2016 Civic Scholar Carrick Reddin shares his reflections on the role of mentorship and community while at WashU and now as a citizen of St. Louis.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”
At this very moment, all around the country, citizens are coming together to improve their communities. From local schools to church basements, grassroots movements continue to play an essential role in shaping the American city. Because of my experience with the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, I have the privilege of working with these movements to connect resources, ideas and strategies in order to achieve stronger, more equitable communities.
Within my role at Rise Community Development, a St. Louis-based nonprofit, I help lead a community planning process in South St. Louis City. In collaboration with local elected officials, neighborhood organizations, residents and other community stakeholders, we are facilitating the development of a shared community vision and strategy to ensure the long-term growth and vitality of the area.
I first began working with Rise as a Gephardt Civic Scholar; my summer project involved the development of a master plan for a commercial corridor on St. Louis’s Northside, a collaboration between Rise, Trivers Associates, a local architecture firm, and the Equifax Foundation. David Stiffler, of the Equifax Foundation, facilitated my connection to this work and has served as a mentor throughout my Gephardt experience.
At the Gephardt Institute, service begins and ends with individual connections. My introduction to David, made through the institute, has meant my introduction to St. Louis. It is because of his tireless commitment to community betterment and youth empowerment that I have found a fulfilling, impactful career. His mentorship has placed me in rooms with senators and City officials. His belief in me has allowed me to produce work that makes an impact. Above all, his friendship has made St. Louis a place I call home.
David is one of the many influential and compassionate individuals within the Gephardt Institute’s network. The institute also provides countless opportunities for peer to peer connections. My cohort of Civic Scholars contains some of the most impressive and compassionate people I have ever met. Through the training and connections we received, I feel confident going into meetings at all scales of my work – from elected officials to neighborhood residents, from nonprofits executives to business owners. Through these experiences, I have found a passion for public service where I may serve as a translator, bringing together people with seemingly disparate ideas to discover shared values and vision.
During my time at Washington University, I came to understand that compassion, deep listening, and collaboration are the most important characteristics of a successful leader. Now, with the opportunity to test my leadership in the public realm, I look back on my time at WashU and with the Gephardt Institute as key foundations from which to grow.
My passion for public service would not have been found were it not for the Gephardt Institute. The opportunities, training, and above all relationships that I accessed during my time have changed my life. We live in a world where there is a deep need for a new generation of leadership. Your support of Washington University students is essential in developing leaders that will tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. I am not sure what I will achieve as an individual, but, as I look at my peers, I know that our collective impact will be extraordinary.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”