Elizabeth Velez is the Academic Director for the Community Scholars Program and lecturer in the Department of English.
“It's the third week in May. Grades are turned in, graduation is four days away. And I am having lunch with a graduating senior.
Neither of us can believe that it's been four years since he first arrived on campus on a sweltering day in July of 2014 for the five-week Community Scholars' summer program.
Like every single scholar that I have taught (over thirty-something years), his backstory will take your breath away. Originally from Nepal, he grew up in a refugee camp, was relocated to Vermont, accused of terrorism in high school – and will change the world.
After lunch, he texted that he would be forever grateful for the help I had given him during his time at Georgetown. I texted back thanking him for all that he has done for me. Coincidentally, it was a Community Scholar who patiently and kindly taught me how to text 10 summers ago.
When I reflect on my time as academic director and instructor in the Community Scholars Program, these are the occurrences that I remember:
Each student I have "taught" has taught me lessons both large and small – yes, how to text and yes, how to be more critical of my own often narrow worldview. I am reminded of joyful classrooms. A student once asked if we really should be laughing so much. I recall readings of poems and novels that had never occurred to me, students who wrote, revised and rewrote some more, and students who for 20 minutes argued and wrangled over the use of a single word in a essay.
I have been to some of their weddings, to their grandfathers’ funerals, celebrated with them at my home for Thanksgiving, gone out for tacos and margaritas (after graduation) with many of them, met their extraordinary mothers, fathers and grandparents who raised them righteously. My gratitude to their families runs deep. I am in touch with some who are in their 50s. Each one of them has shown me the true meanings of purpose, justice and love. Each is forever in my heart.”
As Georgetown celebrates the 50 years it has committed to providing high-quality education to first-generation, low-income and underrepresented students, members of the university community reflect on their Georgetown experience through three programs – the Community Scholars Program, Georgetown Scholarship Program and First-Generation Faculty & Staff Initiative. Click through for more of the Georgetown Faces that make up these programs.