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#GDTBATH: Desireé Lockhart

Carolina junior Desireé Lockhart has dedicated her time in Chapel Hill to supporting and serving the community as an intern with a local nonprofit focused on affordable housing and grassroots economic development.

Desiree Lockhart

Even though Desireé Lockhart will only be a Chapel Hill resident for a short time as a Carolina student, she wants to make a difference in the community that will carry on long after she graduates.

“My college experience isn’t just about me. My time here in Chapel Hill is not supposed to be just about me,” Lockhart, a junior, said. “I find my purpose in being able to create an outcome that is not going just to benefit me. If I came to Carolina and I didn’t do something for the community, I wouldn’t be fulfilled.”

To fulfill her goal, Lockhart joined Campus Y’s Bonner Leaders Program as a first-year student. The program pairs work-study students with local organizations addressing community needs. Bonner Scholars provide 250 hours of public service each year.

Lockhart was paired with EMPOWERment, Inc, a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit that focuses on community development through affordable housing, grassroots economic development and community organizing. As a business administration and public policy major, Lockhart plans on building her business career around the idea of doing good for communities, and EMPOWERment was the perfect fit.

“They were within the realm of what I wanted to focus on, which is helping populations that are low-wealth, populations that are overlooked by the systems they were placed into,” she said. “Their mission aligned perfectly with what I wanted to do professionally.”

Lockhart helped with the organization’s fundraising efforts, social media outreach and grant writing to build partnerships and fund housing projects during her first two years. This year, she has focused on building community awareness of EMPOWERment by creating marketing strategies and working to establish partnerships.

Her experiences with the organization have helped her reach more than just her goal of making an impact in Chapel Hill. They’ve also allowed her to take what she’s learning in class into the real world.

“It is certainly very humbling to be able to be part of this,” she said. “It’s a team effort. They’ve built me into the person that I am, just as I have helped their organization to be able to provide the services that they do. It is a symbiotic relationship.”

Though she knew from the beginning of her Carolina career that giving back was going to be a hallmark of her college years, working with EMPOWERment has led Lockhart to rethink what it truly means to serve others. Lockhart said she initially focused on one-time acts of service but has grown to look at the lasting impact of her work and ensure that it makes a difference further down the road.

“It’s not necessarily about the act of doing something good. It’s about what is going to come out of it long term,” she said. “I believe that wherever you stay, you should have a heart for, and you should care for it. Four years is a great amount of time to be able to do something impactful.”