Lauren Hong: Supporting Community

OCE Community Profile Series
By Daniela Sainz ‘15 | Nov 6, 2013

laurenhong

Over the summer, Lauren Hong, Class of 2014, dedicated her time to assisting the Campus Kitchen at W&M. As an intern, she helped deliver weekly meals to local food-insecure families. Her experience was made possible with funding from a Community Engagement Frant that helped her support herself throughout the summer. Her work over the summer was multifaceted – including cooking and planning aspects as well as the opportunity to run some programs for children and families. Lauren emphasizes that Campus Kitchen is an organization that is dedicated to more than just donating meals.

Office of Community Engagement: How are you involved in community engagement at William & Mary?

Lauren Hong: When I was in high school, the mentality towards service was very different. While in college, I learned more about why we do the things we do and ways to effectively reach out to the community in order to get a better understanding of what they think are successful programs. I truly understand what it means to be a volunteer and be engaged within the community.

OCE: How has this work contributed to community needs?

LH: Over the summer, we provided about 150 meals a week. The number of volunteers have been dwindling since the beginning of the semester, but we still have quite a dedicated team working with us. We exclusively use fresh vegetables and raw meat from the farmer’s market to create healthy meals that are delivered to food-insecure neighborhoods twice a week.

OCE: What does active citizenship mean for you?

LH: To me, active citizenship means not just taking your position in the community for granted. Everyone has a way to positively impact the community. We all have the responsibility to educate ourselves, meet with others, and engage in the community. We need to think of the issues we see and the issues we don’t see. We can’t afford to sit around, we need to prioritize being engaged in community.

OCE: How has your experience working in the community affected your educational career at William & Mary?

LH: I’m a senior, and am figuring out what I want to do after college. I think I would like to work in underserved communities – possibly in a medical sense or doing non-profit work. I will be applying to Teach for America and hope to be able to continue with my service work with a full-time job after graduation.

OCE: How do you plan to use what you have learned as an engaged citizen beyond William & Mary?

LH: I plan to use what I’ve learned to continue being engaged in the community. I would like to build my career off of service work. I plan on volunteering for organizations, and have lifelong partnerships that I hope to keep.

OCE: What is the most memorable or striking moment you experienced during your engagement work?

LH: It happened over the summer – when we were getting to know the kids [in the communities we brought meals to], they began to recognize us and became extremely excited to see us. The work is difficult sometimes and it’s easy to become discouraged, but it is the little moments like this that help to break down the walls between the students and the community. These moments help us show the community members that benefit from the program that we love their kids and families, and that we want to support them in any way that we can.

 

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About Melody Porter

Hello blogosphere! While I am a relative newcomer to you, I am a long-time fan of human connection. I used to say that my major in college (above my actual political science & religion double major) was in friendships. Conversations over long meals or late nights on dorm hallway floors have been transformative in my life, and it only makes sense to me to dip my toe into new ways of opening up conversation here. Some details about my life and role at W&M: I have worked at William and Mary since August 2008, and am Associate Director in the Office of Community Engagement. I spend my time fostering student leadership in the broad areas of alternative breaks and local anti-poverty initiatives. Doing so lets me fulfill what I understand my calling to be about: working for social justice in the world, and equipping others to do so with skill, sensitivity and great love. And my pre-W&M life... I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Religion from Emory University in 1995. After graduating, I decided to get further into the world of community development and service. I served as a long-term volunteer for three years, beginning a job development program in Philadelphia and working with preschool children in Johannesburg, South Africa. I came back to Emory to earn a Master of Divinity from the Candler School of Theology in 2001, with a focus in religious education. I spent a frenetic and exciting year working four jobs - from TA'ing a preaching class with Tom Long, to catering barbecue, to managing a nonprofit family literacy program with immigrant and refugee families. I went on from there to be Associate Minister at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, working in areas of social justice and community development, and directing an after school program that served more than 100 high school students. Finally, it was one more stop at Emory - where I served for three years as director of Volunteer Emory, a student-led department for community service. Through all of my professional and volunteer experiences, and life in general, I have seen how connected and interdependent people and communities are everywhere I believe in the power of mutual service to transform lives and create social change. I also love cheese fries.