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Meet Kelly Chervin

Kelly Chervin

Majors: Sociology, Communication

Hometown: Bedford, NY

Kelly Chervin received Wake Forest’s first Change Maker Award honoring a student who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to social issues and has been dedicated to galvanizing support from her peers for social justice and positive change. Over the past four years, Kelly has worked to integrate education and reflection more fully into service programs. She will join Teach For America next fall in New Orleans.

Q: What’s different about you since your first days on campus?

A: I arrived at Wake Forest a three-season varsity athlete anticipating a career in marketing who had never participated in community service in my life. Pro Humanitate? The motto was lost on me. Four years, six service trips and over 400 hours of community service later, I can only laugh at how unrecognizable I am from the insecure girl I was then. Through my classes, relationships, and extra-curricular activities, Wake Forest has transformed me into an autonomous, engaged and passionate leader empowered to enact social change through service and justice work. Had you told the girl sobbing because she didn’t get into her top- choice sorority that she would receive Wake’s Office of Service and Social Action’s inaugural Change Maker Award and graduate to her dream job in teaching, she wouldn’t have believed believe you. She wouldn’t have believed that Pro Humanitate was to become her life’s mission.

Q: What service project did you enjoy most?

A: Every spring break since my freshman year I participated in a Wake Alternative Break service trip. Each trip, whether it was helping Habitat for Humanity in Florida, tutoring at risk youth in Atlanta, volunteering in a soup kitchen in Birmingham or removing invasive species in Appalachia, I gained a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me. What made it most enjoyable was the opportunity to engage with, ask questions of and learn from the insights of my peers who after long days of volunteering were eager to reflect on these transformative experiences.

Q: What made you decide to be a sociology major? 

A: Because of Dr. Robin Simon I found a love for sociology. After completing our first exam in her Principles of Sociology class, she required all her students regardless of the grade they received on the test to meet with her outside of class. It was during this meeting that I not only found my first mentor and advisor but was empowered by her words to pursue this interest and declare the major that has transformed my perspective on the world.  It is because of Dr. Simon that I realized my interest in social inequality and passion for reforming it.

Q: Best advice you were given during your four years at Wake Forest?

A: The assistant director of campus life and my mentor Shelley Sizemore gave me the best advice, and it is summed up by a sticker found on my computer: ‘Those afraid to engage remain unchanged.’ In order to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, others and the world, it’s important to reflect, think critically and ask questions. This is how we challenge assumptions and make meaning out of what we’re learning and experiencing. Teaching in inner-city New Orleans will be extremely challenging, yet I plan to apply this advice to better understand my students and thus become a more effective teacher.

Q: Where is the one place on campus you will miss most and why?

A: My day was not complete without spending time in the Benson Center. It’s the building that I ate in, worked in and hung out in but most significantly it’s the place I knew I could come to when I wanted to find a friend or a trusted mentor. It’s there that I had some of my most meaningful and organic conversations at Wake Forest, and cultivated both projects and relationships that I truly cherish.

Q: What shared values do you feel unite the Wake Forest community?

A: The Wake Forest community strives to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and is ambitious, entrepreneurial and bold in realizing that goal.

Q: Your best advice for an incoming first-year student?

A: Take advantage of the unique opportunities and resources available on this campus. Take that fascinating philosophy class everyone says is impossible, attend the Harry Potter Experimental College course, volunteer on a Saturday, make an appointment with a career counselor, make the effort to engage with your professor after class, try out for the play even if you have no acting experience and it just interests you. Don’t be afraid to try new things and challenge yourself to go outside of your comfort zone. It is through these experiences you will learn more about yourself and discover your passions.