Kayla Hamilton admits she was focused solely on academics when she arrived on campus three years ago as a first-year student from Fort Madison. She wasn’t looking to get involved with anything.
“My focus was on school and to get out of here,” she said. “I wasn’t looking to change my worldview.”
Majoring in international management, German and religion, she said: “I discerned that my call was to help people.”
A three-time Wesley Service Scholar, Hamilton credits CVIL for helping her reflect on her community service and tie it to vocational exploration, specifically what she wants to do after college. As part of the scholarship, she performed 80 hours of community service each of her first three years at Simpson in exchange for $1,500 toward her education. Last year she was also awarded an additional $1,000 from the Iowa Campus Compact AmeriCorps program for doing 300 hours of community service and recruiting 10 volunteers.
Hamilton dedicated her time to flood relief, Religious Life Community’s spring and fall break trips and went on Simpson’s annual May Term trip to Denver, Colo. She witnessed homelessness and poverty and decided she was “called to do something greater.”
Hamilton said her friends, advisors and involvement in RLC were all instrumental in helping her make service a core value in her life.
“It’s here that I learned to live out my faith,” she said. “I was given a community of people to show me how.”
Her commitment is evident in her work with Freedom for Youth Ministries, a nonprofit, Christian-based organization in Des Moines that helps inner-city youth ages six to 17. Many are children of refugees.
She spends every Monday and Wednesday evening tutoring children in English and math as part of an after-school program called Whiz Kidz. Jhamae, one of the students in the program, said Hamilton is her favorite volunteer.
“She lets me play any game I want,” she said. “She draws me flowers and teaches me how to write.”
Hamilton says progress comes in small steps. She often works one-on-one with an elementary student named Bryan who hasn’t learned to recognize letters yet. “I’ve been really invested with him,” she said. “He sees that I care. I think it’s done something for his heart, as well.”