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Jesse Huddleston: A Pathway to Service
Durham, NC - The path that graduating senior Jesse Huddleston took on his way to some extraordinary accomplishments in community service started with a simple question: "Who are you?"
As a freshman, the Atlanta native had little knowledge about Durham as came to Duke with few specific plans. He said he needed time to discern the path that eventually would lead him into social activism on campus, and in the surrounding community through Duke Chapel's PathWays House, and Project RECON, a program Huddleston initiated to build deeper ties between Duke and North Carolina Central University.
"I was hesitant at first to just jump right into things. I probably didn't really go out until the very end of my freshman year, and even then I didn't go off campus," Huddleston said. "I really wanted to give myself time to feel comfortable with myself, and to figure out, âWho are you? And who do you really like hanging out with?'"
By the time he was a senior, Huddleston was helping other students reflect on these same questions as a residential adviser in Gilbert-Addoms.
"I have a passion for working with college students. This is an interesting time of transition and development. It's an opportunity to figure out who you are, and in some ways, to really set your life trajectory," Huddleston said.
By joining social activism and community building, Huddleston and fellow student Sam Bowler founded Purple, a non-profit using innovative means to increase campus activism and bring Duke students together around social service.
"I saw substantive needs in the community, and these were needs that could bring people together," Huddleston said.
"The way we tried to make it cooler and a little edgier was that we would use fashion and music to present the cause that you were passionate about. That was our concept, to get people's attention in kind of fly ways, and actually create means of connecting," Huddleston says.
Building bridges with nearby North Carolina Central University has also been an ongoing passion with Huddleston, who helped organize The Bull City Showdown, a basketball tournament between the two schools in honor of "The Secret Game," a 1944 basketball game between an all-white Duke team and an all-black Central team that was played in violation of the state's segregation laws.
Huddleston graduates with a sociology major, psychology minor, and a certificate in human development, but he won't leave Durham yet. As a fellow at the PathWays program, he'll live in a communal house on West Chapel Hill Street with other recent graduates, and continue to work part-time in the Office of Community Affairs.
"Jesse's Duke experience has been defined by a moral conviction in the power of reconciling worlds. Jesse is a change maker," says Director of Community Engagement Sam Miglarese.
Among the recognitions to come his way, Huddleston is pleased about receiving the 2010 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, the university's highest honor for outstanding commitment to service. But he said the award was secondary to the work that he did.
The award is given annually to a student and staff member who has a record of reaching out in "constant helpfulness to others."
"Honestly, I appreciate the acknowledgment and the honor, but winning the awards has very little to do with how I feel about what I've done, how I've been changed, and what positive change has been brought about. My hope is that I am actually accomplishing what I set out to do."
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