Building her legacy of kindness at Meredith College, Rachel Hefner, ’21, dedicates most of her time volunteering to improve the lives of those who live within her local community.
Volunteer work is an essential part of who Rachel is. She is a firm believer that volunteering is the first step toward social change. Her passion for volunteering started in middle school when she led a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis.
As she has grown older, her efforts have become less about raising money and more about building relationships with individuals and trying to create change within her community.
“At a young age my parents helped me realize how fortunate I was and that a lot of people could be in a better place in life with just a little assistance,” said Rachel. “Volunteering is not about putting a band-aid on issues that our communities face, but assisting community members to make change.”
At Meredith, Rachel has been a Presidential Scholar, a Service Scholar, and a member of the Honors Program. She is earning her Bachelor of Social Work and a minor in Spanish. Just a few weeks after graduation, she will begin the Advanced Standing Master of Social Work program at Virginia Commonwealth University, where her concentration will be in social work administration, policy, and planning.
“I will be continuing my MSW field work with an organizing agency in Virginia and hope to become a full time lead organizer with a community organizing coalition after getting my MSW.”
During her senior year, she has been organizing as a BSW intern with Durham Congregations, Associations and Neighborhoods (Durham CAN) for her field practicum. “It has been such a rewarding experience for my future career.”
Neighbor to Neighbor, a mentoring program in Raleigh, is a favorite volunteer experience during her college career. “Getting to use my ability to speak Spanish and incorporate my social work skills has been a really great experience.”
The world languages and cultures department has played a fundamental role in Rachel broadening her horizons at Meredith. It has been a resource in her volunteer work and even led to her studying abroad in Spain.
“The department has been instrumental in me finding passions that I didn’t know I had,” said Rachel. “The faculty here saw something in me as a freshman and helped push me into things I was nervous about and made me confident in my potential.”
Rachel believes the encouragement she received from Callie DeBellis, assistant professor of foreign languages and literatures, beginning her freshman year has helped mold her into the person she has become. Their close connection has provided Rachel with new opportunities.
“Professor DeBellis invited me to attend a dinner with union workers who represent farm laborers because she knows I’m interested in social work and social justice. Connections developed and as a result, doors opened,” said Rachel.
Rachel loves the immediate impact she has on Meredith students by being a Resident Assistant. She is able to use her drive for improving lives and implementing kindness within this position. “Watching my residents grow and become more responsible and mature has been the best reward,” said Rachel. “You get to support them and form really good friendships along the way.”
Her service to Meredith and her community has continued during her senior year. She has been involved in the creation of several Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) training programs and programming with the Residence Life Department and the Office of Student Leadership and Service. She also hosted an event with Ph.D. student Hayden Dawes called “Critical Conversations: Incorporating Compassion into Racially Diverse Spaces.”
These were meaningful accomplishments for Rachel. These efforts to support the Meredith campus led to her being awarded the 2020-21 Community Impact Award at Celebrating Student Achievement Day.
By Leigh Ann Charles, ’19
Strong Story Updated April 2021
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