A Day in the Life: Katelynd Todd
"Thursdays are my busy days," Katelynd Todd says. It could be the understatement of the year.
Classes have ended, and most students are studying for finals. But for Katelynd, who goes by KT, giving back doesn't stop when the semester ends.
"Service is what I do," she says. "You really just hang out with people and find out what they need, and then have fun doing it."
9:50: KT steps off the bus and heads to Pugh Hall to lead a directors meeting for Gainesville Reads, a nonprofit she created to promote literacy. She and the board discuss bringing reading programs to a prison and poetry night to a women's shelter when the elementary school they've been serving lets out for the summer.
11:15: At the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs end-of-the-year celebration, KT gets some advice on graduate school from Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars assistant director Will Atkins. A palliative care volunteer at UFHealth, KT wants to get a master's in health administration and a doctorate in health policy, then become the CEO of a hospital.
12:10: After describing KT's accomplishments as a member of the Black Student Union executive board and her recent statewide volunteer award from Governor Rick Scott, MCDA operations director Ellen Kostewicz announces KT as the J. Michael Rollo Diversity Impact Award winner. "That was a real surprise. I was not expecting that," KT says.
12:28: There's no time to celebrate: KT catches a ride to the elementary school where she and her Gainesville Reads volunteers play literacy games with fourth-graders. She got the idea for Gainesville Reads after seeing the disparity in standardized test scores between schools in east and west Gainesville. "I didn't go to good schools growing up, but I remember the fun things that made me want to read and write," she says. "I wanted to bring that to a whole bunch of communities in Gainesville."
1:00: A cheer goes up from the kids when KT enters the classroom. "Probably because I brought candy," she jokes.
2:10: KT makes a quick stop at a local high school where she's been working with a group of students in Excellence Scholars, a program she created through UF's Black Student Union. "I saw that UF did a lot to prepare freshmen to be leaders, and I wondered what could be done for high-school students. Not everyone is going to go to college, but we need to develop them to be leaders in whatever they're going to next. It's been awesome to watch them turn into service leaders."
3:00: Next up: a meet and greet with new members of Reitz Scholars, a group of undergraduates handpicked by UF faculty and staff as rising stars. "I like to call it a league of leaders," KT says. "It's people from all over campus who might otherwise never meet, and we all come together to learn about each other."
4:14: KT loads up boxes of donated books to replenish the shelves of a library she started at a local homeless shelter. "This is my friend's car. Really, none of this would be possible without friends."
4:30: A new crop of children's books brings the kids at the shelter running. KT helps them pick books to keep. "We'll bring more," she says. "Take whatever you want."
5:01: Soon KT will catch a ride with a friend to her hometown of Jacksonville, where she'll squeeze in studying for finals. "I have to stay busy," she says. "I just work better like that."