Adrienne Keller Eisenmenger ’05 helps young refugees from all over the world settle into their lives in the United States. She helps them in the process of getting high school certifications, searching for scholarships, and visiting and applying to colleges. Eisenmenger is not a volunteer; she is the family and youth services manager at the Kentucky Refugee Ministries based in Louisville, Ky. She is a professional who wades through copious amounts of paperwork, legalities and grant writing to enable refugees to find their place in Kentucky. She developed her commitment to service by incorporating acts of love into her everyday life.

Eisenmenger grew up reading voraciously. As a child, her father would drop her off in the library on a Saturday morning and pick her up in the afternoon. Her favorite teachers had a habit of slipping her a book and encouraged her to read. Brought up in rural Henagar, Ala., books were Eisenmenger’s gateway to the world. She consumed everything from Shakespeare to a variety of travelogues that transported her to faraway places on the planet.

She soon realized that her socio-economic conditions might prevent her from seeing the world she read about all the time. She felt that it was not expected of her and her classmates to leave the place they were born to explore the world. Nonetheless, she kept her reading habits alive and fostered a desire to understand the world’s diversity.

During the pivotal time of Eisenmenger’s life in high school, she received a call from the admission counselors at Berea telling her about the history and ethos of the College. Eisenmenger was captivated by Berea’s commitment to social justice and applied.

The first few weeks of her college life, Eisenmenger was busy exploring the options to serve at the volunteer fair where the Center for Excellence in Learning through Service (CELTS) showcased a variety of programming, from food banks to Habitat for Humanity. Serving students became a part of Eisenmenger’s everyday life at Berea.

“I was really lucky because my whole friend group was so motivated to serve,” she said. “They would be serving in different organizations. I would find myself going with them or they would go with me. It felt very organic.”

Adrienne Eisenmenger with coworker at Kentucy Refugee Ministries
Photo by Nay Kaw ’23

At Berea, Eisenmenger took up the position of student chaplain, a trained resident in one of Berea’s many residence halls who provides spiritual and emotional support to students who need it.

“I think that chaplain program at the time was unique to Berea,” Eisenmenger said. “Many times, you have a crisis in your life, and you may not want to talk to the actual adults about it. But you do want to talk to somebody that’s just there to listen and support.”

Eisenmenger found herself empathizing with students coping with academic stress or even deaths in their families.

In her senior year, Eisenmenger worked as a service chaplain, a unique position where she helped coordinate the efforts of CELTS and the Willis D. Weatherford Jr. Campus Christian Center. Even as her responsibilities piled up, Eisenmenger found time to extend small gestures of love to the student community like baking cookies and distributing them to her residents, leaving a note on a doormat that contained words of affirmation at her residents’ doors. Eisenmenger thought of them as small “blessings,” which people across religions or even those without one could appreciate.

When talking to people across cultures and national identities at their most vulnerable times, she learned the importance of acknowledging their differences while seeing the humanity that connected them.

“Cultural humility,” she reflected. “I don’t know what I don’t know. I learn every day. I never know what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes. And I don’t want to have the arrogance or the ignorance or the audacity to think that I can. And I also have learned the value of just listening and really promoting and letting other people share their stories.”

Student Photographer Nay Kaw photographs alumnus Adrienne Eisenmenger

Full-Circle Service

Read more about how student photographer, Nay ’23 was impacted by Kentucky Refugee Ministries, putting him on a path to Berea.

Eisenmenger’s desire to serve seeped into all aspects of her academic life. While majoring in elementary education, her study-abroad experience in Costa Rica turned her focus to sustainability, sanitation and water conservation, all subjects that focus on improving the living conditions of people across the globe.

After Berea, she earned her Master of International Development degree from Eastern University in Pennsylvania, a program that involved her moving back and forth between South Africa and the United States. Eisenmenger’s interests in elementary education and her knowledge of grassroots development work would combine to help her serve immigrant and refugee youth in Louisville’s Kentucky Refugee Ministries.

Eisenmenger is helping her country and region become more diverse. She is enabling the cultures and people she read about as a child adjust to the spaces and localities she calls home.

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