May 12, 2014
By Jerome Boettcher
Just like everyone else, Kendra Hendrix has only 24 hours a day at her disposal.
During the fall, Vanderbilt soccer games and road trips filled up her schedule on the weekends, and class, studying, practicing and weight lifting soaked up her days and nights during the week. Finding time to meet her weekly obligation of 15 hours of community service as a member of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity could be a difficult challenge sometimes.
But Hendrix made sure to make time.
“If that required me waking up a little bit earlier, that was something I was committed doing,” she said. “When you have something more than other people, it is just worth doing something to help them get where you are.”
Hendrix graduated on Friday with a degree in public policy, and she played in 48 games at forward for the Commodores the past three seasons. But the three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll recipient didn’t stop at being a student-athlete.
Over the last four years, she has extended her time into the community with a plethora of service opportunities. Whether she is leading activities as a troop leader for the Girl Scouts or repairing houses in New Orleans, Hendrix has been more than willing to serve others during her free time.
Her bevy of volunteer experiences, coupled with her 3.21 GPA, makes her the perfect Vanderbilt nominee for the SEC’s 2014 H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar Athlete of the Year. Senior fullback Fitz Lassing of the football team was Vanderbilt’s male nominee.
The SEC Male and Female Scholar Athletes of the Year shall each awarded a $15,000 scholarship. The SEC Postgraduate Scholarship Award recipients, given to the 26 other nominees not awarded athletes of the year, shall each receive a $7,500 scholarship.
Hendrix, a native of Little Rock, Ark., said her passion to give back was ignited by the vast cultural and economic differences in her own neighborhood.
She used to walk to school along gentrified city blocks. Then she would turn the corner and see impoverished streets.
“That’s really what drove me to get involved in the community” she said. “I never understood how you could be so prosperous on one street and so poor on another. Nobody was saying anything about it or doing anything to help. That was an inspiration for me to get involved in my community…. I always wanted to be a professional volunteer.”
Hendrix embarks on that journey in August when she heads to the Dominican Republic for two years to work for the Peace Corps. Though she has not received her exact job responsibilities, her area of focus will be in youth and community development.
“I’m super excited,” she said. “That has always been a dream since high school.”
She already has amassed a lengthy list of volunteer work.
She served as a summer intern for three years at Audubon Arkansas, a summer camp where she taught underprivileged youth about the importance of nature. She has been a dorm supervisor with Eco-Dores and a peer educator for Eco-Suds, helping students live in an environmentally sustainable way. She helped repair homes in New Orleans still damaged from Hurricane Katrina on an alternative winter break. More recently, she has been an active leader for a local Girl Scout troop.
“I never thought I was good with children,” she said. “My mom is a first-grade teacher. I would go to her class sometimes and help with reading. I realized I am actually pretty good with kids. Just doing Girl Scouts it is so much fun to see the fun they have and seeing us as college students giving back to these little girls, they really appreciate it. It was heartwarming—as cheesy as that sounds.”
After returning from the Peace Corps in 2016, Hendrix plans to attend graduate school at Vanderbilt for community development and action. She eventually wants to either work for a nonprofit organization or start her own. She sees herself as a liaison between government and communities, entrenched in helping people in need of assistance.
“That’s the dream. We’ll see if I get there,” she said.
If the last four years are any indication, Hendrix will accomplish her goals. She says if it wasn’t for soccer, the opportunities at Vanderbilt wouldn’t have been open to her.
“Soccer gave me my starting point. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to get the connections,” she said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to make the friends I’ve made. I definitely want to attribute soccer and Vanderbilt. It is a great school. There are a lot of things you get involved in at this school. The few I took advantage of helped me a lot.
“I’m really grateful for being here, being an athlete, being a student.”