BereaCorps Member Profile

Rick Childers

Rick Childers graduated from Berea College in 2016 with a degree in English. As a student, he discovered his love for storytelling and published several stories in literary journals. To read Rick’s work, take a look at Still: The Journal at http://www.stilljournal.net/richard-childers-fiction.php 

He currently works with students in the Appalachian Male Initiative as the BereaCorps Appalachian Male Advocate and Mentor in the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, alongside Bobby Starnes and Chris Green.

Strategic Initiatives Program Associate Ethan Hamblin sat down with Rick to learn his Berea story, in his own words….

I am from Estill County, Kentucky, and I ended up at Berea College by chance. I was set on going to one of the big state schools because that is all I had really heard about and looked into. I wasn’t very active in my college search, I just knew I was going to college somewhere. And then about my junior year in high school, I heard about a school visit to Berea, so I signed up to get out of class. On our visit, they were talking about the no-tuition promise scholarship, and I started thinking, ‘well maybe I should look a little bit further into this.’ Berea seemed like a pretty good opportunity to be so close to home.

My mom has worked at a pharmaceutical company in Winchester and my dad has done much of the same, just different factory jobs, and sometimes construction. Neither of them went to college, so they were always very encouraging about me getting an education. One thing about Berea that my dad didn’t like is that I had to stay on campus. That was the one issue they had with me coming to Berea and of course worrying about me coming home different from the son they sent off.

In high school, I would have defined myself as more the nerdy type. I mostly played video games with my select friends. When I came to Berea, I was paired up a basketball player for a roommate. It was a different personality than I was used to, but it worked out very well. We become pretty dang good friends. When it came to the social aspect of campus, that roommate and I were not excited to be involved in the Berea activities. We secluded ourselves as much as possible.

By spring semester, I got really depressed and was ready to leave. I remember talking to my mom and saying, “Yes, I’m transferring. I am done with this place. I don’t like it here.” A lot of that was fed by the exclusion and keeping to myself. I was also beginning to question my major. I had come to Berea with a declared major of chemistry and was not enjoying it. My advisor told me to explore a different major. I talked to him about English, since I brought some English credits with me. He pushed me to go for it.  I took an English class that made me start thinking about my family history and all of the events that led up to various happenings in my life. I was looking back on the past and realized I had a story to tell. I was confident that I was one of the few who could tell it well.

I would say that I began to find myself. I branched out a lot more: meeting people through my roommate and building new friendships. Beginning to question what I wanted to do and find the path that was meant for me at Berea really served as a catalyst to wake me up. That’s what it did.

And in regard to his BereaCorps experience…

Upon graduation, I was skeptical about BereaCorps, because I didn’t know what the pay would be like or what the finer details would be. I told a lot of people I was going to work in a factory and a lot of my friends did not like that. BereaCorps provided me an opportunity. I wasn’t just taking an easy way out by working in whatever job I could find.

My first year, I worked for the Office of Admissions. I utilized the skills I fostered through my English degree, especially when relating to people and the students I met. But when I saw the Appalachian Male Mentor position, it just lit something up inside me because I thought, I have been where these kids have been. I’ve been angry about things that these kids have been angry about. I thought I could definitely help them. I knew that I could see myself in that role and making a difference.

I have been overwhelmed and humbled with how responsive they have been. They talk to me for an hour if we have the time. I have read their journals and hearing how they have considered leaving, knowing that the initiative has drawn them back.

I hope I’m no big trailblazer or anything like that, but I hope that if for some reason, I am brought up to future generations, I pray that students from similar backgrounds like mine can possibly look at me and realize that you don’t have to think a certain way, you don’t have to go along with everybody else, you can be yourself, and that it ain’t that serious.

BereaCorps Member Profile

Over the coming year, the Office of Strategic Initiatives will proudly showcase the BereaCorps members who are engaged in dedicated service across campus. These young professionals are exemplary in hard work and passionate about upholding the values and mission of Berea College. We are honored to share their stories. 

