Hometown: Grapevine, Texas
Motto: “This country is in deep need of a moral revival” – William Barber
Congratulations to Garrett deGraffenreid, the Hercules Scholar of the week for our May School of the Month, Huston-Tillotson University. Garrett is an exceptional student that finds time to be an intern at a youth center, a peer tutor, and on the dean’s list and honor roll. He plans to become an ordained minister and work beside people to make a difference in the world. Read more about Garrett below, in his own words.
At an early age I became aware that the way people experience the world is dependent on an individual’s “social location.” In middle school I didn’t have that sociological term to reflect the idea that individual identity is a composite of intersections; that age, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and race are all compounded to create a whole person. Interestingly enough it seemed so many of my peers didn’t understand that this was the way of the world. I grew up attending a homogenous public-school in a Dallas suburb known for its football team, shopping center, and wealth. I drove to school and parked between Audis and Mercedes cars given as birthday presents to kids who would graduate high school and go on to universities across the country and become the next generation of doctors, lawyers, engineers, and CEO’s. I can contribute my social awareness early on to the stark difference between my friends’ houses and mine. My parents both worked multiple jobs so my sister and I could participate in extracurricular activities and live comfortably. We had a modest three-bedroom house that seemed to fit us just right. When I went to be with friends, I gawked at their swimming pools, game rooms, movie theaters, and basketball courts and wondered if they ever felt lonely sharing so much space with so few people. Because that was my only point of comparison, I believed for years that my family must have been poor. My awareness grew greater still when I joined the social media platform Twitter. Twitter was where the issues of contemporary society that had previously been so distant became close and humanized as narratives were raised that would make me question everything. I saw the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, school shooting after church shooting after club shooting, communities celebrating after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. It was seeing my community’s lack of consideration for those outside what we called “the bubble” that would be a driving force for me to study sociology and plan to apply that knowledge of societal organization to create real, lasting change.
My passion for people was a seed planted in me as a baby. I grew up in the church and, like Timothy, the elders recognized and affirmed gifts in me I did not see in myself until I was grown. I was brought up in the theological tradition that seeks to serve “the least of these.” I have accepted the call to affirm the divinity inherent in every part of creation, to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my creator. This call has manifested in my life currently in my devotion to youth work. I relish the opportunity of being able to model the kind of person I needed to see when I was young. I served last summer as a camp counselor, this school year as a middle school youth group leader, and am currently interning at an LGBTQ+ youth center. In every interaction with young people I strive to be authentic and affirming and bolster their growth. It is in this conviction of my call that I wholeheartedly pursue my bachelor’s degree and seek to attain my Master of Divinity and eventually a doctoral degree. I know that education grants agency and I plan to use every privilege given to me from my achievements to center the voices of the unheard. As an Ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church I plan to be a voice advocating for social justice from the perspective of faith. It is my belief that, like the Rev. Dr. William Barber has said, this country is in deep need of a “moral revival” based in the values of equity, justice, and love. I want to work beside people of all walks of life to address the issues that remain so pervasive in American institutions: racism in policing and the criminal justice system, discrimination in housing and hiring practices, access to clean water, healthy food, and education, and the continued warming of the earth’s climate.
It is apparent to me that these issues will not be solved in my lifetime, but I can help conceive a vision for the future and instill hope in rising generations that together we can bend the arc of the moral universe evermore toward justice.