Emory & Henry College is known for its dedication to community service. This devotion to service becomes embedded in the lives of its students who perform community service while students at the College and continue to lead a life of service after graduation.
Such is the case for Travis Proffitt, a 2004 Emory & Henry graduate, who has interwoven service into the fabric of his life.
Travis was a double major in Public Policy and Community Service (PPCS) and Religion. After graduation, he served for two years with the Bonner Scholars program as the Bonner Coordinator. His devotion to understanding the greater world around him did not stop with his education at E&H. Proffitt moved to Chicago in 2006 to pursue a Master of Arts in Social Justice at Loyola University Chicago, which opened the door to a position at Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, N.C., as the Field Service Coordinator and Director of Life Works.
He has found his way back to Loyola University Chicago in the Center for Experiential Learning as the Community Partnerships Coordinator. Most of the work that Proffitt does now deals with developing and strengthening relationships with non-profit partners. Proffitt’s responsibilities include planning and leading workshops and networking events with these partners.
"The skills I gained from Emory & Henry’s PPCS major are immeasurable and I literally use them every day in my work. I learned how to listen, how to think creatively and critically, and how to organize people and ideas to move a community forward," Proffitt said.
Proffitt gave examples of working with undocumented youth in the city and working on a plan to implement service-learning curriculums in Chicago city schools.
He talked about Chicago as a city of neighborhoods that fosters a strong identity for the people who live in those parts of town. Proffitt said there are “universal opportunities” for service and sees some of these same opportunities in the Appalachian region.
“There are similar struggles of poverty, hunger, and conflicting opinions about what's "good" for the neighborhood (and city) but with dialogue and patience we are, at times, able to figure out our next steps forward.”
When reflecting on these lessons from E&H, Proffitt said he “learned the values of place, relationships, and patience.”
This patience, he said, helps build relationships by learning the stories from within our communities.
“Sustainable ideas take time,” Proffitt said.
While a student at Emory & Henry, Proffitt completed a practicum at Mount Rogers Regional Adult Education Program, where he assisted with “Race to GED,” a state-wide initiative that partnered with NASCAR to increase GED rates. He also conducted diversity trainings for local youth in the area. Proffitt said the hands-on work offered him a greater understanding and appreciation of community service.
To those looking to get involved in service, Proffitt said, “connect with an organization that does work you're really passionate or curious about.”