Participants of Rhodes’ CityLynx Employment Program Provide GED Assistance to Inmates

Rhodes students have unique opportunities to gain work experience on campus through a variety of programs. Thanks to CityLynx, administered by the college’s Bonner Center for Faith and Service, students who have qualified for financial aid can even get paid to hold work study jobs off campus at different community service sites throughout Memphis.

In her role as the program’s student coordinator, Jocelyn Labombarde ’17 helps review applications and match students with different non-profit and volunteer organizations. With most first-year students being new to Memphis, Labombarde tries to send them to locations that will expose them to issues impacting the city. She also helps them navigate challenges they face at their service sites, emphasizing the importance of critical reflection and building relationships.

One of the most recently added sites is HopeWorks, an outreach program that works to help break the cycles of crime, addiction, and poverty through empowerment and education.  First-year students Jordana Terrell, Davi Hertz, and Keith Harrison assist with HopeWorks’ High School Equivalency Test/GED classes attended by inmates housed at 201 Poplar Avenue in downtown Memphis. The students help prepare PowerPoint presentations, facilitate testing, answer questions, and research best practice policies related to teaching procedures. Terrell says despite the negativity that is associated with jail, she has had remarkable interactions with inmates helping them prepare for tests and better themselves while incarcerated.

Because working with community service organizations can sometimes be equally challenging and rewarding, CityLynx provides weekly sessions for students to reflect and discuss their experiences. A native of Norwalk, CT, Hertz says her work with HopeWorks has fostered her desire to learn more about social justice issues and ways to improve the prison and jail systems. Harrison, who is a business major from St. Louis, MO, adds that the experience is helping him to learn how to better read and interact with people. 

HopeWorks is just one of the many examples of Rhodes students connecting to the city through CityLynx. Although no student will have the same experience, Labombarde says she hopes that everyone is challenged to think more deeply about the ways that they serve the community.

By Lizzie Choy ’17