News

March 14, 2008

Megan Kaesshaefer ’08 Writes ‘Profiles of Hope’ Series for The Express-Times

Her first article will appear March 16

English major Megan Kaesshaefer ’08 (Philadelphia, Pa.) is connecting with the Easton community and dispelling negative stereotypes through her work as an intern with the English department.

During the course of the semester, Kaesshaefer is writing articles profiling Easton locals who have overcome numerous obstacles in their lives. The “Profiles of Hope” series will be printed in The Express-Times, with the first article appearing Sunday, March 16.

“There are so many members of the Lehigh Valley community who deserve recognition, and who have such fascinating stories about their lives and their work that need to be told,” says Kaesshaefer.

Kaesshaefer was introduced to the project by Deborah Byrd, associate professor of English. After working with Byrd in a women’s and gender studies class, Kaesshaefer approached Byrd about doing an internship. Keeping Kaesshaefer’s writing skills in mind, Byrd suggested this project which is a continuation of work by students in her service-learning seminar “Single Motherhood in the Contemporary U.S.: Myths and Realities.”

The project was started last semester by Samantha Witkes ’08 (Northborough, Mass.), who is majoring in art; Shani Bellegarde ’08 (Brooklyn, N.Y.), who is majoring in government and law; Kate Davis ’09 (Towson, Md.), who is majoring in American studies; and Alexandra Meis ’08 (Erdenheim, Pa.), who is majoring in psychology. However, the project was not completed due to time constraints. Kaesshaefer has picked up where these students left off.

Kaesshaefer has been interviewing individuals identified by Byrd and Terence Miller, director of Hope Unseen. This community organization seeks to mobilize and build resource and volunteer capacity within the city to fuel existing programs or help create new ones designed to restore Easton area neighborhoods.

Kaesshaefer interviews the subject of the article, as well as other sources who are close to the individual, including family members, employers, pastors, and friends. She also researches the subjects, the organizations that they belong to, the countries they are from, the religions they practice, and other relevant information so that she has a basis for their experiences when meeting them.

After talking to the individual, Kaesshaefer writes a profile article about the person, showing how they have come out of situations because of the support of local community organizations.

According to Miller, who is also the chairman of Easton’s Anti-Gang Community Task Force, the series focuses on a cultural issue that is important within our community.

“In our culture, people expect individuals to pull themselves up from obstacles because that is what we see in the movies,” says Miller. “In reality, that rubs against the purpose of community. We need to help others rise up against adversity.”

Some of the obstacles faced by those highlighted include gang membership, time spent in prison or on welfare, abusive relationships, teen pregnancy, and religious persecution.

“Not only does writing for The Express-Times discipline my writing, but I’m really seeing the Easton community in a drastically different way,” says Kaesshaefer. “I am venturing into the city, interviewing people who know their community and have much to say about the discrimination or the support it fosters.”

Kaesshaefer says, “We want to dispel negative stereotypes, inspire others in similar circumstances, and highlight social groups and organizations that offer support to struggling individuals. I think the dynamic stories of the people I’m writing about will help increase awareness and celebrate the diversity within this community.”

Kaesshaefer hopes to produce about seven articles. After Sunday, her articles will most likely appear every two-three weeks, at the discretion of the editor.

  • English
  • Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Internships/Externships

posted in Academic News, Collaborative, High-Impact Learning, Faculty and Staff, News and Features, Student Profiles, Students

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