U of I Alum Recalls Importance of Alternative Service Breaks
Rachel Davis, 2017 University of Idaho alum, did not expect to be a leader going into college. She distinctly recalls telling herself that she would not be able to stand out — there were too many amazing people, performing at too high of a level to compete with.
Nevertheless, she pushed herself to get involved and eventually lead others. Throughout her time at U of I, she served as an Alternative Service Break (ASB) coordinator, climbed her way to lead ASB coordinator and was a social action coordinator through the U of I Center for Volunteerism and Social Action.
She said part of becoming a leader was how much she cared. She put herself out there, always wanting to do more and impact more people.
“I began to understand the role that compassion and understanding play in being a good leader,” Davis said. “And creating an environment where each team member feels that they have a sense of ownership and responsibility for the team goal, where each person on the team has a sense of accountability for the work they do.”
Davis said one of her favorite college memories was her first ASB trip to South Carolina for trail maintenance during her freshman year. It made her realize how impactful the trips were and influenced her to get more involved.
She has since led two ASB trips to the Philippines and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; been a student leader at Break Away, a national conference for ASB programs; and been a student leader for Base Camp, a weekend women’s leadership trip that partners between ASB, leadership and outdoor programs.
Davis said the ASB trips have taught her valuable lessons. Communities are strong and don’t need people to swoop in and save them. Instead, volunteers should come in and humbly ask what the community needs and do their best to support that.
It is also difficult to fully understand social justice concepts without speaking to people directly affected by the issue(s). She said until those people are spoken with, it is difficult to understand their life and what they face when experiences differ.
Lastly, Davis said everyone comes with their own set of privileges, even if they experience oppression in other areas. It is important to use these privileges to advocate for the rights of those who are oppressed.
Amber Schneider, Center for Volunteerism and Social Action coordinator, said Davis is passionate, determined and engaging. According to Schneider, an important characteristic of Davis’s leadership style is how she wants to hear others’ voices, find collaboration and seek feedback. Also, Davis conveys passion about finding inspiration from others and connecting to an identified need.
“Rachel truly exemplifies empathetic leadership,” Schneider said. “I valued having her in the office because she is an extremely positive person and always has a positive outlook. She valued the thoughts and feelings of those around her and appreciated what people could put forth.”
Schneider said commitment to community development goes beyond any immediate circle. Further, the Center for Volunteerism and Social Action acknowledges social justice work in a direct way. She said Davis shared her passion for community development on campus, Moscow, Idaho and across the globe.
Schneider said, as an ASB student leader, Davis helped educate her peers on social justice issues and ensured everyone was comfortable and safe on all trips. “Davis exemplified active citizenship by identifying social issues in the community and challenging and impacting them in a positive way,” said Schneider.
Davis said everyone is just doing their best.
“There are no superhuman perfect people out there winning all of the awards and taking all of the leadership positions,” she said. “You just have to get out there and try, you know?”