Name: Paige Powers
Major: Human Services
Minors: Psychology and Communication
Hometown: Plainfield, Illinois
What drew you to GW?
Well originally, I wanted to be a Poli Sci major. But then I realized I didn’t like it, so I switched to Human Services. I had a few friends doing it, and they loved it. I was already doing a lot of community service anyway, so I looked at the classes and they really fit with what I was already doing – they’re all service learning.
What campus activities are you involved in?
I’m President of Achieve in Africa; we fundraise money to build schools in Tanzania, but this year we were just starting up the organization, so we focused on awareness events. I’m also a Team Leader for Higher Achievement through DC Reads; it’s my second year as a tutor there. In Fall 2012, I joined the community service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, where I’m currently the Fundraising Chair. It’s a new leadership position, so my main job right now is leading our Relay For Life team – our goal is to raise $5,000. I’m also a member of Panhellenic Greek life, as a sister of the Phi Sigma Sigma sorority, which I joined in Fall 2011. Finally, I’m a part of the GW Alternative Breaks Program. I went on a Winter Alt Break to New Orleans this year, and I attended the Cherokee Nation alt break last spring and led it this year.
Can you tell me more about your Alt Break experiences?
The trip I’ve been on twice, Cherokee Nation, is located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. When I was going into it last year, I was expecting a Native American reservation – but it’s a nation, not a reservation. It’s very different. You don’t have to be Cherokee to live there; there are other people mixed in with the Native American residents. Last year, we worked with the Head Start program, volunteering in low-income schools. There’s a lot of rural poverty – it’s interesting to think about in contrast with DC, where there is such urban poverty. This year, we worked at the Cherokee Food Distribution Center, which is their own version of a welfare program. It’s run through the Nation. They have their own grocery store, where the food is free to those enrolled in that program. We helped to stock shelves and do work there as well. And we one day, we helped build a Cherokee village as a part of their heritage museum. It’s a life-size exhibit to replace an older, less authentic version. People would visit and take tours of it.
How was it different this year, leading the trip instead of just participating?
I’m glad I got to go on it last year and have that experience first. It was definitely a lot different this year, and dealing with logistics was difficult. For example, I had to go to the airport one day to drop someone off, so on that day, I didn’t get to do service at all. I’m glad I had the chance to go last spring first because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of it. But this year, it just made me happy to see other people get a lot out of it. It was very fulfilling.
So you’ll be a junior in the fall – that’s a big year for study abroad. Any travel plans?
I’m on the Arts and Sciences Program at the University of Ghana, and my program is CIEE. There’s a community service project as a part of the program. It changes by semester, but in the past they have volunteered in schools, and worked to fight HIV/AIDs. I bought my plane ticket on Easter, and I’ll be leaving exactly four months from that date, on July 31. I’ll be back on December 5, with enough time to go on another GW Alt Break.
How do you balance your schoolwork and other commitments?
Obviously, school comes first. But for my classes that are community service based, it’s a nice balance: I can do the service that I want to do, but it counts for class. I do have to budget my time though. I’m always busy – I just have to take breaks when I can.
What would you say is one of your greatest achievements?
I don’t want to say, “Realizing my purpose in life,” because that’s so ridiculous. But I think my answer would be, realizing what I want to do with my life. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t know, even adults. I just want to help others. I feel like I was able to find myself a lot earlier than I would have otherwise. Doing community service is something that I live for, and being able to find that early on allowed me to channel it into doing other things that I’m passionate about – like my work with APO.
What would be your dream career?
Ideally, I want to be in the Peace Corps, and I want to work on development in Africa. After that I’m not sure, but I would like to go law school – to focus on family law, non-profits, and social working, specifically on the policy aspect.