a group of people who they can go to in order to talk through issues that affect them, be those personal, political, or general. I realize that not everyone has an inner activist, so I appreciate that GSA, Queer Advocacy, and VOX can serve all of these functions.
Tell us about your involvement in the Prom for All.
Prom for All has become GSA’s biggest annual event. I’ve been really proud of its success, since it has only been an event for three years now. I’ve led the planning and organization for the past two years. We have had around 200 people attend, both last year and this year, and I hope that it continues to grow. Students from the University of Memphis, Christian Brothers, Memphis College of Art, and even Ole Miss come to it, so not only does it reach out to the rest of the Rhodes community, but also to the other GSAs in the area. Prom for All gives students the opportunity to go to a party where they can dress any way they want, from sweat pants to formal attire, and know they won’t be judged if they bring a date of the same gender. We all go for the same reason, which is to have a good time, and helping provide that opportunity for others is important for me.
Compiled by Ali Swee ′16