Alexa Ross, a third year student at Taylor University, is a student leader committed to the holistic development of children and families in the inner-city. For the last two years she has provided leadership for a weekly children's program designed to teach life lessons, provide a nourishing meal and show love to children in need of adult mentors. She recruits, trains and leads her peers as well as provides general oversight for the program. Her involvement with the children each week allowed her to develop supportive relationships with their parents and families. Through this children's program she was made aware of a specific need for a safe place for the children to play. She solicited help and funds from local community organizations and university alumni, students, faculty and staff to build a safe playground for the local boys and girls club. She is currently developing fellow student leaders who can continue to serve community children and families when she graduates.
During my first semester at Taylor University, as I questioned my reason for being, my purpose in life, my decisions, and even my "fit" at the University, a girl on my floor invited me to a ReaLife gathering. ReaLife is an inner-city ministry designed for students in grades K-5, in Marion, Indiana. I didn't feel a calling to younger children, but I decided to give it a try. Within moments of my arrival, I was drawn to the 30 students present. By spring semester, I was asked to be the director of the program. Little did I know, we would decide to build a playground at the Boys and Girls Club of Grant County, where ReaLife met with the children each Tuesday night. It became my job to fundraise, design the playground, and facilitate the volunteers as we completed the project. As a staff, we also decided to expand from K-5 to now walking alongside students in grades K-8. The ministry has grown 300% in the last 2.5 years, going from 50 to 150 each week. We are blessed to have 50 college-age staff members who feed, share God's word, assist with homework, and play games with each child present.