Photo by Brad Ziegler.

Photo by Brad Ziegler.

Life After LEAD

by Kiana Alexander, ’15 | Spring 2018

Last year, I spent four months in rural Kenya, working on a community development project with a group of mostly women. By growing and selling okra and other crops, they were sending their children and a population of local orphans to school. Their proceeds also supported five elderly women in
the village.

Through World Vision Kenya—the international Christian humanitarian organization with whom I was working—we were able to secure a grant for them to buy a Posho Mill. That mill, in turn, helped them grind even more corn and wheat and earn extra funds to further benefit the community. The experience brought to life for me a famous quote. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has,” Margaret Mead, the cultural anthropologist, once said.

My whole life, I have wanted to serve others. As a young girl growing up in Grand Blanc, Michigan, I hoped to go to medical school and become a pediatrician. U-M was my first step toward that journey. When I was accepted, I was super excited but unsure of how I would pay the in-state tuition. Without the LEAD scholarship, I would not have been able to attend. Nor would I have connected so immediately with others on campus as a freshman or learned how to network and develop leadership skills.

Yet upon graduation, I felt unsure of my next steps. I no longer wanted to go into medicine but still wanted to help others. I spent my first six months, post-college, working as a nanny and reflecting on what I really wanted to do with my life.

In 2016, I applied and was accepted into the Global Community Development master’s program at Southern Adventist University in Tennessee. That graduate experience—which included the time I spent in Africa—ended up teaching me how to be an agent of change for communities. I then decided to return to Michigan.

My move back to the Midwest coincided with my accepting a one-year service position with the AmeriCorps Vista program. I serve in the City Hall Planning Division in Flint, Michigan, where I have had the privilege of working with various neighborhood groups and organizations implementing community-driven residential projects. I have helped coordinate the building of two new playgrounds, written neighborhood proposals for community projects—such as a community garden on a vacant lot—and helped install traffic-calming mechanisms in busy areas to safeguard pedestrians.

More importantly, my AmeriCorps position has given me the opportunity to witness the beautiful, resilient people of Flint. I have watched them face adversity with courage and conviction. I have seen the positive impact their actions have had on their communities. From them, I have discovered the reason why I serve.

 


The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Michigan Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit umalumni.com/support.