Section: Opinion

Kenyon students must close gap with Knox County residents

While Kenyon boasts a reputation as a selective private liberal-arts college, it’s perhaps equally true that it’s as self-selective as it is selective. Students from a wide array of backgrounds — suburban, urban and international — choose to embrace the juxtaposition of Kenyon’s rigorous academic setting among central Ohio’s tranquil cornfields and forests. This decision places students in a unique relationship with our neighbors in Knox County — making it tempting to remain within the ‘Kenyon bubble’ atop the Hill. However, venturing out to engage with local residents not only broadens the worldview of both students and community members, but also offers mutual benefits that extend far beyond the classroom. To ensure these connections are meaningful and enriching, we, as Kenyon students, must consciously steer clear of any savior or superiority mindset, instead maintaining humility and respect for the knowledge and experiences of Knox County residents.

Venturing beyond the ‘Kenyon bubble’ adds depth to our education that the classroom alone cannot provide. Through Kenyon’s Office for Community Partnerships, we’re invited to discover opportunities to bring our learning to life, whether it’s mentoring young minds with Kenyon Mentors, contributing to the Arch Park Community Garden or supporting students at East Knox Elementary. These volunteer efforts allow us to ground our theoretical knowledge in real-world situations. Each experience broadens our view and links our academic work with the immediate needs and lives of Knox County residents, enriching our educational experience with practical, hands-on learning.

Too often, I hear unproductive and unfounded comments from my peers suggesting that Knox County residents are somehow less educated and therefore inferior or have chosen rural life due to a lack of better options. Such assumptions are not only harmful but also overlook the myriad of reasons people value their life here, such as strong community ties or a genuine appreciation for the simplicity and beauty of rural living. Our privilege of a liberal arts education does not equate to a higher understanding of what’s best for our neighbors. It’s essential to challenge these stereotypes and approach our engagement with the community with humility and respect, valuing the choices and lifestyles of Knox County residents as equally valid and meaningful.

When you embarked on your journey to Kenyon, you likely envisioned leaving your familiar nest, eager to absorb new perspectives and return with a broader worldview. It’s crucial to remember this objective, ensuring that your quest for knowledge doesn’t morph into a superiority complex. Engaging with the Knox County community offers a tangible way to expand your horizons right here, blending academic learning with real-world experiences. By approaching these interactions with humility and openness, we not only enrich our own understanding but also contribute positively to those around us. Let’s honor our initial commitment to growth by genuinely connecting with our neighbors, recognizing that wisdom and insight can be found in every corner of our shared environment.

Dylan Sibbitt ’26 is a political science major from San Francisco. He can be reached at sibbitt1@kenyon.edu.

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