Michelle Obama, Ninde Scholars and Making a Difference

Ardith Hayes

Following are the thoughts of Ardith Hayes, Kendal at Oberlin resident and President of the Kendal at Oberlin Resident Association (KORA).  She reflects on the challenges that the Oberlin College Commencement speakers put forth to graduates, and how that “making a difference” is not generational, but can happen throughout one’s life.

“On May 25, three Oberlin College Commencement speakers sounded one unified theme: Run to, not from, the hard challenges, the clashing views, the places of need in our society. We heard Michelle Obama, Marian Wright Edelman and Marvin Krislov speak from their hearts to the Class of 2015 about their/our responsibility to do what we can, where we can, in ways big and little to bring about change in areas of polarization that are paralyzing our nation. President Krislov brought it home with a concluding admonition: “Vote.”

A great many of us watched together in Heiser Auditorium. We sang the national anthem, admonished people wearing wide, view-blocking hats to “take them off,” and clapped. We shared pride and joy when our own Helen Taylor received the Community Service Medal for her years of volunteer contributions to the Oberlin Schools music programs. During Michelle Obama’s recognition of the Ninde Scholarship program, resident Demmie Carrell was especially acknowledged for her support of this program.

Helen on stage with the First Lady

Sometimes we listen, but think our time for making a difference is past. Yet there are many ways we are making a difference “out there” in the larger community and “in here” at Kendal. To name just a few “out there”: food pantry, Second Harvest, the shelter program, Grandparent Readers, Oberlin Community Services, community organizing, Publicity Plugs, Partners for Peace, League of Women Voters of the Oberlin Area, environmental awareness, international students, mentoring, public transportation. You name it, and you’ll probably find our residents involved.”

Ardith is very clear when saying she has mentioned just a “few” organizations and causes that are served by Kendal residents. The list goes on and on. In Kendal’s infancy, residents created the Volunteer Clearing House, which matches resident interests and skills, with volunteer opportunities. Each year residents volunteer 40,000+ hours to various organizations. This proves the point, that “giving back” is not only everyone’s responsibility, it is ageless.

Photo of Oberlin College Commencement ceremony by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Oberlin College