Several Oglethorpe alumni have put their passion into action in an effort to positively influence the lives of middle and high school youth in metro Atlanta.
ChopArt, a nonprofit organization founded by Malika Whitley ’11, provides homeless youth with a means of expression via art exploration. The organization strives to encourage positive values and enhance participants’ abilities by discovering therapy and release in poetry, photography and painting.
Five other Oglethorpe alumni also support ChopArt. Serving on the Board of Directors are Jewel Thompson ’10 (Chair), Kyle Parker ’09 (Secretary), Christopher Harvin ’08 (Treasurer) and Ashlee Brown ’10. Many of these alumni were actively involved in campus service projects, including alternative breaks planned by the Center for Civic Engagement.
Malika believes that “Oglethorpe breeds a certain type of person” and finding other students that share a passion for service are not hard to find on campus. Her Oglethorpe experience, she says, provided her with the tools and opportunities to absorb other cultures and learn from those interactions.
Malika’s passion for art and helping others was evident while she was attending OU. She interned with the National Black Arts Festival during her senior year summer and traveled to Cape Town, South Africa where she completed an internship with the city’s Special Events Department. While in Cape Town, Malika observed the theory and practice of art exploration—and the impact it was having on the children in South Africa.
After realizing its effectiveness, she used this technique in India where she served as an IDEX Fellow for Social Enterprise ’11-’12. There, Malika introduced art as a confidant for children who were afraid to speak about their daily struggles, providing them with coping and life skills for better handling those struggles. She encountered young girls who were taught to be afraid to speak out, and empathizing with their insecurity, provided them a voice through art.
Malika learned something else on that trip—she wanted to dedicate her life to serving others. “I cannot do anything else with my life but serve other people, because otherwise, I would be doing a disservice to my parents and to the people who believe in me.” said Malika. As a result, the idea for ChopArt was born, and then became reality in 2012.
Current students and alumni are encouraged to volunteer with ChopArt! Opportunities include mentoring and helping to prepare students for an upcoming “professional” art show, “Dual Concepts,” on August 1, 2013. Even if you lack those creative juices, your time and support would be appreciated. For more information about ChopArt and ways to get involved, visit the ChopArt website.