As a freshman, Kristen Sueing gained a unique perspective on the current existence of education in Tennessee. Growing up in Nashville, Kristen developed a keen interest in the state of the educational system in Middle Tennessee, specifically involving public or inner city schools since these were the schools she was enrolled in during her early schooling. As a prospective Sociology major, Kristen nurtured her concern for social structures, and how this paralleled to education in America. During her freshman year, Kristen became involved with Youth Encouragement Services, an after school organization geared toward positively developing youth in an academic and social manner. Because she enjoyed her experiences tutoring youth, Kristen participated in Vanderbilt Alternative Spring Break, tutoring youth and preparing teens for college admission. She also served at Kipp Academy, a local charter school, as an after school tutor, where she found a unique passion in helping inner city youth of color. Following the summer of her freshman year, Kristen returned as a youth basketball coach and mentor for teenage girls.
Following several observations regarding many of these youth, Kristen narrowed her interest in youth education by studying the correlation between educational opportunities and opportunities for behavior deemed socially unacceptable. It was then that Kristen became a regular volunteer at the Dismas House, a halfway house located in Nashville that provides former offenders with educational, social, and technological services aimed at preventing recidivism. As a new member of Vanderbilt Grassroots, Kristen involved herself more and more with the Dismas House, where she truly nurtured a passion for recidivist prevention and education opportunities.
During her sophomore year, Kristen applied for the Ingram Scholarship Program, and was honored to be accepted. This provided a plethora of opportunities for service engagement in a more immersive way. Kristen continued her weekly involvement with the Dismas House, which inspired her to pursue a degree focusing on issues of societal relations and justice. She became involved in the Maplewood Mentorship Program, which provides math tutoring to high school freshmen in a local inner city school. As a native of Nashville, Kristen was very much aware of the educational injustices that exist within the school system, and was eager to help alleviate these issues through academic preparation. During this year, Kristen also took to several small projects aimed toward making a difference for the most amount of people possible. She worked closely with Feed the Children and Second Harvest to help eliminate several of the issues she observed while volunteering, for example, providing food to a hungry student.
Junior year was a time of much reflection for Kristen, as she sought to lower the frequency of her service and raise her potential impact. It was during this year that Kristen became heavily involved with the Y-Literacy Program, a program through YMCA that partners volunteers with struggling students. She was blessed to have the opportunity to work with Wendy, a first-generation English speaking first grader. Through weekly lessons, Kristen enjoyed helping Wendy improve her reading comprehension and literacy. Kristen also continued her work at the Dismas House, as her service fell more and more in line with her academic pursuits.
Following her junior year, Kristen embraced a very immersive summer experience working with The Beat Within. The Beat Within is a non-profit organization aimed at reducing juvenile recidivism through literacy training and self-expression. During the summer, Kristen was able to reach youth in prison through literacy workshops conducted within the juvenile facilities. Kristen also helped the organization amplify the voices of these youth through library subscriptions and Internet exposure.
Going into her senior year, Kristen hopes to use her previous experiences in service to raise awareness on campus and in the community. She hopes to bring back the Vanderbilt Prison Society, which has been inactive on campus for over a year. She also hopes to establish a program like The Beat Within at a local juvenile hall or school. Kristen also hopes to expand her service through a fall internship aimed at improving education.