September 30th, 2010

This fall, we’re highlighting members of the Alabama Possible movement who are working to change the dynamics of poverty in this state. Today we feature Brendan Rice, a sophomore in our partner UAB’sGlobal and Community Leadership Honors Program. When he stopped by the office recently between classes (below), Brendan told me how his involvement with APP put him on the path to hunger advocacy and “everything just fell into place.”

Brendan became an advocate for change after his junior year of high school when he attended our 2008 Alabama Possible camp. But looking back on it, he never planned to go to a summer camp about poverty in the first place.

“It was one of those things that just kind of happened,” he laughs. “I didn’t really have anything to do. My dad heard about it from a professor friend of his and suggested I go, so I filled out the application.”

“When I got there, I was surrounded by all these people who had so much to teach me. I learned about the Alabama constitution, systemic causes of poverty, and tax reform. Suddenly I was charged up to go out and do stuff I had never thought about! Being surrounded by all these passionate people had a really amazing effect; it just sort of rubbed off on me. After camp, I was still buzzing.”

Brendan was convinced he wanted to work in social justice, and he thought he needed to go to an out-of-state liberal arts college. But after camp, Dr. Bob Corley, an APP board member and director of the Global and Community Leadership Honors Program, sent him a letter inviting him to come work on developing his leadership skills in the program. “It just completely fit,” he says. UAB tuition was affordable, the community was supportive and welcoming, and he knew immediately it was the program for him.

During his spring break in 2009, Brendan interned with the Alabama Poverty Project for a week. Since then, Brendan has been a constant presence at APP, stopping by often to help with events or just to catch up. Through the GCL honors program, Brendan has a small and supportive community of students and teachers committed to being leaders for change. And, he says, “I’ve learned how to sculpt my passion into action.”

Brendan is seemingly always busy with advocacy and service-learning: this year alone, he attended a student lobbying day in Montgomery to advocate for the grocery tax repeal; marched to Montgomery for hunger justice; and participated in a poverty service-learning course, where he prepared tax returns for low-wealth clients.  After attending the Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit in Auburn last spring, he was inspired to spend the summer in D.C. as an intern with Bread for the World, where he trained as a Hunger Justice Leader. The next step is to promote hunger advocacy through UAB’s Food Security Initiative.

Brendan thinks his desire to fight poverty grew from his spiritual upbringing. “I guess it was my parents, and my dad’s preaching, that really started it.” His father is a Presbyterian minister who “always talked about caring for the least of these.” Brendan applies this philosophy to all of his goals: how does it help the least powerful members of society?

Volunteers and advocates like Brendan show us what is possible. We thank him for all he is doing!

Students like Brendan are engaging poverty in Alabama every day. Know someone, some place or some program showing what is possible? Nominate them for the Alabama Possible Spotlight.

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Posted by Robyn Hyden