Students Ashvanika Dodwani ’20 and Hunter McDavid ’21 have found their heart for service in their time at Berea College.
Ashvanika, or Ash, moved to Louisville, Ky., from Pakistan at age 10. Her father moved his four daughters to America to escape societal stereotypes that limit a woman’s life goal to marriage. As a child, Ash accepted that stereotype, seeing education as a waste of time. But, her family’s 7,700-mile move changed everything.
“That’s when it hit me that I had a chance to do something with my life,” Ash said.
Her education became her focus. In her junior year of high school, Ash’s cousin told her about Berea College and how it invests in your future, she recalls.
“Wow, I came from a country that didn’t want to invest in me, to a country with a college that was willing to invest everything in me,” Ash said upon learning more about Berea.
This same grateful attitude steered Ash into an internship this past summer with the Public Defenders of D.C. and has inspired her decision to participate as a Berea Patron.
“I was able to do this internship because of the things Berea had taught me—we should invest in people, to help out those who can’t afford it,” Ash said.
Now a junior political science major with aspirations to attend law school, Ash works as a teaching assistant for a first-year general studies class and as an outreach coordinator for the Office of Career Development. She serves as the judiciary chair for the Student Government Association and is a leader of the speech and debate team.
“When it comes to Berea, I don’t have to hesitate to join a club or give through the Berea Patrons,” Ash said, “because I know this school has done so much for me.”
Hunter McDavid’s participation as a Berea Patron also is rooted in gratitude to the College for helping him discover his true passion for service and the environment.
From Kingsport, Tenn., Hunter participated in Upward Bound as a high school student, spending one month each summer preparing for college. His participation in this program for students from low-income families meant Hunter was a perfect prospective student for Berea. Living on food stamps and child support, and growing up in low-income apartments with a verbally, mentally and sometimes physically abusive mother, Hunter longed to escape.
“I chose Berea because I needed a place to go, and I had no options but Berea,” Hunter said. “I was on my own.”
Hunter struggled adjusting in his first semester at Berea, and eventually found himself on the verge of committing suicide. As he searched for a reason to live, one thought popped in his head. He was scheduled to host a student for Carter G. Woodson weekend the following day.
“I couldn’t do it,” Hunter recalled. “I didn’t think about anything else, I just thought of that one person I didn’t even know and my privilege to serve him. So, I met this kid, and he literally saved my life.”
That weekend ignited Hunter’s passion for serving. He later connected with Wendy Warren, the Forestry Outreach Center coordinator, and fell in love with the Brushy Fork Forest. His experience spending time in Brushy Fork, along with a May course trip to Arizona where he learned about the culture and philosophy of the Navajo and Hopi peoples, helped Hunter realize the healing and focusing effect nature had over him.
Hunter switched to an independent outdoor adventure education major, and he now is the student coordinator for the Brushy Fork Nature Coalition. Hunter created the coalition this summer to maintain and restore Brushy Fork’s forest and trails to provide an educational and recreational setting that offers students an opportunity to learn about the environment, wildlife and sustainability.
Hunter connects his Brushy Fork project to his student philanthropy—both are an extension of service to future students.
“Someone else paid for me to be here and that really resonates with me,” he said. “As a striving educator, I couldn’t be happier to have a chance to do something like this and help the education experience for other students. That’s what will make a difference in this world.”