Going Greene Means Helping Less Fortunate
While scientists and philosophers continue to argue about the effect movies have on people, actress Audrey Hepburn left no doubt about her opinion when she said, "Everything I learned I learned from the movies."
Emporia State student Jasmine Greene's life adds testimony to how a movie can have such a dramatic impact and inspire her to reach out to others with compassion.
"Ironically, the earliest source of inspiration that I can remember having a lasting effect on me was the movie Pay it Forward," says Greene. "As a child, the concept of creating change that is self-perpetuating and based solely on what one human being can do for another may not have been so clearly defined, but it did have a lifelong impact on me."
The movie based on a novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde was released in 2000 and carries the message: "When someone does you a big favor, don't pay it back to that person ... pay it forward to help someone else in need." Even before seeing the film, though, Greene had the heart of a Samaritan thanks to her family that always inspired and encouraged her community involvement.
Being involved and paying it forward has led Greene to head up Community Hornets as part of her job in the Center of Student Involvement and to create a program called GIVE.
Community Hornets is a program for all Emporia State students to join and get connected with local volunteer opportunities. GIVE stands for Getting Involved Volunteering in Emporia and was an idea Greene began developing as a freshman out of concern that there were no opportunities designed for international students to explore American volunteerism. By the end of her freshman year, Greene had mapped out her plan and presented it to Lynn Hobson, associate vice president of Student Life. GIVE was launched in the fall of 2010.
"The lessons I have learned while serving as the GIVE coordinator go far beyond what I can put into words,” says Greene. "I have witnessed firsthand the struggles of adjusting to a new culture, and been given countless opportunities to reflect on why I think and act the way I do."
Greene took her helping spirit along with 16 other Emporia State students to Yonkers, N.Y., on the first-ever Community Hornets Alternative Spring Break trip. Blythe Eddy, associate director of Emporia State's Center for Student Involvement, was the staff sponsor for the trip. The Emporia State students worked with peers from the University of Wisconsin to help Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Challenge.
Greene's next Alternative Spring Break trip was to Birmingham, Ala. She calls the 2011 trip an eye-opening experience.
"The level of poverty and homelessness that I witnessed firsthand was a whole new ball game compared to what I thought I knew before this trip,” says Greene.
"Poverty itself is such an abstract concept to those who have not lived it," she says, "and even as I used all my senses to try to understand the full extent of what it means to live in poverty I have no doubt that I do not fully understand it. The poverty was not always immediately obvious in the areas in which we spent the majority of our time, but the fact we stayed in a neighborhood of only Habitat houses was a strong indicator that the need was great in Birmingham."
While there, the crew was involved in painting, calking, building and installing cabinets, among other work to aid a family of three.
In May of 2012 Greene was named one of 10 Shepherd Scholars. The late R. Hershel Shepherd and wife Augusta set up the Emporia State scholarship award in 1995. Greene plans to spend her senior year studying abroad, saying that working with the international and domestic students was the inspiration for that idea.
After graduation the political science major with a minor in Spanish expects to head somewhere for graduate school in international studies. Greene is especially interested in the nonprofit sector, community development and national security.
Wherever she lands you can bet Greene will be involved with some humanitarian endeavor, because, sadly, there seems to be no shortage of those opportunities.
"There is no easy solution for poverty and homelessness," explains Greene. "I wish that it were a simplistic problem, but it ties into the intricate webs of social, racial, and economic stratification that have roots deep within American culture and history. I do not for a second believe that change is impossible. The United States needs to come together as a nation and take care of its people. Education about the reality of poverty is one way that I think change can begin."
And, of course, paying it forward.