One Person Changing the World
By Sam Chafe
University of Idaho junior Megan Kehrein has done more in three years at the University of Idaho than most people have done in their lives.
The sociology student has been involved in four Alternative Service Break trips, one of which she led. She also has studied abroad in India, and has devoted much of her time to helping local elementary students in Moscow.
Kehrein studied Hindi, yoga and sociology while living in Hyderabad, India, for a semester. But studying wasn’t all she did; she also found the time to volunteer at a local orphanage.
“Many of the children’s parents died from HIV and were orphaned because of it,” says Kehrein. “This area has one of the highest rates of HIV.”
She also volunteered at a local non-profit organization teaching fifth graders English as a foreign language.
“We are the leaders of tomorrow. If we don’t do something to better the world, then who will?” - Megan Kehrein
Life is all about learning for Kehrein. While in India, she learned how people make a difference in other people’s lives through helping out in her local communities and the world.
Not all students who study abroad feel the need to get involved in their host communities. But Kehrein strongly suggests they do.
“Students should pick a place they find challenging,” says Kehrein. “They shouldn’t be afraid to
get involved outside the student community. “
Kehrein initially wanted to stay in India for a year. She planned to study and learn the language the first semester and then get an internship working the second semester. Unfortunately, she was only able to stay one semester. After learning about her earlier departure, Kehrein tried to integrate her year-long plan into one semester.
“I didn’t find out I would be leaving at the end of the semester until October,” says Kehrein. “I had to network and find ways to volunteer and get involved.”
Kehrein has gone on four Alternative Service Break trips over the last three years. She has been to Cedar Rapids Iowa, where her team gutted a house for repair after a flood; Romania, where her team worked with children at an orphanage; Phoenix, Ariz., where her team worked for Habitat for Humanity doing landscaping and worked on a house; and Cosby, Tenn., where her team worked on housing for the elderly. She was the student leader on the trip to Tennessee.
“The trips reminded me of how privileged I am,” says Kehrein. “They taught me that it only takes one person to make a difference.”
Volunteering and being involved in the community is something that Kehrein’s parents taught her during her childhood.
“It has always been an inherent drive for me,” says Kehrein. “We are the leaders of tomorrow. If we don’t do something to better the world, then who will?”
Kehrein also has taken the opportunity to volunteer many times locally in Moscow. She has taken part in the Moscow Mentor Program and McDonald School Tutoring Program working with struggling students.
She also has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Lewiston and Palouse. She has volunteered for the University of Idaho Sustainability Center, Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute, and she spent the summer of 2009 as an ASUI intern. She is involved as an activist with Gay-Straight Alliance and Take Back the Night and has supported Brotherhood Empowerment Against Rape events.
It is hard to believe that while doing so much for others that Kehrein has time for herself, but she does.
“I make sure to make time everyday to do something for me, whether it’s yoga or hanging out with friends and reflecting,” says Kehrein. “I am very involved as a student and I worry about burning out. To be able to put my best self forward, I have to be at my best.”
Kehrein was recently awarded the Newman Civil Fellowship award, which is given to a student at each of 30 different colleges around the nation who is an innovator in their community. The award supports those who lead a movement of change by creating change in their communities.
“If I want to change the world, I need to take the first step,” says Kehrein.
Kehrein feels that volunteering and giving back to the community offers many great rewards.
“I’ve received a lot more than I have given,” says Kehrein.
Through all of the organizations and causes that Kehrein has been involved all of them have taught her something. She has learned things about herself, the world and others she has worked with.
“I can’t imagine who I would be without the personal development I have received through service and civic action,” says Kehrein