North Central College - Naperville, IL

Alexis Ledbetter '12: Nurturing Diversity

Away from classroom lessons in English, biology and history, Alexis Ledbetter '12 sees the need to teach young women about some other topics that will serve them well over their lifetimes. Ledbetter focuses on helping them understand the importance of acceptance and encourages their respect for others' backgrounds and personal situations. As a second-year Resident Assistant (RA) in Peter and Paul Hall and one of 47 RAs on campus, Ledbetter exemplifies the role of residence life staff in the crucial adjustment of first-year students.

"I emphasize how important it is to accept and embrace people who may not be exactly like you," she says. "It's common for us to be drawn to people who are like us but we need to reach out to understand everyone." Ledbetter has implemented a specific reward system, "the petal peddler," that involves distributing flower petals to recognize residents like Ana Mayo '14 who invite others on the floor to dinner, coffee or other events. A hall display shows everyone's progress in earning petals.

Much of Ledbetter's inspiration comes from her experiences with Margaret Bresser '10, who was her first- year RA. "I admired the work she did with us," says Ledbetter,who is majoring in theatre and psychology. "She took us to the Tunnel of Oppression during Anti-Hate week and even though I thought I understood the issue of diversity, I'd never experienced it in that way. It's something I wouldn't have done without Margaret."

Ledbetter and six of her peers from Bresser's floor went on to become RAs. Ledbetter continues to use Bresser's ideas and programs for her own floor. "I guess you could say that we pay it forward."