UofL students, inspired by the university’s common read program, are taking to heart the lessons learned from the bestselling book “The Other Wes Moore” and putting their feet to the ground to help the community around them. Their efforts will be highlighted at a Sept. 19 service event in the Parkland neighborhood — with author Wes Moore alongside them.

UofL’s Book-in-Common program encourages first-year students to read a common text the summer before they start classes and invites faculty, staff and upperclass students to do the same. Throughout the academic year, the book and its themes are discussed in classes and at other student programs. This is the second year UofL has used “The Other Wes Moore.”

The book tells about two young men with the same name who begin their youth in the same hometown and end up on vastly different life paths. Moore, the author, became a Rhodes Scholar, Army combat veteran and White House Fellow. The other Moore is serving a life sentence in prison. The book challenges readers to think about what led them on their own paths and to work to improve the communities in which they live.

To kick off the service component this year, Moore, UofL students, community leaders and students from the West End School will work together in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood —not far from Belknap Campus. 

In small teams, the groups will canvas the neighborhood to talk with and survey residents, promoting available resources, conducting a community needs assessment, picking up litter, photographing the area and documenting their work though social media.

The event will begin at 2:30 p.m. at the West End School, where participants will be introduced to the project by Ben Payne, West End School, and Anthony Smith, Network Center for Community Change.

The event will culminate at the Parkland Boys and Girls Club with brief remarks from Councilwoman Attica Scott, Jennifer Helgeson from Boys and Girls Club, and author Wes Moore. After that, Moore will return to UofL to deliver his 6:30 p.m. keynote address at the Student Activities Center Multipurpose Room. Keynote attendees are encourage to bring book s and canned goods for donations to local charities.

To register for the service project or to register for free tickets to his talk, visit the Book-in-Common site.

Moore’s book, more so than any of the books used recently in the program, seems to have ignited a passion in students and they’ve made strong connections between themselves and the book, said Christy Metzger, director of First Year Initiatives.

First Year Initiatives, which sponsors the Book-in-Common program, worked with departments and offices across campus to help promote existing service opportunities and to create new projects that would tie into the themes of the book. Some students were even inspired to start their own initiatives after connecting with the text.

A 2011 first-year student, Star Webb decided she wanted to make a difference by coordinating a book drive for West End School and other community partners.

“I learned that everyone has the right to an education, and there is something even I can do to help.” Webb told First Year Initiatives. Webb is coordinating a drive again, with books this year going to the new Parkland Boys and Girls Club.

Other projects from last year included:

  • During Welcome Week 2011, Service Outreach Uniting Louisville (SOUL) designated seven sites specifically linked to BinC. About 115 students served at these sites with a total of about 400 students participating in that day of service.
  • The Bonner Leaders designed the “How Can We Best Serve” conference, fall 2011, around key themes from “The Other Wes Moore” and introduced community agencies that are working to address those critical issues in the community.
  • More than 650 people registered with BinC’s service listserv in 2011, with hundreds of new names already added for 2012. The program sends monthly and “short notice” communications about volunteer opportunities related to the service focus on educational equity and attainment. One example of the success of this network is when volunteers responded to a short notice request to assist with Street Academy, an enrichment program for African American boys grades 4–6. After a positive volunteer experience, those UofL students have returned on other days to help.
  • Latin American and Latino Studies/BinC raised more than $2,700 in support of Big Brothers Big Sisters at UofL’s 2011 Bowl for Kids’ Sake Night.
  • GO College Louisville is one of the ongoing service opportunities promoted through the listserv. In 2011, about 25 UofL students mentored/tutored about 30 at-risk high school students during the school year.
  • The Brown Fellows completed a number of Habitat for Humanity builds and mini-builds. Last spring, they formed an International Habitat for Humanity recognized student organization so that they can get UofL’s larger student body involved in 2012.
  • Last year, First Year Initiatives developed a reading group project to pilot with Bellewood Home for Children which serves abused and homeless youth. About 25 Bellewood youth attended Moore’s 2011 lecture, and response was so positive that Bellewood volunteers purchased their students copies of the book and asked UofL to help with reading groups. A UofL student and staff member co-led the groups.

Metzger said the BinC will continue the momentum for service through the remainder of the year and that she hopes the commitment to serving Louisville doesn’t end when a new book is selected next year. In fact, she said there’s discussion to continue with a service initiative related to UofL’s common read regardless of the selection.

 “Not only does the service initiative help elucidate the book’s themes and issues through real-life examples and hands-on experience, which we know enhance student learning, but also it’s important that we help our students connect with opportunities for community engagement,” Metzger said. “It’s rewarding to be part of that larger effort on campus and to know that through this work our students are making a real difference in our community.”


Brandy Warren
Brandy Warren is coordinator for marketing and communications in UofL’s Office of Communications and Marketing, where she manages special events and promotes UofL’s Division of Student Affairs. She previously worked at daily newspapers in Kentucky and Alabama.