Alum Phillip Lee, a criminal justice major from Chicago, worked with the Niebuhr Center to establish a chapter of the NAACP at Elmhurst. Here, he talks about how the Niebuhr Center helps students develop professional communication skills and discover the value in giving back to the community.
I transferred to Elmhurst from the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff so I could be closer to home. One day I was eating lunch in the cafeteria and Rev. Beauchamp came up to me, introduced himself and invited me to come see him and get involved on campus. Well, I kind of dodged him at first, but then I ran into him again and he said, “You still haven’t come to see me.” So I said, “Alright, I’ll come to see you right now!” And we ended up having a really great conversation. I found out that the people at the Niebuhr Center really are there for you whenever you need them.
Making a More Welcoming Campus
With Rev. Beauchamp’s encouragement, I started a student chapter of the NAACP at Elmhurst. For leading this charge on our campus, I was given the Emerging Leader award from the DuPage NAACP in February and I am a finalist for the 2014 Founders Medal. We want everyone to feel comfortable on campus, whatever skin they’re in. And if someone’s not comfortable, we’ll do what we can to make them feel at home. Everyone should feel like Elmhurst is where they belong.
I had to sign members up to get our chapter recognized by the national organization. So I went out and recruited. I set up a table in the Frick Center and made my pitch about why the campus needed this organization. I tried to make people feel the same burn for this activity that I was feeling. And I just about slept in the Niebuhr Center for a week, trying to get the signatures I needed. Everyone must have been tired of seeing me there.
I’m a city boy who went to a high school that’s not known for academic success. I didn’t really feel comfortable talking to people until the Niebuhr Center gave me the skills I needed. I learned to give presentations and talk in front of groups of people. I learned how to go through the right channels to accomplish things. I learned a lot about communication skills and professionalism. I’m really thankful for all the success I’ve had at Elmhurst.
Teach for America is a way for me to give back to the community. So many people helped me get through the Chicago Public Schools. I was the first in my family to go to college. I knew I had the grades to go to college, but I didn’t know what to expect there because no one in my family could tell me. It’s important to have people who can push you forward and help you through. I want to be the kind of person that kids can turn to for help and encouragement.
At my graduation [in February] I had the chance to think about all the memories, all the successes I experienced at Elmhurst. I feel like I accomplished a lot. And I’m so thankful for all the people at the Niebuhr Center who helped me do it. I hold them near and dear to my heart.