Tomorrow, Trevecca faculty and students will be heading to Napier Community Center to meet with leaders and community members from Napier and Chestnut Hill in what is being called the Trevecca Community Initiative.
The idea for the Initiative came from senior social work major Jessica Kyle after she chose to move off campus to live in the Napier community.
“I originally got the idea in a class that talks a lot about community development and awareness and Trevecca’s own community awareness,” she said. “I was tired of sitting in class and talking about these things. I wanted to get out and talk with some people about it.”
The first part of the day will be a meeting between the leadership teams from Trevecca, Napier, and Chestnut Hill to talk about what needs the community has and what Trevecca can offer, according to Kyle.
Brodrick Thomas, coordinator of student engagement and diversity, said this is what makes this meeting stand out from any that Trevecca has hosted in the past.
“The foundation of where [Jessica] started with this was ‘let’s just listen,’” he said. “She didn’t try to do anything else. She didn’t try to build something so we could say, ‘Trevecca gave this to you.’ She didn’t try to send us to do community service. I think we want to go and have this event to build a relationship. I can not think of a time that Trevecca has attempted to do this — to go to their place and sit down and just listen.”
Senior social justice major Tabitha Sookdeo said she agrees that this is the most important aspect of what they are attempting to accomplish. She compared it to doing missions work without really knowing what the people need. She said they can build a well for someone in a third-world country, but if the people never use it, because they didn’t really need it, then nothing has really been accomplished.
“It’s really toxic for us to go into communities and for us to assert ourselves and say ‘this is what you need.’ We want to set the precedent for us to listen,” said Sookdeo.
The second half of the day will be open to students and to the community. There will be a panel of people who are living and working in the Napier and Chestnut Hill communities that will answer questions and discuss what ways students can help and get involved.
Sookdeo said she thinks it’s important for students to not be scared to get involved in helping and getting to know members of the community.
“I think sometimes we just need to get out of our comfort zones,” she said. “That’s all that it takes and we have this really great opportunity to take the bus for free with our ID cards. There’s no reason to not try using the bus and I think that would be a really great first step to trying something new and interact with people who are sitting next to you. I think we have more similarities with people than differences.”
Thomas said this sense of leadership and service within the community is not new to Trevecca and has been an important part of the mission since the University first opened.
“The whole foundation of Trevecca was established off of J.L. McClurkan helping prostitutes and civil war veterans and that’s the spirit that’s kept this University alive for so long,” said Thomas. “I think the mission is the same [today] but our focus shifts.”
Thomas also said he hopes that the amount of faculty attending will set an example for students to “practice what they want to eventually preach.”
“Leadership and service is the cornerstone from which we preach everything. It’s good that a whole bunch of faculty are going, because we need to reflect that leadership that we’re always talking about,” he said.
Kyle said her hope is that this will strengthen the bond between Trevecca and the surrounding community by opening the door to conversation.
“My biggest hope for this meeting is to get information out — to have the leadership of Trevecca and the leadership of the community hear more about each others’ heart and break down misconceptions that might be there,” she said. “A true partnership is both sides and I would love for it to be such a vital partnership that if anyone in the community needs anything then they can come to Trevecca and if Trevecca ever needs anything then they know they can go to the community.”
Trevecca Leadership Team:
Dr. Dan Boone, president of Trevecca University
Shawna Gaines, university chaplain
Brodrick Thomas, coordinator of student engagement and diversity
Elizabeth Nunley, assistant professor of social work
Dr. Sarah Bollinger, assistant professor of social work and program director
Don Kintner, psychology professor, involved in community
Don Kintner, has been involved in community for years
Odessa Kelly, head of Napier community center, member of community
Dr. Lawless, Principle at Napier Elementary
Julie Dimick, teacher at Napier, lives in community
J’ael Fuentes, works at Harvest Hands, lives in Chestnut Hill
Mitch Singer, works at Harvest Hands, lives in Napier
Keita Braden, member of Napier community