Wilson Society Members at Hutchison Awarded Two $1,000 Grants to Support Service Projects

Two groups of Hutchison students, all members of the Wilson Society, received Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation Impact Grants to help them implement service projects in the Memphis community.
Two groups of students at Hutchison are creating and implementing projects to address real issues in Memphis as members of the Wilson Society. Established by the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation, the Wilson Society challenges students to discover leadership skills in various areas of service, including conservation, youth development, and poverty. Students work in small groups at their schools and across campuses to create sustainable projects that will last after they graduate.

A group of four seniors, who started the Gold Star Girls, will work with the Refugee Empowerment Program. The organization aims to empower refugees and immigrants in Memphis through afterschool and summer programming, mentorship, digital literacy training, and citizenship preparedness support. 

A group of three juniors, the GPS (Give, Pray, Serve) VolunTEENS, will hold events for the families who live at Salvation Army’s Purdue Center of Hope, a long-term residence for women affected by trauma.

The girls submitted their Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation Impact Grant requests in September through a virtual presentation. They had 15 minutes to explain their projects and what they would use the money for. Both groups were successful and are determining how they will take action.

Gold Star Girls

(left to right) Zoe Borkowski ’22, Mariam Husein ’22, Madison Borkowski ’22, and Hamna Tameez ’22 plan to volunteer with the Refugee Empowerment Program and continue their work building the Gold Star Girls.

As leaders of the Gold Star Girls, seniors Madison Borkowski, Zoe Borkowski, Mariam Husein, and Hamna Tameez have a big goal: empowering their group of young girls and women through literacy, art, and team building.

The girls’ project started during their sophomore year. They initially worked with Vance Avenue Youth Development Center, a facility dedicated to helping children in the Memphis area. They still help with odd jobs around VAYDC, from maintaining the website to helping with renovations. They have also collected hygiene items for the girls at VAYDC and will hold another drive this year, asking for donations of shampoo, toothbrushes, and period protection products.

This year, they will partner with the Refugee Empowerment Program. Starting in January, they plan to visit once a week. They will form two different groups: one for children in 1st through 4th grades and one for children in 5th through 8th grades. At VAYDC, they also had groups tailored to specific grades.

They hope to serve as mentors to the young girls at REP and help them build important skills like confidence and leadership. Hamna Tameez said she had many opportunities to grow these characteristics at Hutchison and feels prepared to pass them on.

“A lot of girls don’t have that opportunity, so providing that for them in spaces they frequent daily is impactful,” Hamna said.

All four Hutchison students said they empathize with the feeling of being different and fighting adversity. Madison said both she and her sister Zoe struggled with literacy as children. Because their caretakers spoke Hindu and Spanish, Madison and Zoe did not understand how to read or write English and needed a lot of support to catch up to their peers. 

As women of color, Hamna and Mariam said they understand struggles with confidence and feeling enough in their own skin. 

“Trying to learn to love yourself, love your identity, and be yourself is really difficult, especially for someone so young,” Hamna said.

The girls said having empathy and understanding is crucial.

“Especially for the younger girls, it's important to make them feel comfortable around everyone and make sure we have a safe environment for everyone where they can be themselves,” Mariam said.

The girls said they are grateful to the Wilson Society for this opportunity to make a difference. They expressed a passion for continuing volunteer work after they leave Hutchison.

“I never saw myself doing this, but now that we’re actually doing this, I can’t see myself not doing it,” Mariam said.

GPS VolunTEENS

(left to right) Juliet Tayloe ’23, Claiborne Collier ’23, and Lucy Chiozza ’23 will use their $1,000 Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation Impact Grant to fund monthly events with children living at the Salvation Army’s Purdue Center of Hope.

Juniors Claiborne Collier and Lucy Chiozza have been volunteering with the Salvation Army for a long time. Claiborne said she has served there since fifth grade, and Lucy, her neighbor, has tagged along over the years. So when it was their turn to plan a project along with Juliet Tayloe for the Wilson Society, they had an idea of what they wanted to accomplish.

They also had two close sources of inspiration for the project: Claiborne’s aunt, who has done a lot of work for the Salvation Army, and Claiborne’s older sister, who was part of a similar project when she was in the Wilson Society. 

With the help of their grant, the girls are making the project what they envision it to be. They are planning to hold a different event each month for the children who live at the Purdue Center of Hope, a long-term residence for women affected by trauma. Their goals are to have fun with the children, give their mothers a break, and worship with them to build their connection with religion.

“It forms connections with the kids and parents to let them know there are always people who care for them who aren’t in their immediate circle,” Juliet said. “It’s a time where the moms don’t have to worry about their kids getting in trouble, and they can breathe.”

This school year, before they even received the grant, the girls held a back-to-school event and provided the children of the Purdue Center of Hope with backpacks filled with school supplies. Soon, the girls will meet with the Salvation Army to plan for the rest of the school year. They have ideas for several upcoming holidays like Christmas and Easter, and they hope to make them a reality.

The girls said it was validating to receive the grant and for the Kemmons Wilson Family Foundation to acknowledge their work.

“It’s exciting that other people believe in the project that we’re doing instead of it just being a dream that we’ve had,” Claiborne said.

They also received valuable feedback from KWFF. The foundation advised the girls on listening to the community about their needs and having realistic expectations when it comes to budgeting. The girls feel accomplished watching their program come to fruition.

“It’s exciting because we’ve seen these people grow up and watch the program come to life,” Lucy said.

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Hutchison is the leading private girls school in Memphis for ages 2 years old through twelfth grade.