Whitney Maness, a junior at Furman University, embodies Furman's value of fostering thriving communities through her work with the local Hispanic and Latino community and promoting the necessity of creating inclusive and diverse communities. Whitney has devoted her time with several organizations including the Frazee Dream Center and the Miracle Hill Boys shelter. Her deepest partnership is with Neighborhood Focus (NF), a local non-profit that supports Hispanic and Latino K-12 students through afterschool and summer programming. What impresses me most about Whitney is her humility and her focus on addressing the root causes of inequity and poverty. She works alongside community partners and takes the time to form deep relationships. She realizes that the solutions to community challenges are complex and that she does not have all the answers-that she has as much to learn, as she has to give. One of the most impressive things about Whitney is how she is integrating her work and advocacy into her coursework and co-curricular activities. For example, she authored an op-ed in the Greenville newspaper entitled "What's So Un-American About Being Bilingual?," in which she denounced linguistic discrimination, celebrated cultural diversity, and proposed strategies for making Greenville a more inclusive place.
It was at Frazee Dream Center that I realized my profound love for working with children and providing simple but essential resources like attention, time, and affection for kids that may not receive those things at home by helping with homework or playing outside. I was introduced to Neighborhood Focus which combines my love of kids with my skills as a Spanish major by working with Hispanic and Latino students in their afterschool program. I also volunteer at the Miracle Hill Boys Shelter where boys who have been displaced from their home are cared for until they can be permanently settled. I can see the trends between the three organizations and over time I have developed a passion to address them on larger scales. Hispanic and Latino children are often at a certain disadvantage in public education and the root cause is related to linguistic barriers and poverty systems. I have published an Op-Ed on the importance of bilingualism and I am integrating advocacy into my other coursework. The more we do what is best for every kid like integrating language immersion, mentorship, and summer enrichment programs, the more we will invest in the opportunity to improve our collective future.