Our Stories

Willamette Alumna Fights Hunger through National Fellowship

Amy Johnson '08 is no longer on the Willamette campus, but she continues to live by the university motto: Not unto ourselves alone are we born.

For the past year, she taught Native American students on a Montana reservation through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a program dedicated to social justice, community, simplicity and spirituality. And for the next year, she will fight two of her biggest concerns - hunger and poverty - through a prestigious Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship.

A project of the Congressional Hunger Center, the fellowship allows her to spend six months working for a community agency that addresses hunger, followed by six months in Washington, D.C., addressing hunger policy issues.

"I really like that the program gives back to the communities it serves," says Johnson, who majored in sociology. "The structure also helps us become young professionals who are equipped with the tools to implement what we learn. The program is about building people who can step forward and make a difference."

Johnson started exploring these issues at Willamette, where she helped organize the annual Hunger Banquet, which explores world hunger and what students can do to actively make a difference. Students partake in a meal that simulates the discrepancy in global food distribution - some of them receive full meals, some eat simple meals away from the table and at least half sit on the floor and only receive white rice.

Johnson also volunteered with Into the Streets, part of the university's annual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Students and staff spend an afternoon helping local service agencies. During her freshman and sophomore years, she participated in Take a Break, an alternative spring break program where students travel across the country to engage in service learning projects.

She also was president of an organization that taught after-school science lessons to students at a nearby elementary school.

"Willamette gave me a good foundation to figure out what I believe in and what my possibilities are," Johnson says. "There is a community on campus that fosters social change. It gave me the desire to want to be a part of that.

"I'm a privileged person because I received a college education, and it's important to take advantage of the opportunities I have by giving to others. If we all helped each other, we could make a better society. I want to be one spoke in the wheel for that change."