Summer Maxwell is a fourth-year in the College double-majoring in economics and psychology. While at UVA, Summer has been involved in Dance Marathon, One Less, PULSE Sustained Dialogue, and is currently the co-director of Camp Kesem. Next year, she is moving to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to work in wealth management for Baird.
How did you first get involved?
I first became involved in community-centered work when I was 13 years old. My sister and I established a scholarship called the Carson Raymond Citizenship Award at six elementary schools, honoring recipients solely for their character and contribution to their classroom. We created the scholarship to honor our family friend Carson, widely known for his kindness, who unfortunately passed away at nine years old. From that experience, I realized that being able to make other people feel good brings me an immense amount of joy. Since our award did not weigh academic performance, we typically gave it to kids who did not have a previous expectation of receiving an honor at a graduation ceremony. The sheer gratitude and positive reaction that we saw from our recipients and their parents was something I was so proud to play a part in. When I came to UVA, I knew I had to take advantage of the many opportunities this place provides to give back. My experience with service came full circle, when I later discovered one of my recipients for the Carson Raymond Citizenship Award was one of my Camp Kesem campers.
What has been most rewarding?
My favorite part about service is being able to see a tangible difference that I can make in someone's life. This resonates with me the most in my involvement as co-director of Camp Kesem. Camp Kesem at UVA provides a free summer camp for 150+ children whose parents have been affected by cancer. For four years, I've watched my campers grow and evolve into the strongest and most empathetic young people I know. I am grateful to be able to bring some light and support into their lives at such a tumultuous time.
How do you plan to be involved in the community in the future?
My #CommunityCommitment is to find new opportunities to give back in my transition to Milwaukee, while simultaneously continuing to support the families of Camp Kesem. A large criterion that I factored into my job search was continuing to prioritize service once I moved on from my studies. This was one of the main reasons that I chose to work for Baird, an extremely community-oriented company. I am also planning to apply to be a Camp Advisor for another chapter of Camp Kesem. As a Camp Advisor, I would advise and oversee one of the other 116 collegiate chapters of Camp Kesem.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
I would encourage others to get involved by paying special attention to the opportunities that are advertised around Grounds. We're all so busy with our own routines that it becomes easy to ignore students tabling, chalkings, and the posters spread around academic spaces. If you look out for these signs and learn more by talking to students involved in specific groups, you'll realize how much opportunity is around you. I believe that any student would benefit from finding a service organization that they are passionate about – not only because they could help others but they could provide themselves with a community and safe space of like-minded and driven individuals. With all of the service opportunities around us, there is a place for all students with specific interests and talents. Who knows, the people in your organization of interest may turn into your best friends!
What is the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
My favorite class that I have taken at UVA is Prevention of Youth Violence taught by Dewey Cornell. Professor Cornell is extremely knowledgeable in the subject area because he encompasses an incredible amount of real world experience in studying the roots of youth violence. He is so passionate about sharing what he has learned from his lived experiences, which was evident in each one of his lectures. I also found the subject area itself quite eye-opening, and it inspired me to stay informed on current events that relate to youth violence.
What is your favorite UVA tradition?
My favorite UVA tradition is Trick or Treating on the Lawn, because we get to share this tradition with some of our Charlottesville Kesem families. This year, a Kesem mom and her daughter, coined Supermom and Supergirl, passed out candy along with our counselors in my co-directors' Lawn room. Moments like this with our campers and their families remind me of how lucky I am to have them. It was one of my favorite days as a student – I am smiling even thinking about it!
If there is one thing you could do to make the world a better place, what would it be?
It sounds cheesy, but I would extend a listening ear to anyone who needed it, at any time. Being able to help a person through a tough time by just listening and being by their side is invaluable. I've learned that even when you don't always know the perfect thing to say to someone, making it known that you're a resource to them at any moment means just as much and more. I strive to be a source of empathy and support to those in my life and wish that there was a way for everyone to have somebody to lean on when they need it.