Note: Each year, PeaceWorks-KC gives awards of $1,500 to one or two students at Avila University because of their interest in peace and justice work. One of the 2019 scholars is Jazmine Kenney, who introduces herself to us here.
As a 2019 Avila graduate with a bachelor’s degree in social work, I am now a case manager at Wyandot Center for Community Behavioral Healthcare, located in Wyandotte County. When I heard about the PeaceWorks Board and members and what they do, I became very excited to apply to be one of your peace scholars and continue my education in peace and social justice.
I am originally from St. Louis, where I worked as a high school junior at Red Racks thrift store, which supports the Disabled American Veterans. My parents met in the Air Force and both sets of my grandparents were in the military. I gained much knowledge from listening to my family members and hearing about their experiences. Coming from a military background also gave me the chance to appreciate having family members mentally and physically healthy return from the military. At Red Racks, I could serve those who have served our country and who were less fortunate than my family.
When I moved to Kansas City for college, I was exposed to many opportunities to participate in social justice. For example, on the Avila track and field team, we ran Special Olympic track meets and went to elementary schools in impoverished neighborhoods to read books and talk about college. And three projects outside of my sports program had great impact on me: the women’s shelter, the food bank, and Jewish Community Center. The first project was inspired by a guest speaker who told us about prostitution and how sex addiction in the US is such a huge issue. As a class we gathered supplies for a women’s shelter. However, it was more than the typical clothing or sanitary items. We collected things like makeup and purses, things many women want to have to help with their self-esteem but can’t afford or are not first priority when living in a shelter. Second was volunteering at a food bank in Kansas City through the Episcopal Church and NourishKC. I go back to this shelter whenever I have time, Last was finding the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City. This center allowed me to Para and work with special needs children and realize my passion for social work and advocacy for children.
As I brought my four years at Avila to a close, I realized that all the skills I have gained and experiences I have had revolved around peace and social justice. I have had the chance to work for companies that offer me double what I make as a case manager, but I know I could not sit at a desk getting coffee when there is so much more to be done in our world. Through this award, I hope to take one more step in the direction of helping to create peace here in Kansas City.