Ryan Gregson, a Central Washington University undergraduate, has been awarded the position of Oxfam CHANGE Leader 2012-13 in recognition of his history of leadership activities and community-based accomplishments. Gregson is currently the only CHANGE representative in Washington State and is the fourth Central student to be awarded the title.
Oxfam International is a global network, comprised of thousands of local organizations around the world, that promotes human rights and seeks to end poverty and injustice. Each year, Oxfam reviews thousands of international candidates and selects 50 students to recognize as CHANGE Leaders. The CHANGE program trains and engages college students with the goal of broadening perspectives, inspiring action, and shaping a new generation of global citizens.
“Oxfam flew me out to Quincy, Massachusetts, for a week-long training seminar,” said Gregson. “The organization isn’t that well-known on the West Coast, so I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into. I went in planning to apply whatever I learned to educating kids, which is my passion. I found a connection in the GROW campaign. GROW seeks to create a world where all children have enough to eat. Food is a basic necessity and it’s vital for kids to focus in school.”
Oxfam’s GROW Campaign addresses food injustice resulting from bad policies and unfair supply distribution. Gregson’s current mission as an Oxfam CHANGE Leader is to establish an Oxfam Club at CWU and begin hosting projects that support the campaign.
“The Oxfam Club is still going through its growing pains,” says Gregson. “Getting club status was our number one priority for a while. Now, it’s visibility. We’re working to raise funds and awareness for the club. Later this year, once we’re more established, we plan to hold a GROW Campaign hunger banquet.”
According to Gregson, each banquet attendee will receive a red, blue, or green card. Most people will receive a red card, which they can exchange for a bowl of rice and a cup of water. People with a blue card will receive rice, water, and a side of beans. A small number of attendees will receive a green card and a four-course meal typical of what many Americans eat on a regular basis. This banquet will demonstrate the unfair distribution of food throughout the world.”
Like many students, Gregson’s involvement with leadership and activism began in high school. While attending Almira Coulee Hartline High School in Coulee City, he developed his leadership skills through positions such as associate student body president, president of the honors society, and captain of the football team.
As a freshman at CWU, Gregson became involved in a program called Experience Leadership, a two-day camp that exposes freshmen students to leadership experiences and familiarizes them with various student centers on campus. During the camp, his leadership abilities caught the attention of staff. He was offered a job as a program leader at the David Wain Coon Center for Excellence in Leadership. He has remained with the Center for more than two years, leading a variety of leadership-oriented workshops and seminars for students.
Gregson is currently a senior in CWU’s secondary education social studies program. Outside of his role as a program leader, he hosts a leadership camp for high school students in Kittitas County. He also created an academic mentorship program at CWU for high school students, and he participates in a youth summit in which high school students present prevention topics at other high schools.
After he graduates, Gregson intends to become a middle school or high school teacher specializing in social studies and leadership. Optimally, he would coach student football or basketball and travel abroad. He also seeks to lend further support to the GROW campaign by traveling to the Sahel region of northern Africa, a bicoastal, 3,400 mile area that spans the continent and is currently experiencing widespread drought and famine.
Article by Patrick Hasseries, Public Affairs Intern