“The great end of life is not knowledge but action.” The words of Thomas Henry Huxley embody the belief of the University Fellows, those individuals who strive to see knowledge turned to action for the good of our communities. Black Belt Experience, the signature Fellows project, creates an opportunity for students to explore the various issues affecting poverty in the Black Belt and to partner with individuals in Marion, Perry County, Alabama to create systemic change. Students are servant leaders and change agents who create projects that both respond to the needs of the community and capitalize on the students’ particular interests, gifts, and abilities in preparation for lifelong civic action.
The University Fellows’ inaugural Black Belt Experience was May 2009. Since that time, the Honors College has developed significant community partnerships and seen these grow into integral relationships that both provide ongoing opportunity for meaningful service learning for our students and provide fresh energy and perspective to many challenges expressed by member of the Marion community. The continued work with specific partners such as the local public elementary, middle and high schools, the Perry County Chamber of Commerce, the Marion-Perry County Library, and the local nonprofit Sowing Seeds of Hope enable a more promising future: sustainable projects that see educational growth, economic development, health and nutrition improvement, and greater community interaction.
Students who are not in the University Fellows Experience can also take part in activities in Marion and Perry County through the 57 Miles Initiative.