Photo of Denise Kennedy

United We Serve

At McKendree, we don’t believe that life begins after college - we believe it begins on day one of your McKendree experience. For Denise Kennedy ’12, McKendree meant discovering her passion to live a life dedicated to service, starting with her work as a Community Service Fellow with McKendree’s Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service (CPS) and culminating in her current role as an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) volunteer.

She explained, “I wanted to work as a VISTA because it’s a great experience to have on the way to my career goals - to work in a non-profit organization, eventually becoming an undergraduate sociology professor.”

Not coincidentally, Denise’s biggest influence on responsible citizenship is McKendree sociology professor Dr. Lyn Huxford, who also serves as the CPS advisor. Denise noted, “Service is important to me because it is a chance to give back to a community that has given me countless opportunities to succeed. Dr. Huxford has been the main source of inspiration of my involvement in service. She really pushes me out of my comfort zone to grow as a leader, student and person.”

In a remarkable turn of events, Denise’s life of service has led her right back to where she started: she is spending her first VISTA year as the coordinator of special programs at McKendree’s CPS. She said, “I wound up back at McKendree because I know that the community service program makes a difference in the lives of our neighbors. For example, my favorite special event would have to be Angel Tree. I think that the campus always shows great generosity by buying gifts for the children of East St. Louis. It’s a wonderful example of McKendree’s commitment to making a difference in the lives of others.”

Denise sees McKendree’s commitment to service exemplified by both the professors and the students: “I see a lot of our professors as responsible citizens: Dr. Huxford, Dr. Boudreau, Dr. Collins, Dr. Simmons, Dr. Eggleston - I’ve had too many to list them all! These professors instill a drive for responsible citizenship in their students. Kaitlyne Motl '06 is a responsible citizen that I really admire and identify with. All of the students on the McKendree Community Action Team really inspire me - they are all hardworking students who make time to fulfill their duties as responsible citizens.”

That relationship network is what Denise loved most about the CPS: “My favorite part of McKendree’s Lyn Huxford Center for Community Service would be the relationships that are built between the student coordinators. The four years I was a fellow, I made some really great friends. We became a wonderful support system for each other. Some of my responsibilities are similar to my previous role as a Community Service Fellow, but it comes with the added responsibility of leading some of McKendree’s best leaders! I have been helping our volunteer coordinators to enhance our recruitment techniques and reflection discussions.”

In addition, she is working with Lisa Brennan [English professor, assistant director of the Writing Center and coordinator of First Generation Student Success] to develop a Registered Student Organization for our first-generation students. “I am still working on being a good example of a responsible citizen, [and part of] being a responsible citizen means I encourage others to become responsible citizens,” she said.