Dana Smith, Purdue University
Dana Smith consistently seeks out opportunities to learn more about the world around her and is unafraid of being a part of the process towards change. As a Service Break trip leader, Dana designs immersive service-learning experiences in Memphis, Tennessee with members of Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (HOPE). HOPE is made up exclusively of individuals who are currently or have recently experienced homelessness. This further demonstrates her belief that even (perhaps especially) individuals experiencing homelessness have talents and expertise to offer in the effort to address root causes of social issues and concerns.
As Team Lead for the Greater Lafayette Homeless Street Outreach Team, Dana walks the streets during a three-hour shift each week, providing direct resources and building relationships with those in the homeless community. Her ability to connect with individuals who often feel invisible is significant, and even more impressive is the ease in which she is able to lead her peers in doing the same. Through her leadership, student volunteers are able to see the true complexity of our world, and create meaningful change in communities through service, advocacy and engagement.
With a growing commitment to the contributions of all members of society, Dana is sure to move the world forward.
I believe that leadership is a process of creation. Often times, the change we want to see in the world does not exist, so we must create it. In Memphis, Tennessee I worked with homeless community members to build a garden and learn organizing strategies. Members of Homeless Organizing for Power and Equality (HOPE) work hard to create the world in which we should all want to live. A world that (as the HOPE vision states) “is cooperative and inclusive…needs of all people are valued over the profit of a few… and there is dignity and understanding for each person’s individual struggle.” I was inspired by HOPE members (who are exclusively people who are currently experiencing or have formerly experienced homelessness) to engage in activism in my local community, so I joined the Homeless Street Outreach Team, that works to build relationships with unsheltered homeless while providing basic needs and case management. As Team Lead, I am committed to challenging local policies and practices that create barriers to affordable housing. I have learned that everyone brings something—experiences, talents, or perspectives—to the table. By harnessing these strengths and working with all community members, we can affect powerful change.