Monday, March 2, 2015

Chelsie Wyse and Challenge Scholars

Name: Chelsie Wyse 

What is your job?
I am the Community Engagement Specialist with The Rapidian. It is my job to reach out to the Grand Rapids community and engage them with The Rapidian, a hyper-local, citizen journalism news source. I accomplish this by physically going out into the community by attending events, networking, or sitting down with someone over coffee. I also accomplish this connecting with the community through social media. Many of us are online and I want to make sure I’m meeting current and potential readers and reporters where they are. 

 What social causes are most important to you?
While much of my day centers around what is happening locally, I also have a great interest in the events happening around us, nationwide and worldwide. I believe in equal rights to all persons; man, woman, black, white, homosexual, straight... Whatever. A human being deserves to be treated with love, respect, patience and grace.
Along the same lines, I am advocate against sexual assault. It’s too often I read stories about individuals being taken advantage of, forced into doing something they did not consent to. Who deserves that, ever? It’s infuriating. It’s upsetting. And it’s about damn time we do something about it.
Another social cause I am deeply passionate about is every individual’s right to bettering him/her self through post-secondary education. Not everyone wants to go to college- I get that. But there are training programs for trades. There are resources out there for young people and grown adults alike to become the person they’ve dreamed of becoming. Unfortunately, those who want it most are not able to obtain due to a collection of reasons. Unfortunately, all too often the main obstacle in their way is lack of financial support to get to that next level. But how is an individual supposed to make enough money to get to that next level, if the only places of employment available to him/her are establishments that don’t offer enough? It’s this painful, and often times generational, cycle that keeps aspirational people from achieving what they dream. We need to break the cycle. 

What charities do you support – and how?
I am a proud supporter of the Human Rights Campaign and It’s On Us campaign. I share that support through monetary contributions, along with being an advocate in my daily life.
I am also a big supporter of a Grand Rapids-based program called ‘Challenge Scholars.’ It is program housed under Grand Rapids Community Foundation and began in 2011. Challenge Scholars was created to help students in need afford post-secondary
education. It’s a full program, with meetings, criteria, and events. I am not required to attend any of the events but I do because the looks these students have on their faces is something so hopeful, you can’t help but be inspired.

Do you have a passion for one in particular, is there a personal tie?
While I believe in many charities and the good work that is done, my passion for Challenge Scholars runs deep. I was fortunate enough to attend college, but it took me a long time to figure “it” out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I was supposed to go. I ended up goofing around my first two years only to be left with a lot of debt and only a couple transferrable classes. Challenge Scholars not only offers financial assistance to these students, but the educational and emotional support. I would have loved to have someone in my life when I was younger, encouraging me to try just a little harder and stay confident in my abilities. If I can be that voice of confidence for even one of these kids and help them believe in the future they aspire towards, then its worth the hours and extra time spent with them. 

Is there a particular way you would want to encourage readers to be involved?
Before you can get involved in the community, you have to get outside of yourself. Giving back is not about you. It’s about paying it forward to the next person. Everyone has had that one person who did something for us that we didn’t deserve, but was given that gift anyway. The gift could be physical or emotional. Maybe someone gave you a second chance, gave you more time, or paid for something. We live in a society that is deathly afraid of running out or missing out. Unfortunately, that fear keeps us from giving back because we’re afraid we’re going to miss what we’re giving. But that’s not the point. The point is take inventory of everything you have and help someone else feel that lucky, too. 

How would you define social responsibility?
To me, social responsibility is about taking a bit of a utilitarian approach to community. It’s about asking yourself, is what I’m doing, how I’m behaving, and how I’m giving back benefiting those around me? The thing to remember about social responsibility is to not live in a way that rewards how you, yourself, would like to be treated, but to behave in the manner others need you to help. 

About your tattoo?
The tattoo I have on my forearm is a dove, which represents peace and hope. I decided to place it on my forearm because it is one the more vulnerable places on the body. Think about it- when you’re talking with someone, if you want to express you are open to the other individual, you position your body language to reflect that. By placing the ink on my forearm, it involuntarily opens me up to others, especially when others ask to look at it. The placement and the ink itself are daily reminder to be open and to have hope.

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