Not yet in the Ingram Scholarship Program, Emma came to Vanderbilt eager to learn about refugees in Nashville and the organizations serving them. She began volunteering as an administrative assistant and occasional interpreter at Siloam Family Health Center, a health center for the uninsured in Nashville. She also began tutoring through Nations Academy, a program that gives academic and personal support to 20 middle school students, all children of refugees. Emma spent many hours a week at both Nations Academy and Siloam Family Health Center, learning about the challenges and strengths of refugees. She became increasingly involved in Nations Ministry Center, serving in the offices and taking a leadership role in the tutoring program and recruiting volunteers. Emma was accepted to the Ingram Scholarship Program in the spring of her freshman year.
With hopes of improving her Spanish serving in a cross-cultural environment, Emma went to Madrid, Spain with Mission to the World. She lived for two months in a largely Central American, Eastern European, and North African community, teaching children at a church in the suburbs of Madrid. The difficulties of living and serving in the community taught Emma the complexity of cultural norms and the importance of valuing cultural differences. She came back to Nashville with Madrid on her mind, hoping to return the next summer to serve in a way that better matched her skills and interests.
Throughout her sophomore year, Emma continued to tutor and mentor middle school students through Nations Academy, becoming more and more interested in the public education and charter school system. In the winter and spring of 2013, Emma helped create a new role for herself at Nations Academy that would support the students in one of their weakest subjects. She became the first Math Coach, coordinating the students' supplementary math studies and tracking their progress. The consistent relationships she formed with the students at Nations Academy over her freshman and sophomore year prompted her to question the educational system's impact on struggling, first generation immigrant students. She continued to tutor and mentor middle and high school students at Nations Academy throughout her junior year and the following summer. Teaching two high school girls to drive was one of the more daring projects she undertook.
With the support and generosity of the Ingram Scholarship Program, Emma returned to Madrid the summer after her sophomore year to work on a project with Serve the City, a multinational non-profit aimed at creating a culture of volunteerism in urban areas and supporting existing non-profit organizations. Emma worked on Serve the City Madrid's Community Dinner project, a project that would bring together social workers, non-profit managers, volunteers, and men and women in poverty to share a meal. Through the year spent in the Ingram Scholarship Program, Emma went to Madrid with new understandings of sustainability, informed service, and reflection.