Sydney Hunter, '19

Sydney Hunter stands in front of a stairwell in Massman hall.

Junior Sydney Hunter is a Kansas City native with a passion for social justice she discovered in high school. Through service projects and service trips, she said she chose nonprofit leadership studies as her major, a path that has opened up multiple opportunities to her on and off campus. Read the interview below to learn more.

What interested you in Voices for Justice?

“My resident adviser was Chanelle Zak, the president at that time, but other than that I actually heard about Voices in high school from a few friends that went to Rockhurst and really liked Voices. I thought it was right up my alley. I already knew that I wanted to do nonprofit studies when I was in high school, basically, and that's the reason I came to Rockhurst was because of the nonprofit program. Voices was just a natural fit with that. I always had a very peace and justice-oriented mind, heart, brain, whatever. That drew me to Voices, but the people kept me coming. I mean, they're just the best around. You can't get anything any better than that. I love them dearly.”

What kind of experiences did you have in high school that sparked your interest for social justice?

“I went to St. Teresa’s Academy, which is a Catholic, all girls high school. They’re very good at empowering young women and strengthening their voices. That automatically just made me into a stronger woman who wanted to support other women. While in high school, I went on multiple service immersion trips, both domestically and abroad. I went my junior year to Nicaragua and I led the group to Nicaragua senior year. We did a lot of fundraising around that and we did a lot of very intentional reflection and that solidified my interest in nonprofits and the work they do. I knew that I loved service and I wanted to not just make that a hobby, but a career. Nonprofit leadership studies gives me the avenue to do that.”

Were you set on coming to Rockhurst in high school?

“I was not. I really wanted to go to Regis University in Denver and they had a really cool peace and justice program, but Rockhurst ended up being a better choice financially. I played lacrosse my freshman year and that was a lot of fun and I knew I wanted to play lacrosse. That was a big pull, and I thought that nonprofit studies had a little more of a direct avenue than peace and justice. Though I would have really loved to do that I knew that nonprofit was a good choice to make. And I’ve loved it.”

How has your time in Voices for Justice given you experience with nonprofits you could use in the future?

“We do a different topic every month and Voices does a really good job of connecting with community members based on those topics and a lot of those community members work in nonprofits. I get to do a lot of networking through them. Not all of them work in nonprofits, but all of them are community leaders and good people to know so that was super beneficial to me personally. Especially being from the area, I already have a lot of good connections in Kansas City, but Voices definitely expands that a ton. The Ignatian Teach-in offers a lot of good resources as well. Furthering education resources, stuff like that.”

What are some lessons that Voices for Justice has taught you that you'd like to bring with you to future experiences or future jobs?

“I think one thing that Voices does really well consistently is offer a very authentic human connection to Rockhurst students. It's a very thoughtful space. It's a very intentional space. It makes you slow down where you would want to be very angry and fired up about a topic. Voices really calls you to a greater contemplative state. My favorite value at Rockhurst is contemplation in action and I think Voices really embodies that. We do do a lot of action pieces but we also have a good sense of when to step back and reflect and mourn or just sit with that uncomfortability that is a topic, and I think we handle it really well. I mean, we always have room for improvement, but I think that’s something we do really well.”

What are you most excited about taking on the president role in the next year?

“There’s a ton. I’m nervous, that's for sure but I'm just really excited to continue the great work of the three presidents that I have been happy to be under before me — Chanelle, Shayla and Sarah. I'm really excited to further their legacy and add a little bit of my own into that as well to leave something behind in my last year and a half at Rockhurst. I think something that Voices has really steered towards in the last year, and will continue to do next year, is choosing very relevant topics to Rockhurst students and things that affect them and affect people all around the world. I am super excited and I feel very fortunate to be in this position at such a crucial time in our country and on our campus. There’s been a lot of things going on and I feel like Voices is positioned to educate people on those things, and really bring a greater understanding and a greater Ignatian way of thought around those. I'm really excited for my e-board. We have a great group of people that are working to better Rockhurst and to bring people into better communion with one another. I’m so excited.”

What would you tell an incoming freshman who wants to get involved with service but isn't sure if they want to join a club to do so?

“I think it's really beneficial to pick your clubs wisely so that in itself is a great thing to be thinking about. It's really easy to overload yourself, and to realize that is a great first step. Service can be found in many avenues and outlets on campus and they are very, very well advertised, at least in my perspective. We have plenty of people to go to if you want to find them. The ambassador in me is coming out. Julia [Vargas, Ed.D., director of the Center for Service Learning] has plenty of good opportunities that are not club-related, but Voices very much treats everyone like a member — you can come to one thing and never have to come to another thing. We do not expect anything but what you want to do. Voices is always welcoming anyone who wants to come. We have two service opportunities a month. At least. But there are plenty of other organizations that have equally good service opportunities as well.”

Be sure to catch Social Justice Week, hosted by Voices for Justice, March 19 - March 24. The week kicks off with a Human Trafficking town hall simulation on Monday at 9 p.m. in Arrupe 114. See what else is going on next week here