Student Leader Profile: Chris Ahn ’16

chris ahnName: Chris Ahn

Graduation year: 2016

Hometown: Fairfax, Virginia

Major/Minor: Business Administration/Poverty and Human Capability Studies, Education Policy

What motivated you to get involved in the Shepherd Program?:

I was drawn to how well-developed W&L’s entire poverty program was. The fact that students of all backgrounds could easily integrate their academic studies with community service spoke volumes about the quality of opportunities the Shepherd Program had to offer.

My personal involvement with Shepherd started with an unforgettable Volunteer Venture Pre-O trip to Charleston, WV. Afterwards, I went on a service trip to Charlotte, NC to work with the homeless population. These experiences, coupled with my interest in poverty studies, compelled me to make a greater commitment to service, and so I applied for and was accepted into the Bonner Program.

A year has passed since, and I’ve volunteered everywhere from nursing homes to demolition-homes, from Rockbridge County, to rural South Korea. I feel that I have matured and am better equipped to help support and mobilize student volunteers through the NSL.

Favorite class and why:

A favorite is difficult to choose, but the most impactful has certainly been Poverty 101. Being challenged to think critically about the monster of an issue that is poverty took a lot out of me. I left classes feeling frustrated, and some of the books/papers I read actually left me shaken. What you learn is that there are simply no easy answers or neat conclusions to these problems. In fact, the only one thing I knew for certain was my conviction that as a person born into fortunate circumstances, I had an obligation do something about poverty.  This course, as well as all subsequent poverty courses, has driven me to volunteer harder and with a firmer commitment to achieve social justice.

Most meaningful service experience?:

Doing medical mission work in the slums of Manila, Philippines was a very meaningful experience for me. I was in a region severely entrenched in poverty to the point where people literally lived on a dump site and children scavenged food from the heaps of trash. My team and I entered a hot and barely lit room and did our work there, diagnosing patients and distributing medicine. We served for several hours but were greatly encouraged by sheer thankfulness of the people. I became friends with many of the locals that day, and discovered a common humanity and a deeper humility by having served them.

What poverty issue are you most passionate about and why?:

I can’t say I am partial to any demographic, but I feel particularly concerned about child poverty and all the issues associated with it – education, health/nutrition, child care, and family environment. Children are vulnerable to all kinds of outside forces, so I believe society should focus on implementing systems that protect their opportunities to succeed in life.

How do you think you’ll use your experiences in the Shepherd Programin your future career?:

I am learning much about the nature of service work, especially in a non-profit context. There’s a good chance I will end up working at some kind of non-profit organization (perhaps in law or economic development), so the skills I am learning in this capacity will definitely be transferable. Overall, I hope to find a clearer direction or “calling,” so to speak, as I take advantage of more opportunities through the Shepherd Program.

Share a favorite memory from your experience in the Shepherd Program:

During the Alternative Reading Days Trip to Charlotte, a couple of guys and I were getting a guided tour of the city by a man who used to be homeless and was receiving housing through the Urban Ministry Center. He was a fantastic storyteller and a wonderful person overall, but I thought it was both really special and bizarre that someone who used to live on the streets was giving us a tour of downtown. Suffice to say, it was an honor.

This entry was posted in Alternative Breaks, Bonner Program, Nabors Service League, Shepherd Program.
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