Student has no limit for helping others

Allison Ryan traveled over 8,000 miles to serve and inspire others, but it was those who she served that inspired her the most. Ryan embodied what the Gamecock community is all about, as her love for helping others had no limit when she traveled to South Africa.

Ryan, a social work junior from Greenville, came to the University of South Carolina three years ago despite having her heart set on a small campus. A tour of Preston Residential College changed her mind.

“I fell in love with Preston. Through the involvement Preston has in the Carolina community, I was able to see the opportunities and resources that were available to me on and off campus,” says Ryan.

Those opportunities allowed her to volunteer and mentor in the Midlands. She also became involved as the Homelessness Outreach and Awareness chairwoman for Y-Impact (a community service organization within Preston), former President of Carolina Homelessness Outreach, and SCORE Higher Education Conference community service chairwoman.

Like many other experiences, Ryan seized the chance to study abroad with the expectation to get out of her comfort zone. She chose to go to South Africa to gain knowledge about higher education in other countries and learn how children thrive in different environments.

“I love putting myself in situations where I’m uncomfortable and I’m the minority because I feel that’s where you’re most vulnerable. Outside of your comfort zone is where you’re pushed to the limits and learn about yourself and the world around you,” says Ryan.

In South Africa, Ryan stayed at Stellenbosch University where she and other students attended class and worked with a community development agency. The agency holds after-school programs for students and helps teachers implement new programs to strengthen community engagement, sustainability and education support.

“The best part was meeting the kids we were working with and realizing how much they value education. We had them draw their dream jobs and some wanted to be ministers of finance while others wanted to be doctors. But it wasn’t because of the money, the kids wanted to continue their education so they could one day help their own communities,” says Ryan.

She says seeing the value they hold for education and service, though they physically possess very little is inspiring.

Ryan’s own love of service started at a young age in church.

“Our Sunday school class produced and transported baby food to shelters. Since the age of 5, I’ve gotten to see the needs and woes of the homeless community and how I can help them. Since then, my passion for helping others has transcended all areas of my life,” says Ryan.

Ryan believes we were put on this earth to help one another and intends to live her life in a way to leave a positive impact on as many people as possible.

She says she would go back to South Africa in a heartbeat, but while on American soil, she plans to continue making a difference in her community. After graduation, she aims to pursue her master’s degree in higher education.

“I just want to keep learning forever. I hope I can spark a love for learning in every child I encounter because being passionate about what I’m learning has changed my life forever,” says Ryan.

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