2019 Living Democracy Students
Melissa Dennis is a junior at Auburn University studying social work, with a minor in community and civic engagement. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Melissa graduated from Shades Valley High School. She will spend her summer in Chatom, Alabama. “I hope to fully immerse myself in this community and engage with all the people who call Chatom home,” she says. “There is so much growth that can come with this Living Democracy opportunity. I am ready to step out of my comfort zone and learn about everything Chatom has to offer.”
Laura Thompson, an Auburn sophomore studying pre-early and elementary education, will be living democracy in her hometown of Camden, Alabama. A graduate of Wilcox Academy, Laura says, “I hope to be able to see Camden with a new pair of eyes and learn more about the lovely place I call home.”
Whitt Watts, a political science major at Auburn, will be living democracy in Elba in the summer of 2019. He says, “I hope to create a lifelong bond with the community and help the leaders achieve their goals to continue to improve the great city of Elba.” Whitt, a graduate of Vestavia Hills High School, will be working for 10 weeks with nonprofits and civic organizations in Elba.
Jack West, a journalism and history major at Auburn University, will be spending the summer of 2019 in Elba, Alabama. Jack, who grew up in Huntsville, says he is excited to experience life in a small community. He hopes to build strong relationships and is interested in working with the local newspaper and on restoration efforts at the Elba Theatre.
Hannah White, a junior political science major from Madison, Alabama, will be living and working in Collinsville as a Living Democracy student. White, a graduate of St. John Paul II Catholic High School, hopes to focus on economic development and other community initiatives. "I'm honored to have been chosen for this, and I look forward to working in a community in North Alabama.”
2018 Living Democracy Students
Laura Agee, a 2018 Auburn graduate with a degree in hospitality and tourism management, will be living democracy in her hometown of Camden, Alabama. She says, “I’m thrilled to be given this opportunity and see my hometown in a whole new perspective. Camden is dear to my heart, which makes this opportunity that much sweeter.” Agee will be working with Black Belt Treasures during her 10 weeks as a Living Demoracy Fellow.
Erin Blythe, an Auburn University sophomore majoring in biomedical sciences, will spend her summer living democracy in Collinsville, Alabama. A graduate of James Clemens High School in Madison, Erin says she hopes “to gain real-life experience collaborating with local citizens on projects that capture the vision they have for their hometown” during her 10 weeks as a Living Democracy Fellow.
Pearce Miller, a public administration major from Mobile, will be living democracy in Elba in the summer of 2018. He says, “I hope to build relationships with as many community members as possible as I learn what makes Elba such a great place. Pearce, a graduate of McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, will be working for 10 weeks with nonprofits and civic organizations in Elba.
Daphney Portis, a 2017 Auburn University graduate with a degree in political science, will spend her summer in Camp Hill, Alabama, as a Living Democracy Fellow. Daphney says she is excited about working with Camp Star, an organization involved in youth programs and other initiatives in Camp Hill. Daphney, who plans to earn her master’s degree in public administration, says, “Living democracy is the point where expectation meets action.” A native of Prichard, Alabama, Daphney is a graduate of John L. LeFlore High School.
2017 Living Democracy Students
Emily Vick, an Auburn senior from Enterprise, Alabama, attended Enterprise High School. She is currently preparing to graduate with a degree in psychology with a minor in community and civic engagement. Emily will reside in Elba, Alabama, this summer for the Living Democracy experience. She is excited to become civically active in a community that is close to home. Emily says, “The opportunity to participate in this program is an honor. Even though Elba is a few minutes from where I grew up, I hope to gain new knowledge about my own backyard.” She adds, “Being civically engaged can be challenging but so rewarding. I am proud to be a part of something that encourages young people to get out of our comfort zone to make a difference.”
Magnolia Wilson is a sophomore at Auburn University studying social work. From Henagar, Alabama, she attended Pisgah High School. This summer, Magnolia will spend 10 weeks in Thomaston, Alabama, for Living Democracy. Magnolia says, “I am honored to be a part of this experience. I have always loved community service and have been fascinated with how communities work. I am very excited that I will be able to experience a new community and truly engage with the individuals who live there. I am very ready for this adventure.”