Erica Woods

Erica Woods ‘15 is a current BereaCorps member, serving as an Admissions Representative.  She originally hails from New Hope, Alabama, and is the oldest of four children. In 2015, she graduated from Berea College in 2015 with a B.A. in African and African American Studies.

She was extremely active on campus, serving as a member of the Black Student Union and LASA. In addition, she participated in the annual Berea Fund Phonathon and volunteered for Hispanic Outreach Program.

Strategic Initiatives Program Associate Ethan Hamblin sat down with Erica to learn her Berea story, in her own words….

When I was in high school, I played volleyball and my coach and librarian nominated me to be a Pinnacle Scholar. Before that, Berea was not on my radar. Then, I came up for Carter G. Woodson Diversity Weekend and made lots of friends. In fact, my roommate for freshman year was someone I had actually met on that visit. The friends I made on that day, I am still friends with today. It just took that one time of connecting with people and I fell in love with Berea.

As a student, my time was rather busy. I ran track all four years. That was one of my favorite Berea memories, just to see myself progress. I wish I could have ran in high school but my high school was so small, and they didn’t have a program. As for my labor position, I worked at the Center for International Education all four years. I studied abroad in Costa Rica and I still keep in contact with the host family I stayed with. I want to go back some day, but wish I had went back after I graduated.

I also spent many hours volunteering with the Hispanic Outreach Project. When you are taking an upper-level Spanish course, you are required to volunteer. But, even after that, I kept doing it. I started out teaching a class of third graders for basic Spanish. They’re so cute and would be so excited when we would come in every day. Then I got to tutor a couple of Hispanic students in the community school. I had so much fun doing it!

Erica’s Berea story, like many students, was not without a few ups and downs….

Little known fact: I got suspended from Berea for a whole year. Looking back on it now, you wonder ‘why did I do that.’ It was really rough, because I didn’t want to go to any other school. I didn’t think it would have happened to me, but I definitely saw it as a growing experience. I matured a lot. When I came back, most of my friends had graduated and I was forced to readjust. It was very weird coming back in those circumstances because I felt like an outsider. Yet, it was easier to pick back up once I got involved again in organizations and sports.

Four years later, when graduation came around, I had a little anxiety. I am a planner, but nothing was going the way I wanted it to. So, I ended up applying for an AmeriCorps position with White House Clinics. It was not what I had expected and was not particularly a good fit for my interests. After a few months, I ended up leaving AmeriCorps to work at the Holiday Inn. And then, only a month passed and I had the opportunity to apply as an Admissions Representative with BereaCorps.

BereaCorps has been an excellent bridge from my student labor position, and gave me the chance to enhance and fine tune my professional skills. I am better at public speaking and have come out of my shell. I am typically very reserved and into myself, but with this position you have to put yourself out there. That was a challenge I wanted to overcome. One of the challenges with being an Admissions Representative is not being able to hold on to the connections I make. Admission Representatives are the initial contact a potential student has and then we pass them on to an Admissions Counselor, so the Counselor builds a stronger connection. In other words, we facilitate the opening conversation. I thrive on those early connections and when I see a student that I had talked to and they don’t remember me, it always breaks my heart. However, there have been many times a student has come to campus and specifically asked to speak to me while in the Admissions Office. These are the special moments that make it all worth it.

Even still, I know there are students out there who really need Berea, whether they know it or not. When you encounter a student and they’re really excited about Berea and they are accepted, it’s really humbling to know that I helped in the process.

I know where I come from. I know where a lot of Berea students come from…their stories….so I am overjoyed to be able to pass along to someone else the opportunities that Berea gave to me.

News and Updates

Thank you for visiting our newly updated webpage. We will soon be sharing project stories from across campus, offering updates on the happenings of our office, and connecting you with the inspiring initiatives in communities beyond Berea.