Mallory Umar would make Mrs. Roosevelt proud.
In May 2010, she completed her undergraduate degrees in psychology and sociology, as well as earning her certificate in child and family studies. However, that’s not all she has accomplished: “My most positive experience at Roosevelt has been seeing the program that I created come to life: The Eleanor Roosevelt Society - a program for Roosevelt students to learn more about leadership and social justice, to identify needs in their community, as well as stimulate change.”
Mallory first got the idea for the Eleanor Roosevelt Society while working on campus with the Center for Student Involvement’s LEAD Program, which runs a series of student leadership workshops. “We started theming the semesters, giving them an umbrella statement that brought all of the workshops together. One semester was themed ‘Leadership and Social Justice,’ and attendance was sky-high. It made me realize there was a permanent need for this kind of program on campus.”
So why Eleanor? “At Roosevelt, there’s a lot of attention on Franklin. I wanted to look at Eleanor. She was such a progressive leader, so balanced. She fought for workers’ rights, women’s rights, which is how I modeled the society. Instead of focusing on one type of issue, I try to let the students get a taste of everything.”
Since its inception, the Eleanor Roosevelt Society has been a huge success. “Receiving membership applications, meeting the students and going on our first community excursion was so uplifting. I felt a sense of accomplishment, pride and confidence in my own ability.” So far, the society has hosted workshops, volunteered in the community and invited local non-profit leaders to speak about their personal experiences. “I really believe you can learn so much from leaders who have incorporated service as part of their life.”
Hailing from Chicago’s South Side neighborhood of Scottsdale, Mallory lived on campus at Roosevelt on Washington, one of the school’s student residential housing facilities. She says she loved the diversity within the learning community, as it enhances the student experience. “My first roommate was from Russia, and my second one was from Japan. I have had the opportunity to live, attend classes and work with people from all over the United States and across the world. Diversity in ideas is extremely important, especially in a classroom setting.”
In the classroom, she truly appreciated the experiential component to her courses at Roosevelt. As a double major in two social sciences, she said it was invaluable to have service as part of the curriculum. “That’s what really enhances learning. When I get out there and work with children and families, I can apply the theories I’ve learned in action. You can learn about things in a book, but you can only truly understand once you’ve experienced them.”
In addition to being the president of the Student Government Association, Mallory served as a mentor through Big Brothers/Big Sisters and a volunteer tutor through Chicago HOPES, an after-school education program targeting students living in Chicago homeless shelters. As a recipient of an Illinois MAP (Monetary Award Program) grant, a need-based educational grant for undergraduates, she has also been actively involved in reversing the recent budget cuts to the program that threaten so many other students like herself. In April 2010 she was honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Social Justice award for her oustanding service and commitment to the community.
Clearly the University’s mission inspired Mallory to take an active role in addressing social justice issues, which is precisely what she’ll be doing after graduation as a 2010 Teach for America corps member teaching elementary education at an inner-city school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
“I first wanted to do Teach for America after a conversation I had with one of my peers. She said she didn’t want to teach in the Chicago Public School system or in a low-income area because it would be too difficult – and I was hurt by that. Those are the students who need the most attention. If our best teachers decide they don’t want to teach there, those students are going to get a lower quality education. Teach for America makes such a difference for those students who need that extra help.”
Working with Teach for America has been her dream since her Freshman year, and she’s been growing more passionate about the prospect of working with at-risk students since being accepted to Teach for America. “I’d like to level the playing field for all students – low-income, minority, everyone. I believe that education is the road to success. It’s hard to get anywhere without a proper education.”
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