This year, 13 Knox students and recent graduates are working to burst the infamous “Knox bubble” through KnoxCorps, an initiative designed to bridge the gap between town and college.
In its first year, KnoxCorps has seven undergraduate members and six alumni fellows. Each will serve for the entire academic year with one of 11 nonprofits, working to expand these organizations’ reach and foster civic engagement. Fellows will receive stipends for 20 hours of work per week; undergraduates serve as volunteers for approximately eight hours per week.
Announced by President Teresa Amott during her installation ceremony on May 5, KnoxCorps works with local organizations in an effort to strengthen town-college relations while building up the Galesburg community. The program is a partnership between Knox and the Galesburg Community Foundation and is administered by Dr. Gary Funk, director of the Center for Midwestern Initiatives.
“We are grateful to these new graduates and students for their willingness to take on this new venture,” Funk said in a Knox College press release. “All have made Galesburg their home for four years, and they are inspiring in their dedication to service, to Knox and to this community.”
The Knox Student had the opportunity to sit down with three KnoxCorps participants to discuss their initial work and what they hope to do over the course of their appointments. While all three work for different organizations, they share a common belief in the potential of Galesburg and the importance of the involvement of young people for its future.
Bridget Doherty: FISH Food Pantry
In high school, sophomore Bridget Doherty volunteered with the Empty Bowls Project, which involved collaboration between local artists and restaurants to serve bowls of soup to Oak Park, Ill. residents and raise money for a food pantry. The experience led her to search out similar opportunities at Knox.
“I just wanted to be a part of something where I could give back to Galesburg because this is my home now too, and I love it here,” she said.
Doherty is supporting the FISH Food Pantry by building a website, blog and Facebook page to spread awareness of the pantry’s work and recruit more volunteers, hopefully from among a younger age group.
“They call me ‘kid’ here,” she said of the other pantry volunteers. “There are so few kids, so I want to … broaden our volunteer base and just get the community more aware of the food pantry.”
A potential studio art major, Doherty also wants to bring an aesthetic flair to the pantry by creating a mural on one of its walls. She wants students from Knox and Carl Sandburg College, as well as high school students, to be involved in the design and painting process.
“We as students who are living here … have a duty to get out there and just be involved,” she said.
Elizabeth Cockrell: Sustainable Business Center
The Sustainable Business Center is familiar territory for post-baccalaureate fellow Elizabeth Cockrell ’12, who interned there throughout her junior and senior years. The prospect of continuing to work with the center motivated her to apply for the KnoxCorps.
“I was already going to be in Galesburg because I’m a post-bac, so I looked at it as this great opportunity that had fallen into my lap,” she said. “Most post-bacs bartend or waitress to make ends meet … it makes so much more sense to have some job that’s more beneficial.”
Cockrell’s major project at the SBC is the creation of a food hub, or aggregation center where farmers can bring their produce to be catalogued and sold to major buyers such as the college. In addition, she is organizing a series of classes on sustainability and environmental topics to be held at the SBC.
“We’re the business center, so I think there’s room for young entrepreneurs to come in with ideas and start up with a business,” she said. “It [the SBC] is just the perfect place.”
Although Cockrell was already more plugged in to Galesburg due to her long-term involvement with the SBC, she feels that her interactions with local growers and other community members through KnoxCorps have deepened her understanding of the city’s direction.
“Galesburg’s one of those places where it really grows on you … once you understand everything that’s happening as a whole and where it could be moving toward,” she said. “Being part of that movement is just very exciting.”
Josh Hosmer-Quint: Galesburg Downtown Council
Unlike Doherty and Cockrell, senior Josh Hosmer-Quint came into KnoxCorps with a less positive view of Galesburg. Since starting at the Galesburg Downtown Council, his perspective has changed completely.
On a tour of Galesburg for KnoxCorps members, Hosmer-Quint was moved by a visit to the former Maytag plant. When the company moved to Mexico in 2004, it created an economic downturn whose effects still reverberated throughout Galesburg today.
“I did write off Galesburg as a sad little town, and it’s easy to do that if you don’t know anything about it,” he said. “But once you learn the story of where it’s coming from, I don’t think morally you can write it off anymore. You are just driven to help.”
Originally, Hosmer-Quint applied to KnoxCorps to expand his understanding of social work, which he plans to pursue professionally. Now he is taking his interests in the arts and applying them to the city through the Galesburg Downtown Council.
Hosmer-Quint’s first major project is seeking donors for the restoration of advertisements painted on the sides of buildings downtown.
“If there’s artwork in a community, it’s not a downtrodden community,” he said. “It has priorities other than living from paycheck to paycheck, and I think that’s a stereotype Knox students have of Galesburg.”
Pursuing such a major initiative will take time. For now, Hosmer-Quint is focusing on something much smaller: organizing old minutes from the Downtown Council. Although the work can be monotonous, he sees it as important to understanding where the organization has been and where it can go.
“The only way this community is going to be successful is if young people take an interest in it,” he said. “Knox entirely depends on Galesburg … that connection is what’s going to save both of these organizations.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that KnoxCorps had eight undergraduate members and five alumni fellows. We apologize for the error.