“My name is Jilkiah Bryant and I am a native of Macon, Mississippi. Currently, I am a second year student at the University of Mississippi majoring in Public Health and Health Sciences with minors in math, disaster science, and chemistry, and something new I have just learned is functional groups for my organic chemistry class. If I could have any super power, it would definitely be regeneration or teleportation!
The best part of the LOU community to me is that this community possesses momentous areas of support and service initiatives. The LOU community is unified in every effort to help encourage the growth and development of this area. As a student whose passion lies within service and has suffered at the hands of racial and economic disadvantages, my passion for community engagement is a direct testament of my personal experiences as a low-income student of color. I am always looking to serve and provide opportunities for others to serve because I know the struggles of having a lack of participation and presence within my own community.
My issue area is vulnerable populations and health and wellbeing which are issues not uncommon to Mississippi. Mississippi is among the top states in the nation with the highest rates of poverty and income inequality with little to no improvement seen within the last few years. As I grew older, I began to notice the intensity of poverty in my state: little access to adequate jobs, poor infrastructure, and an inferior quality of education, and I struggled to imagine a solution that could combat the difficulties Mississippi faced in my own way. One of my greatest achievements was the start of my own nonprofit organization, Project Powerful, where I have been able to create a sense of urgency among community leaders and other organizations to make meaningful impacts in the areas that matter most. Community engagement is something that is so important to me personally, especially after this past year.
I was fortunate enough to have worked and will continue to work as a CEED Innovation Scholar for the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. Here, I began to think deeper about what community engagement and service was. I gained multiple opportunities to learn about the importance of communities, how to work to support their efforts in place, and not to rewrite who they are and what that community stands for. I’ve gained experience that changed my perspective on what community engagement is and how to effectively practice engagement, and I hope to bring this experience to my position in the Office of Community Engagement.”
This semester, Jilkiah will be working with local organizations such as CASA of Lafayette County, Communicare, Family Crisis Services, and many others to help advance their missions and protect the vulnerable populations of our community. You can get in touch with Jilkiah by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.