Whitney Sutton, a senior social work major, is from Albertville, Alabama. She will spend her summer in Collinsville, Alabama, as a part of the Living Democracy program. She is the daughter of Jonathan and Samantha Sutton. Whitney says, "I love jumping head first into a new experience, especially one that holds so much opportunity for me to learn about a community I'm unfamiliar with. I can't wait for the adventure in Collinsville this summer holds."
2016 Living Democracy Students
Hamilton Wasnick is a freshman from Sammamish, Washington. The son of Heather and James Wasnick, he attended Skyline High School and is currently studying history at Auburn. He will be living in the community of Linden, Alabama, this summer as a part of the Living Democracy program. “I have always been fascinated with the importance of relationships in small communities,“ Hamilton says. “I feel as though Living Democracy will allow me to not only observe but become a part of these relationships within the community. I am beyond excited to become a part of the Linden community.”
Weston Sims is a freshman from Athens, Alabama, majoring in economics and political science. He will be living democracy in Roanoke, Alabama. The son of Susan Fitzgibbon and Brett Sims, Weston attended the same high school as his father, East Limestone High School. He enjoys learning about people and politics. Weston says, “This summer I'll have the opportunity to learn about two of my greatest interests: economics and government. I am excited for the perspective and knowledge that Roanoke has to offer. I look forward to meeting and working with its citizens.”
Madison Chamblee, a native of Trussville, Alabama, is a freshman currently in Auburn’s Exploratory program. She attended Hewitt Trussville High School and will live in Collinsville, Alabama for her summer Living Democracy experience. Madison, daughter of Carl and Karen Chamblee, is enthusiastic about this summer program. She says, “Exploring is an authentic part of the academic process. This experience is an excellent opportunity for me to acquaint myself with a field I am looking to learn more about.”
Maranda "Randy" Whitten is a junior from Valley, Alabama, majoring in sociology and psychology. Randy graduated from Valley High School and is the daughter of Tabatha and Shane Whitten. This summer she will live democracy in Elba, Alabama. "I believe Living Democracy will allow me to gain a better insight into real-world problems that plague our communities and the valuable impact community projects have on those problems," Randy says. "I also suspect that I shall encounter some memorable and inspirational people along the way. I anticipate that I will be able to apply what I learn to my future endeavors. I am very grateful for this opportunity."
2015 Living Democracy Students
Caroline Allen is a junior from Carrollton, Georgia, majoring in Social Work. She will live and work in Elba, Alabama, this summer as a part of the Living Democracy program. "I have always had a love for community service, and I really enjoy getting to know people," Allen says. "I feel like Living Democracy is a perfect chance for me to get out of my comfort zone and really make a difference in a community and in people's lives. I'm so excited to see what I can learn from the citizens of Elba and the rest of the Living Democracy team."
Amy Hudson, from Gurley, Alabama, is a sophomore majoring in Biomedical Sciences and minoring in Community and Civic Engagement. She will be living democracy in Linden, Alabama, this summer. “I am honored to be apart of this program,” says Amy. “I hope this opportunity allows me to step outside of my comfort zone and challenges me to become a more effective leader.” Amy says she hopes to participate in Linden’s Art Walk and help lead the children’s art workshop. She is also interested in applying her interest in rural medicine and health issues to a summer project for Linden’s citizens.
Illyshia Parker, a native of Birmingham, Alabama, is a senior majoring in Journalism. This summer she will live democracy in Selma, Alabama. “For me, Living Democracy is an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and step into someone else’s reality,” says Illyshia. “I hope to engage with the citizens of Selma in a way that amplifies their voices and encourages continual input into their city. Adversity may come, but I believe it will make the experience even more worthwhile.”
