By: Tori Thompson (’12)
Barbourville, Ky. – At the end of her senior year at GC, Victoria Engelhardt had a difficult choice to make; she could study journalism at either of the top two journalism schools in the US, or she could join the Teach for America corps and work in Appalachia.
Although the Communication and Media Studies major had prepared for a career in journalism while at GC, Victoria felt called to work with young people and help them achieve success, so a few months after receiving her degree, she moved to Barbourville to teach high school English.
Beyond teaching about writing and literature, Victoria made it her mission to empower her students to be advocates for themselves and their dreams. “I knew my purpose was to be a light of hope, optimism and empowerment to my students, much like my professors at GC had been for me,” she explained.
Victoria discovered that many of her students were affected by drug abuse in their community, Knox County. One student in particular, Tracy, struggled to deal with the effects of drug addiction in her own family, but found strength through writing poetry. During the school year, Victoria learned more about Tracy’s life and guided her to use her poetry in new ways – to express positive emotions, relate to others, and break the cycle of drug addiction in her family.
Through a connection at Union College, Victoria was invited to take part in The Facing Project, which pairs local writers with citizens who have messages of hope and overcoming to share with their community. Using the writing skills she developed at Georgetown, Victoria told Tracy’s story and one other story of overcoming addiction, which were published in the book Facing Drug Addiction in Knox County, KY: It’s Our Move. One of Tracy’s poems was also included in the collection. “I never thought I would be a published author at age 23,” said Engelhardt, “and I’m sure Tracy never expected to be published at age 16!”
Victoria credits much of her success with TFA to her experiences at Georgetown. While she did not major in English or education, leadership roles in various campus organizations helped prepare her to lead in the classroom, and she learned valuable teaching skills by observing her professors.
Victoria is currently working towards her Teacher Leader Masters of Arts at GC. She plans to get married next summer to Jake Amis, who she first began talking with while studying abroad through the Oxford Program, and continue working with Teach For America.