Thinking Outside the Gates

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Jessica Lotz ′08

It is no small wonder that so many students become deeply committed on campus during their time at Rhodes, with its challenging academics, tightly knit social community and picturesque backdrop. In fact, many call the campus a “bubble,” meaning that Rhodes has become such an intimate community that it has become insulated from the rest of Memphis and people rarely venture beyond the gates. Indeed, I have always enjoyed my time on campus, provided it’s not time for finals yet, but I cannot help feeling misrepresented when others talk about the “Rhodes bubble.”

According to Admissions statistics, a staggering 80% of students have done some form of community service during their four years here, something that speaks to students’ extensive commitment to the broader Memphis community, be it at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, local homeless shelters like MANA House, or Big Brothers/Big Sisters mentoring program, just to name a few. I myself have been most deeply involved at Shasta Central, a community resource center in the Hollywood Springdale neighborhood near Rhodes. Hollywood is a largely low-income, underserved area which faces many social and economic challenges, yet Shasta has become a valuable middle ground where residents can meet with Rhodes students and staff to find support and solutions together, whether through locating social services and job opportunities, mentoring youth or meeting with city officials to clean up the area.

Indeed, our primary hopes are to serve the community’s needs and desires, but my service experience in Hollywood has also become an invaluable way for me to apply my academic knowledge to the outside world and, conversely, to apply my experiences there in the classroom. My time in Hollywood has completely redefined the way I view community service and my own position as a Rhodes student and concerned citizen. These opportunities allow us truly to think “outside the gates” by building relationships with those we serve, experiencing other ways of life and sharing our own skills, knowledge and resources in order to empower others so that their dreams become realities. For me, daring to go off campus has been a vital part of my life at Rhodes and beyond.