I am saddened to hear you believe so strongly that Knox students care so little.
Yes, there may exist a small number of Knox students who look down upon Galesburg residents—in any group of people there will always be those who don’t understand or who don’t want to understand, those who don’t care or who have skewed perceptions of how people end up in situations of hardship.
Most of us, however, have no inclination to scoff. There are students here who are very privileged—we are all privileged in the sense that we have an opportunity for such a good education—but there are quite a few students at Knox who come from Galesburg or from towns much like Galesburg, whose families are not the ones paying for their education, who might understand more than you think. Those of us who don’t understand firsthand the kinds of hardships that Galesburg residents experience do see, and in many occasions feel very deeply for, what people have been going through here.
What can we do? I have friends who mentor Galesburg children in the Big Brother Big Sister program, who are staying here over the winter break to work at Safe Harbor instead of going home to see family, who regularly volunteer at community events, who help out in the Literacy Coalition and lead reading groups for local ESL learners. Some of our efforts, such as trying to organize community programs for Galesburg teens about safe sex and teen pregnancy (a reality entwined with economic trouble) are rejected. Most efforts, however, are well-received, and the students who volunteer never seem to feel in any way above those that their efforts help.
These are the only things we can do as students—give some of our time, some of our skills in different areas, use the sense of community that we have with Galesburg residents (despite the simultaneous sense of divide that I think is present on both sides) to help who we can. We can’t fix Galesburg, we can’t fix the economy, we can’t do anything that would come close to helping everyone.
Hopefully our time at Knox and our experiences in Galesburg will lead to something more in the future; maybe some of us will become lawmakers, community activists, politicians, artists, medical professionals, volunteers who will work to help Galesburg and similar communities, who will try to ensure that others understand the strife faced by people so deeply affected by economic turmoil. What, besides the little we are able to do now as students, can we do until then?