Wofford student working with a mother and daughter in an early childhood literacy program (2013)
One Friday a few weeks ago, a text buzzed on my phone around 5 pm: “We had more Wofford students than children. It went super well!” The message was from a leadership team member from a Wofford organization that facilitates outreach by students at partner programs in a local Title I elementary school. Over the course of the next few weeks, from students like her as well as community members, I got more e-mails and texts. Each relayed ideas, plans, and stories, from people not simply serving, but building the capacity of others to learn, serve, and share.
In a community just minutes away from our tree-lined campus, dedicated teachers, determined families, hopeful community members, and our students are quiet builders of an infrastructure of hope. Together, daily, they shape positive change in a neighborhood of decaying mill houses, old trailers, and the largest concentration of Hispanic immigrants in the county. In that neighborhood, where global forces daily shape local realities, our students have listened, felt, thought, and responded. Taken action. Founded projects. Partnered. Shared their passions. Let’s Read, a parent-child literacy program. The Get Moving Campaign, tackling obesity and inactivity. Volunteer Corps. The Pen Pal Project. La U y tú. All student-led … in a community with homes –like one I stepped into as an interpreter– with gaping holes in the floor, walls, roof … housing laughing children and parents working hard for a better future for their kids.
In that community space, our students have engaged productively with difference, been invited in, and invited others along. There, in that space, empathy fuels innovation, collaboration drives action. And that collaboration –the hard, daily work of learning, trusting, and caring– will build what’s next for each one, and all. When you see that infrastructure of hope they’re willing into existence, text someone, invite them along, and celebrate.