By: Elisa Cifiello, Youth Engagement Intern
The following is an interview with Grace Lemons, Rhodes GenUN President.
Elisa Cifiello: How did UNA-USA Rhodes start and how have you grown over the years?
Rhodes GenUN was officially established at Rhodes College by freshman Seabelo Chabo John '19 on April 19, 2016. Our campus chapter started with eleven members and has since grown to 24 active members to date.
EC: What events did you hold this past year?
Rhodes GenUN held numerous events to promote our organization along with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals throughout the 2017-2018 academic year. From hosting a screening of the UN film "Girl Rising," to inviting Development Associate for UNA-USA Rajita Sanji to speak to members of the Rhodes campus community in celebration of UN Day in October 2017, Rhodes GenUN has demonstrated our interest and involvement in global issues and the United Nations. We held a Global Health Forum on campus to engage the Rhodes community and Memphis community leaders in global health issues affecting our region. The most exciting and influential event we were privileged to be a part of this past year was the UNA-USA Global Engagement Summit in New York City. There, our members were able to hear from powerful speakers around the world and brainstorm ways in which our chapter and the youth of this world in general can enact global change to better our communities. To finish up our semester, we held Advocacy Training with the UNA-USA Youth Engagement Manager, Anna Mahalak, to promote leadership and motivate members of our campus to fight for the needs of our community. We also organized a School Supplies drive for the Memphis Refugee Empowerment Program and will present them with the donations we raised at the beginning of the school year this Fall as our kick start event.
EC: What events did you hold this past year?
This past year has been a pivotal period of growth for our chapter. Former President Jenna Gilley worked tirelessly to ensure that our chapter organized numerous events that would benefit our Rhodes community as well as the greater Memphis community. She gave our chapter a presence on campus and provided us with a solid foundation for growing and creating more opportunities for largely impacting our community. Thus, our greatest accomplishment as a chapter was not one specific event but rather the progress we have made overall.
EC: What makes your chapter most unique?
Though our chapter is small and new, it carries great potential. We have made significant strides this past year and continue to generate fresh, inspiring ideas for the future. Since our organization has only been active for two years, we have booming innovation and intense motivation for the future of our chapter. The small number of members allows for more individuals' voices to be hear and more direct action to be taken during meetings and with organizing events. In these ways, our chapter is unique and brings unique and diverse perspectives to the table.
EC: How do you feel Rhodes GenUN has made an impact?
Rhodes GenUN is a fairly new chapter of the UNA-USA global organization. However, the impact our chapter has made eon the Rhodes and Memphis communities in the past two years has been quite significant for a chapter of our size. Our biggest impact thus far has been in aiding the Refugee Empowerment Program in Memphis. Our members volunteer there weekly, and some even daily, to tutor refugee children, helping them with their school homework and also their English-speaking abilities. At the end of the year, we organized a School Supplies Drive for these children and received an entire car trunk full of supplies and electronics to help further these children's education. Our chapter continues to support this organization and constantly comes up with new ideas on how to better meet their needs.
EC: What are your goals for Rhodes GenUN for next year and the coming years?
Given the strong foundation that past leaders have created for Rhodes GenUN, I plan on taking our chapter to the next level in terms of both campus and community involvement. It is my dream that Rhodes GEnUN becomes a strong, leading presence on our campus and involves various organizations and individuals to promote the goals of our chapter. Rhodes College already has a strong collective interest in global issues. I want to make Rhodes GenUN the leader in discussion of and involvement in these issues. It is a constant complaint that I hear on campus that there is not one organization that really involves students with community service or global issues as much as some students would desire. I believe that our chapter maintains the right people to lead our campus in service and promotion of global engagement.