Gandhi once said, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their missions can alter the course of history.” Catherine takes this quote to heart and truly believes that a group of people engaged in small acts of meaningful service can affect lasting change in a community.
Catherine’s first significant leadership role in her community was her establishment of the Light’s Out Field Trip Program the summer before her junior year of high school. About a decade ago, a couple from her church, John and Dolores Eads, started a Christian ministry in the violent, drug-filled neighborhood of Alabama Village, located in her hometown. This ministry, Light of the Village, has made a tremendously positive impact on the surrounding community through a school, church services, afterschool programs, summer day camps, and more. Catherine wanted to find some way to help, so after several long conversations with Dolores in the summer of 2009, she decided to start a field trip program focusing on the preteen girls of the Village. She named it Light’s Out and sent out a fundraising letter, eventually receiving sufficient funds for two years of field trips. Over the next two years, Catherine took the girls on field trips ranging from a sleepover to an excursion to the New Orleans Zoo and Aquarium. The purpose of the field trips was twofold: to build trust and relationships through caring attention, and to remove the girls from their toxic environment, placing them into one of carefree and positive fun.
The other service activity most important to Catherine during her high school career was the Red Shoe Krewe, which consists of high school juniors and seniors who serve as ambassadors for the Ronald McDonald House of Mobile, Alabama. The RSK organizes events for the House, plans dinners and holiday celebrations for the families, and most substantially, raises money and awareness for RMH. She served as vice president her junior year and president her senior year. Ronald McDonald House provides a home away from home for families of sick children, offering an invaluable service to those families in crisis. Throughout her time as president, she considered it a privilege to serve the families, and encouraged the other RSK members to strive for excellence in individual and collective service.
During Catherine’s first year at Vanderbilt, she served as a clinical volunteer for Siloam Family Health Center, which is a nonprofit clinic that provides quality healthcare for the uninsured population in Middle Tennessee as well as addresses the emotional, spiritual and social components of health. Catherine thoroughly enjoyed her experiences at Siloam, especially gaining first hand knowledge of effective avenues of service through medical care. She plans to continue her involvement at Siloam for the remainder of her time at Vanderbilt. Catherine also participated in a Manna Project International spring break service trip to Quito, Ecuador working with severely handicapped children at Camp Hope and will serve on the board of Manna next year.
Catherine eventually plans to be a doctor and is excited to see how the Ingram Scholarship Program will shape that goal. She is grateful for the opportunity to be surrounded by a group of people she knows will push her to view her medical practice as a way to serve, and every opportunity as a way to better the life of another.