Joy Porter is a senior from Nashville, Tennessee, majoring in History. This summer she will live democracy in Roanoke, Alabama. "I am so excited to be a part of the Living Democracy program," Porter says. "Living Democracy feels like the perfect culmination of all the community projects I’ve worked on during my time at Auburn. This summer will allow me to do some of the things I like best— working on community projects and connecting with individuals who are passionate about making their communities a better place.” She will be working closely with 2012 Living Democracy student Marian Royston, who has returned to her hometown to work on community development initiatives.
Crystal Rawls is a senior from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, majoring in Media Studies. She will be living democracy in Collinsville, Alabama. “I was initially drawn to Living Democracy because it seemed like it was more than an internship,” says Crystal. “The fact that I could help a community of people led me to apply. I’ve always enjoyed doing any community project that’s come my way since I first started at Auburn, and Living Democracy is giving me that chance to take my interest another step forward. I know this will be a challenge, but hopefully I can make as big of an impact on them as I know they will make on me.”
2014 Living Democracy Students
Shaye McCauley is a senior majoring in social work, and she lived democracy in Collinsville, Alabama. She is originally from Franklin, Tennessee. “Working to help improve the lives of others has always my passion, and I plan to pursue that work through Living Democracy,” said Shaye. “My goals are to help combat illiteracy in the youth with weekly workshops at the library; help the nursing home patients recognize their dignity and worth with small, interactive games and their assistance in tending the garden we plan to build; and volunteer with the local sports camp to emphasize health and activity in our K-12 students. Collinsville has always been a community that supports its family, and I look forward to assisting in any way possible."
Lowery McNeal is originally from Trussville, Alabama, and she is a senior studying history. Lowery lived democracy in Selma, Alabama, in collaboration with Old Cahawba Archaeological Park. “I was drawn to the Living Democracy program because it seems like a chance for a 'real' education,” said Lowery. “We get to become citizens of a city for 10 weeks and experience the highs and lows that go along with that. I'm looking forward to learning about Selma and west Alabama and seeing how democracy does and hopefully can function there. The city if filled with hundreds of years of history, and it is surrounded by the beautiful Alabama and Cahaba rivers. I’m also hoping to spend a good amount of time around Old Cahawba. History, folklore, and nature meet in a special way there.”
Jelani Moore, from Huntsville, Alabama, is a junior studying Radio, Television, and Film. Elba was his living democracy destination, and he collaborated with the Just Folk Coffee House and Restoration 154 non-profit organization. "I joined Living Democracy because I saw an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone and make an impact on something beyond myself," Jelani said. "The act of looking in on another persons' life and experiencing their story is something anyone will be changed by. The most fascinating aspect of my community is that it is rich with art. Art expresses emotion with great intensity, which in turn gives life to social prosperity and sets the foundation for a healthy society."
Cristiana Shipma is a sophomore studying public relations. Originally from Hunstville, Alabama, she spent the 2014 summer living democracy in Linden, Alabama, alongside her collaborators Marengo County Cooperative Extension and the Marengo County Economic Development Authority. "When I first heard about Living Democracy from a form LD student," Cristiana said, "I thought WOW that’s exactly what I want to do. LD blends community action with personal writing, two of my favorite things. But what really caught my attention about this program was the fact it recognized that real journalism couldn’t be done from a distance: great writing is actually written in the place that is being written about. I also realized that LD would challenge me to be confident, self-assertive, and open to new ideas."
2013 Living Democracy Students
Kaleb Kirkpatrick, senior, Political Science
Sierra Lehnhoff, sophomore, Pre-Industrial Design
Laney Payne, senior, Psychology
Audrey Ross, junior, Mathematics
Mary Beth Snow, junior
Catherine Tabor, sophomore, English
Taryn Wilson, junior, Accounting
2012 Living Democracy Students
Angela Cleary, '12, Birmingham, Ala.
Mary Afton Day, '13, Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation
Blake Evans, '13, Master of Public Administration Program, Auburn University
Andrew Odom, '12, Jones School of Law, Montgomery
Audrey Ross, junior, Mathematics
Marian Royston, '13, Mitchell Scholar, Queen's University Belfast
Alexis Sankey, senior, Psychology
Last Updated: January 23, 2019