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Global sociology major "puts down roots" in Spokane

Global sociology major Rhiana Everest, '19, has spent her last two spring breaks participating in Put Down Roots, in Spokane. The program, which was launched by Bethany Grenfell, '15, helps students engage with the city on multiple levels to learn about Whitworth's hometown. Everest is originally from Leavenworth, Wash., so her first Put Down Roots experience helped introduce her to Spokane's distinct community.

"Put Down Roots is an opportunity to serve and learn about Spokane by partnering with a variety of nonprofits that work to heal the broken parts of the city," Everest says. "Spokane is full of many great things, but it simultaneously suffers from many injustices, and there are countless incredible people and organizations working to better the community and the people within it."

Rhiana sits on a stump and smiles in a wooded area.

Each year, Whitworth students are invited to participate in a unique spring-break experience designed by Whitworth faculty who attend Whitworth Church and by Whitworth's Dornsife Center for Community Engagement. The program's itinerary is designed to be surprising for students so they gain added value from the experience. However, basic activities from the past two years have included serving Spokane's homeless population, working with children in an afterschool program, and working with a service organization in the low-income West Central Neighborhood.

"One of the most memorable moments for me was the walking tour of West Central," Everest says. "It was interesting to walk through the neighborhood while learning about its history, its struggles, and its triumphs."

Put Down Roots challenges students' perspectives.

"People always say we live in a small world, but this experience broadened my world on multiple levels," Everest says. "What influenced my perspective the most was the stories of the people I spoke with and listened to throughout the week. I spent extended time with several people who are homeless, and hearing their stories helped me to imagine them complexly in a way I hadn't before. Listening to the stories of people, just listening, changes how you view them. I don't think there will ever be a point where I stop learning from it."

At Whitworth, Everest is an overseer for Green Dot, a program that helps prevent power-based personal violence by training bystanders to intervene. During Jan Term 2018 she plans to study in Cuba and Costa Rica through Whitworth's faculty-led program Sustainable Development Abroad: Poverty, Inequality, Environment and Social Change.

"I have a strong interest in global inequality and poverty, and this program will give me hands-on experience learning within the communities I have studied in class thus far," Everest says. "I will be immersed in new cultures different from my own, which will help me see the world from another perspective."

After graduating from Whitworth, Everest plans to pursue a job serving her community.