Rachel Glazer ’17 Celebrates Memphis Through Work at Caritas Village

a young white woman standing and smiling with her arms crossed
Rachel Glazer (Class of 2017)

Memphis native Rachel Glazer '17 was already aware of her city's rich cultural background before enrolling at Rhodes, but her work as a Clarence Day Scholar has given her an even greater appreciation of the city’s diversity.

Each year, 10 incoming first-year students from Memphis who have demonstrated the potential to become leaders in their hometown are selected to receive the Clarence Day Scholarship. In addition to receiving a four-year scholarship and having the opportunity to participate in campus and community events related to the Day Foundation, each Day Scholar receives a one-time $5,000 grant to complete a fellowship or service project that relates to Memphis. As an urban studies major with a concentration in community health, Glazer had many ideas when it came to developing her own project. She decided to gear her project towards helping Caritas Village, a unique community center situated in the underserved neighborhood of Binghampton, that combines the arts, education, and food to bring together people with diverse ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Caritas also offers tutoring sessions and includes a restaurant that has a pay-it-forward program.

Caritas’ founder and director, Onie Johns, was about to retire, and Caritas is set to undergo major renovations, which is why Glazer wanted to lend a hand. “I worked for The Bridge [a street paper founded by Rhodes students to benefit the homeless community] my freshman, sophomore, and junior years, so I thought I wanted to do something with that. I worked on an avocado farm in Watsonville, CA, this past summer, and I spent a semester interning at New Hope Christian Academy, teaching a weekly nutrition class and working on their urban farm. Because of these experiences, I thought I could do something with urban farming; however, as it turns out, I was attracted to Caritas because of its welcoming nature for anyone. I like what they stand for. The world needs a lot of love right now, and love is definitely a part of the foundation for good health,” says Glazer.

Glazer worked alongside Ms. Johns to create a series of cultural dinners as fund-raisers to attract community members to Caritas before the renovations begin. In addition to setting up dates for the dinners and assigning a cultural theme for each meal—including Italian, African American, East Indian, Asian, and Latino—Glazer helped publicize, prepare for, and manage the evenings.  

“I feel like Caritas is a microcosm of Memphis at large; just as Memphis is an iconic Southern city, thanks to its musical history, international businesses, outstanding medical facilities, world-famous southern cuisine, and so much more, Caritas exemplifies the type of space that continues to make Memphis an even better, safer, and more progressive urban center. Everyone who walks in the door has a story to tell and a different connection with our city,” says Glazer. “Having places like Caritas, where we can continue to celebrate Memphis and what it will do moving forward, is exciting.”

Aside from her work at Caritas, Glazer is the Rhodes Student Associate for Kim Bennett, who is the stewardship officer in the Development Office. Having been able to meet with the Clarence Day Trustees since her freshman year, Glazer enjoys helping others who receive academic and study-abroad scholarships express gratitude to their own scholarship donors. In addition, she is beginning her third year working for Raw Girls LLC food truck, and she is interning for the Overton Park Conservancy this semester. “Rhodes has inspired in me an even greater passion for culture, history, the environment, and the importance of health, and I’m fortunate that Memphis has provided a place for me to put these passions to use.”

By Katherine Hancock ’19