Response from the Community-Engaged Fellows

On March 6, the Newswire published an opinion piece entitled “The proper way to honor service.” The following is a response from Brennan H. Kizer Ball and Casey Smith on behalf of the Xavier University Community-Engaged Fellows.

A March 6 opinion piece in the Newswire, “The proper way to honor service,” discussed Xavier’s service scholarship program, the Community-Engaged Fellowship, and how our university honors service as a whole.

As current Community-Engaged Fellows, we appreciate the support the piece expresses for our program, but feel it underrepresents the true meaning of the Fellowship and how our university values community service and engagement.

Our program, which began at Xavier in 1989, was one of the first in the country to support students who commit to service with a tuition-based scholarship. The piece discusses a perceived disparity between the “benefits” reaped by student-athletes and students like us who participate in the Fellowship —  benefits such as “notoriety, access to transportation and increased scholarship funding.” 

No student enters into service with a community seeking notoriety, and while we are appreciative that our program is known and supported by our classmates, faculty and staff, we hope we are “notorious” where it matters most:  in the communities we serve who view us as collaborators, friends and representatives of Xavier’s commitment to engaging surrounding neighborhoods.

It is true that our program started as a full scholarship for a select few students, but that program changed throughout the years, providing different financial opportunities to more Fellows who came to Xavier. The recent increase in scholarship aid discussed in the piece is the first for our program in more than eight years, and we believe it represents a tremendous commitment on behalf of the university. 

Unfortunately, the piece did not include actual testimonials from Fellows about what the scholarship and related increase means to them. In not doing so, it missed an opportunity to share how emotional it was for many of us to learn about this increase and share this news with our families who work so hard to ensure we can attend and thrive at Xavier. Without sharing these voices, we felt the piece missed a chance to demonstrate how the scholarship and related increase will affect each of our lives and the communities we serve. For many of us, a Xavier education was out of reach. For others, the scholarship offered what other schools could not: a chance to commit fully to service and community building while receiving a Xavier education.

We came to Xavier prepared to commit ourselves weekly and are dedicated and deeply connected to the communities we serve.  The Fellowship provides a medium to live a life of solidarity defined by community collaboration. As Fellows, we would not trade our experiences for any amount. We are incredibly grateful for Xavier’s support of such a historic program and for the opportunities we receive both individually and as a Fellowship community.