Damaris Walker '09 and Mark Wilson '09 chose to attend Dartmouth after completing the Summer Enrichment at Dartmouth Program (SEAD), which expands educational opportunities for adolescents from under-resourced high schools. The Philadelphia natives were both members of the 2002-04 class of SEAD scholars-and both plan to apply their skills and knowledge serving their communities.
SEAD students spend nine weeks at Dartmouth over a three-year period. The program is co-sponsored by the Tucker Foundation and the Department of Education. More than 81 percent of SEAD graduates have gone on to college.
Growing up in inner-city Philadelphia, Damaris Walker '09 was encouraged to "dream big" by his pastor and to avoid "dream busters." He adhered to this advice, and by age 15 he had achieved his goal of becoming an ordained pastor like his mentor. He began serving as youth pastor for his community church before becoming a senior minister in the non-denominational church started by his family.
An ordained pastor since age 15 and aspiring attorney, Damaris Walker '09 aims to give back to his Philadelphia community. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
For Walker, the pulpit is a powerful place from which to help others. "Because I was raised in the community, I know the problems and despair congregation members face," he says. "My sermons are geared toward building people up, as opposed to tearing them down."
Since "ministry doesn't happen on a schedule," the life and work of pastoral leadership is something Walker has continued at Dartmouth. A religion major, he is a student leader in Morning Glory Community Fellowship. He's also a member of the senior society Casque and Gauntlet and former historian of Beta Alpha Omega Fraternity.
In 2006, Walker traveled to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He also applied his own experience as a SEAD scholar volunteering in the program, providing college advice and admissions assistance.
One of five children, Walker is the first in his family to go to college. "I learned at an early age that in spite of difficult situations and unexpected circumstances, it is important that I remain steadfast in my goals. I choose to define my life," he says.
In the fall Walker will enter Yale Law School, an opportunity he sees as "part of the big dream," which is returning to his congregation in Philadelphia and assisting members who confront legal problems. "I see the law as a catalyst for improving the lives of the people in my community."
Mark Wilson '09 is turning an interest in public service into a career in emergency medicine. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
Mark Wilson '09's undergraduate experience has taught him to think on his feet. As a member of Dartmouth's Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team, Wilson has applied his Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) skills responding to life-threatening medical situations on campus that require a cool head and quick assessment.
Emergency medicine wasn't part of Wilson's original plan, however.
"I was exposed to law, criminal justice, and public administration in high school, and I knew I wanted to pursue these subjects," he says, citing an interest in public service.
Wilson initially joined the EMS team because he saw it as a way to fill a public service role on campus. Academically, "although Dartmouth doesn't focus on [criminal justice], the liberal arts education allowed me to integrate interdisciplinary classroom learning with my other interests," he says.
A history major, Wilson cites two education courses that made a lasting impression: "Educational Issues in Contemporary Society" and "Class in the Classroom."
"The discussions in these classes caused me to re-examine how I addressed the issue of class and perceived educational equality," says Wilson, who is the first in his own family to attend college.
Like Walker, Wilson has given back to the SEAD program by serving as a volunteer mentor. "The extensive mentoring and support I received with SEAD convinced me that I could excel at Dartmouth," he says.
Wilson is also an undergraduate advisor in Thomas Hall. He's been active in the Tucker Foundation and is a member of Alpha Theta coed fraternity and the Dartmouth Outing Club.
After graduating, Wilson will return to Philadelphia to begin 13 months of intense training at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, pursuing the highest level of EMT certification.
"I'm confident that Dartmouth has prepared me for this next opportunity," he says.
By SARAH GOMEZ
Last Updated: 1/14/10