In their book Millennials Rising, Neil Howe and William Strauss pose an interesting thought about today’s generation of college graduates:
“As U.S. and Canadian Millennials get older, they will continue to mobilize their global generation. Perhaps, as young adults, they will not deem the plight of their African (and other Third World) peers so far beyond hope as today’s older generations seem to think. Who knows what good they can someday do?”
For a couple Nevada graduates, that someday is today.
Courtney Bell had an idea: if the families living month-to-month in Reno’s downtown motels were given the initial means and assistance to move into a more permanent living situation, would they be able to remain in that situation?
To answer this question, Bell created “Eye in the Dark,” a nonprofit organization that fundraises to provide food and clothing for such families. He said those initial gifts are intended to allow the family to save up money for a deposit on an apartment.
“I’ve been on the other side, that’s really my inspiration,” says 23-year-old Bell, who is graduating with a dual degree in sociology and speech communication. “As a child I’ve been homeless a few times; we’ve lived in poverty so I understand what those people are going through.”
For his efforts, Bell received the University’s Cavanaugh Community Volunteer Award and KRNV News 4’s Jefferson Award. He also received the University’s Henry Albert Senior Public Service Award and the Outstanding Advocate Service Award.
“Things have a tendency of working out,” Bell said about his accomplishments and the success of his programs. “I do things [outside of school] because it doesn’t take much; people know when you’re the real deal.”
Bell will be the first one to tell you his program’s successes required the help of many others. With the $1,000 award, he said he plans to take Eye in the Dark members out to dinner at a nice restaurant before he puts the rest toward his student loans.
Eventually, Bell says he plans to return to Nevada to pursue a master's degree in public administration.
Jordan Butler has always wanted to make a difference in his world. It’s an indescribable part of his identity.
While many would hesitate before joining the Peace Corps and traveling to Madagascar, Butler didn’t flinch.
“I have been considering joining the Peace Corps since I graduated from high school,” says Butler, a political science major with minors in journalism and French. “I always thought that it would be a good experience. Just the idea that the government would fund two full years for volunteer work is incredible.”
Madagascar will certainly be a change of culture. But Butler isn’t new to traveling to new places. His wandering feet have led him to Pau, France where he studied abroad in 2007. After finishing his studies he backpacked Europe for more than two months.
Butler’s volunteer work began when he returned from backpacking Europe. He worked for the Nevada Blind Center, teaching a theater course and bowling with the blind and the visually impaired. He also worked at The Shade Tree, a shelter for abused woman. He worked with the kids of The Shade Tree’s mothers as a role model and friend.
“Often these kids had been abused by their father,” Butler said. “Because they are moving from family to family and school to school they often don’t have friends.”
The Peace Corps became a logical conclusion for someone who enjoyed traveling and volunteering.
In Madagascar Butler will teach English to junior high and high school students as well as improving the English of his fellow Malagasy teachers. He will also be teaching HIV/AIDS awareness.
After departing for Madagascar June 10, Butler will be tested physically, mentally and emotionally. According to Donna Mensing, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Reynolds School of Journalism, Butler has the perfect temperament for such a challenge.
“He has a wonderful combination of being light hearted, not taking himself too seriously and always being prepared.” Mensing said. “Most people are changed by the Peace Corps and I think Jordan will be also.”
As Bell and Butler walk the commencement stage this weekend, the world will finally start to learn the answer to the question from Millennials Rising:
“Who knows what good they can someday do?”