As a freshman, Abby explored many avenues of service as she became more familiar with Nashville and Vanderbilt. As the leader of service for her freshman dorm, she organized service opportunities that ranged from painting a local community center to cooking and eating dinner with the men staying at the transitional home Dismas House. However, her activities centered on education and women’s empowerment, similar to what her interests had been in high school. She worked with the Next Steps program at Vanderbilt, tutoring and mentors students with intellectual disabilities. She also volunteered regularly at practices for a Girls on the Run team in Edgehill and at Thistle Stop Café. For a service-learning course during second semester, Abby decided to start a new partnership with Salama, an afterschool program also in Edgehill. This turned out to be a great way for her to learn about Nashville’s education system and the gaps that exist within it. In each of these experiences, Abby enjoyed seeing the relationships that she was able to form as the individuals she worked with grew.
The summer after freshman year, Abby returned to her hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio, to work as a supervisor for a local day camp for individuals with disabilities called Stepping Stones. As a supervisor, Abby found that she had a strong interest in mentoring others and creating programming in areas that she herself is passionate in. She found it incredibly rewarding to see others take on that same passion.
During her sophomore year, Abby decided to pursue her interests in education and working with individuals with disabilities further. She continued to work with Next Steps at Vanderbilt, as a tutor and secretary for the organization. She also began tutoring at the Marha O’Bryan Center and volunteering at a therapeutic horseback riding stable, Saddle Up!. Wanting to continue some work with women’s empowerment, Abby continued volunteering at Thistle Farms and was a running buddy at Girls on the Run 5k’s. By the end of the year, Abby felt that she had found her place within the special education field, and she is looking forward to pursuing this during her remaining years at Vanderbilt. She believes everyone, whatever their gender, background, or abilities, has a right to receive an education and make the independent choices that allow them to lead a fulfilling and unique life.
This summer, Abby is working as a supervisor again at Stepping Stones summer day camp. She is excited to maintain and grow relationships there and at the organizations she has worked with in Nashville next year. She is very grateful to be a part of the Ingram community, which encourages her to grow and gives her support in every endeavor.