Social work student Elexis Hubbard to put love of service to use as 2023-24 Newman Civic Fellow
For as long as she can remember, Elexis Hubbard has been committed to serving others. From a young age, her family instilled those values in her, frequently giving back in their own community and spending holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas volunteering at homeless shelters and food pantries.
“I’ve been volunteering literally all my life,” she said. “As a family, that’s just our thing. One thing my mom and my grandparents have always taught me is to give and to give without judgment because you never know when you’ll need it or when you will be in the same situation.”
As a student at Ritenour High School, Hubbard served as an officer for the Social Justice Club, helping to promote diversity in the school district and pushing leadership to see the importance of stronger representation. She worked with businesses such as Boeing to foster stronger diversity, equity and inclusion and with Families, Careers, and Community Leaders of America, where she helped raise funds for local homeless shelters and made gift bags for hospitalized kids at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital.
Those values have continued to drive much of Hubbard’s studies and extracurricular activities at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, where she is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in social work and was recently selected as a 2023-24 Newman Civic Fellow.
The Newman Civic Fellowship is a year-long program that “recognizes and supports student public problem solvers.” Fellows are nominated by their university presidents or chancellors based on their leadership potential and work within their own communities, and through the fellowship are offered opportunities to “nurture their assets and help them develop strategies for social change.”
Hubbard has already been serving as the president of UMSL’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a national co-ed service fraternity. She was immediately drawn to APO’s focus on volunteering and community service while studying at Truman State University, so joining UMSL’s chapter was a no-brainer after she transferred to the university in the fall of 2021. She’s currently wrapping up her first semester as president, which involves managing the other leadership positions, fundraising and launching new events and service opportunities in the community. Hubbard has also collaborated with other local APO chapters on service projects, including picking up trash, moving out invasive species and cutting down trees in the nearby community of Kinloch, the oldest incorporated African-American community in Missouri.
Outside of APO, Hubbard also volunteers on her own time. She’s worked regularly with Gateway Pet Guardians in East St. Louis, Illinois, and at the Ritenour Co-Care Food Pantry in Overland, Missouri. At the food pantry, she helps stock shelves and serve as a friendly face when clients come in, answering questions and translating words into Spanish when needed.
“I’ve always wanted to help people,” Hubbard said. “I always have helped people and volunteered. Something I’ve always been passionate about is helping those who are in need or don’t have. That really puts a fire under me as far as wanting to have a better society for others.”
Having those in-person experiences volunteering in the community has helped Hubbard shape her focus in her studies and her future career. Whether helping out at a homeless shelter or at the food pantry, she enjoys interacting with people, hearing their stories and learning about their needs firsthand.
“Seeing the need firsthand without somebody telling me is what really makes me passionate because I think there’s a lot of myths and conspiracies out there about why a person gets into a situation that they’re in,” she said. “I feel like a lot of times, people will say, ‘Oh, they’re just drug addicts’ or ‘They just don’t want to get a job,’ or they take advantage of the system. And a lot of times that is not at all what happens.
“There was a time when I was helping my family feed the homeless and a man who was completely employed a month ago was telling me his story. It had nothing to do with drugs, nothing to do with not wanting to work. He just was not able to find another job, and he wasn’t in a city where his family was from, so he was by himself. One thing happened after another and now he was on the street. And unfortunately, once you get to a place where you don’t have a shelter over your head, you don’t have reliable transportation, a lot of things come into play that many people don’t think about when you have to apply for a job. You have to have clothes, transportation to get to the job or a phone for them to call you back on. A lot of barriers start to happen that make it harder for people to actually get a job and keep one.”
Hubbard’s passion for helping others made her an obvious choice for the Newman Civic Fellowship. She is looking forward to building her leadership skills and continuing to develop service projects both on the UMSL campus and in the surrounding community. She’ll receive funding to support those projects and also have the opportunity to network with people from across the country and attend the organization’s national conference this fall.
“Elexis has always dreamed of social change,” said Rob Wilson, assistant teaching professor and community engagement coordinator in the Pierre Laclede Honors College and an APO advisor. “Elexis wants to be a voice for those who do not have the resources that she has, and she believes that many peoples are often overlooked throughout the community.”
Unsurprisingly, Hubbard envisions a career in service long after she graduates from UMSL. Ideally, she’d like to either work at a nonprofit, such as a food pantry or homeless shelter, or in a hospital setting with people with chronic illnesses who face barriers in receiving appropriate medical attention.
Hubbard will start her fellowship this fall, and plans to work with her advisor over the summer to develop some new projects to implement with the resources afforded to her by the fellowship. Above all, she plans to continue her service work and encourage and inspire others to join her along the way.
“Anybody can volunteer,” Hubbard said. “Anybody can help someone in need. All it takes is asking anyone and everybody about opportunities because there’s always an opportunity to help somebody. Even the smallest things can go a long way.”
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