Poet Samuel Johnson once said, “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” For University of Arkansas student Whitney Green, refusing to see the world for what it is isn’t an option.
A senior at the U of A, Green grew up traveling the world, living in various countries with missionary parents. Living in Guatemala for two years, her family moved back to Springdale where she graduated from Har-Ber High School in 2008. Obtaining her associate’s degree, she attended Northwest Arkansas Community College, graduating in 2010.
Having spent several years in the “normal” routine of a student, she couldn’t shake the notion of traveling. Already set with two years of college behind her, Green decided to take a year off to travel the world. Applying for various scholarships, she spent June 2010-August 2011 living in California, Hawaii, Iceland, Indonesia and England.
Equipped with a passion for social injustice and non-profit work, while in Hawaii she lived on the island of Maui and worked at the Maui Food Bank. “There was an opening that my friend told me about. It was a summer internship and I worked with volunteers, handing out food to non-profits and other food banks,” she said.
Continuing her exploration of injustice among humans, Green recalls that while staying two nights in a hotel in Indonesia, she was told not to go downstairs at night. Naturally, in the battle between do and don’t, her curiosity to “do” won out. Venturing downstairs, she spotted several young girls dressed provocatively. After speaking to a woman who once lived in the area, “she told me that the hotel turned into a brothel at night,” Green remembered.
Throughout her travels, Green found herself taking photos of people and their environments. It wasn’t until she traveled to Haiti with a church group in 2010 after the devastating earthquake that she decided to pick up a camera. Due to the amount of financial support she received for the trip, she had more than necessary. “I prayed about it and asked God what he wanted me to do with the money,” she said. Feeling a pull towards buying a new camera, she admits, “I never really cared about photography before then.” Arriving in Haiti, she found herself connecting with the locals through photography, believing it to be a “universal door.” Taking a picture of a young boy and having the opportunity to turn around and show him his photo, maybe for the first time, is just one way Green says that she connected with the people of Haiti.
Although her time spent traveling to various countries was life-changing, she knew it was time to come back and finish her degree. After applying for scholarships, her mother spoke to Carol Rachal in the journalism department, telling her about Green’s travels and the things she saw in various third-world countries. Hearing her story, Rachal suggested that Green pursue a degree in journalism. “I blindly walked into journalism,” she admitted. However she felt at the time, the appreciation and dedication she has towards the profession is one she is grateful to possess.
Not only is her passion evident through her work, but it is noticed by her professors, her peers, and even the Arkansas Alumni Association. Awarded a membership scholarship in the amount of $2,500, as well as the NWA Chapter Endowed scholarship of $1,500, Green was excited to hear that she had been chosen as a recipient.
The appreciation for these scholarships is ten-fold now that she is a part of the Lemke Newsroom. A course offered only to juniors and seniors, it provides students the opportunity to have real-life reporting and news experience. Fifteen students are accepted into the 15-hour course, all of whom learn techniques in news reporting, editing, multimedia, broadcast and photojournalism. As the course description states, “Students should not attempt to take additional classes or commit to work at a job between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Most of the work commitment to the Newsroom is, at a minimum, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Thursday.”
Writing a story every day, Green admits, “It feels like it’s a job.” However, the fast-paced world of journalism hasn’t kept her from meeting its challenges. “This class has helped me grow. I’ve noticed a jump in my ability to write quicker,” she said, admitting that she usually enjoys taking her time on writing a well-written piece.
In the Lemke Newsroom, social services is her “beat” and she views her stories as a way to change people’s perceptions and bring about awareness on various topics.Her stories from the newsroom are posted online at The Razorback Reporter and often run in The Arkansas Traveler where she works as a contributing photographer and writer. This fall, Green’s work was featured in the annual Traveler Magazine with a 3-page photo essay of the Fayetteville Tent Cities where many homeless people reside.
After completing a story about children with cancer, Green learned that Fox News re-tweeted her story, saying, “I did a full story and multimedia package on Team Gunnison…I wanted to bring awareness to the topic.” Venturing into the Fayetteville woods, her “beat” led her to a homeless man living among the elements. After speaking to him and learning his story, she asked if she could take his photo. Aware of the vulnerability these people must feel, Green attempts to capture that one photo that showcases the reality of the situation.
Her devotion to bringing awareness to these issues does not stop at the classroom. Currently, she is working to raise $1,000 for Angel House, an organization in India that builds homes for orphans. “It costs about $25,000 to build one of these homes,” she said.
Her efforts as a student, scholar, journalist and traveler are impressive for someone who is only 22 years old. Aware of her strides and accomplishments, Green understands the difficulties that could have been had it not been for the scholarships she received. “It was a real blessing to learn that I had been chosen as a recipient…After I graduate, I would love to speak at scholarship events. It’s important to talk about how these scholarships affected me and my efforts.”