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Good troublemaker: Making noise to create community change

Stories | 04.25.23

Editor’s Note: Adler is hosting its first-ever Giving Day on May 10, an opportunity for the community to support the changemakers and visionaries of tomorrow by donating to the Adler Fund or one of its scholarship funds. Enter the Giving Day #Changemaker video contest and tell us why you’re a #changemaker in a video that’s two minutes or less for a chance to select which program, area, or scholarship $1,000 of general funding should go. Upload your video by May 1. The winner will be announced on May 10.

Photo of Alexis Dupree

If the late civil rights leader John Lewis defines “good trouble” as ordinary people doing extraordinary things, then doctoral student Alexis Dupree has spent the last decade as a troublemaker.

She co-created Khorage Magazine to address the lack of representation of Black teens and adults in media. She committed a year of service with AmeriCorps. She served as a mentor for Urban Alliance Chicago. She has also written and performed spoken-word pieces, led community wellness programs for nonprofit organizations, and continues to advocate for South Side artists of color.

And thanks to a scholarship dedicated to those making noise, she’s continuing to advance her understanding of social justice and further her work in her community.

“Good trouble is simply having the will to approach life with solutions,” said Dupree, who is in her first year of the Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership through the Online Campus. “For the last decade, I’ve worked to create equity through community service, education, wellness, and art.”

That was part of her answer in a 5-minute video submission for the University’s John Lewis Good Trouble Scholarship, which asked applicants to share what they are doing in their community “to make some noise.” In December 2022, Dupree learned she was chosen for the scholarship, which covers her full tuition.

“Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to continue to pursue my Ph.D.,” said Dupree, who earned her master’s degree in organizational leadership at Adler University. “Having this scholarship opportunity is helpful, and I’m very appreciative and grateful for it.”

A new challenge

Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Dupree is a first-generation high school and college graduate. She pursued a degree in communications with a journalism and media emphasis at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

It was at UMKC, while working as an education assistant for the Head Start program, where Dupree saw an online listing to join the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

“I had heard of the Peace Corps but didn’t know about AmeriCorps,” she said. “But I did research and saw that it’s basically committing to community service. My service at AmeriCorps allowed me to see how a community works.”

The VISTA program serves to help alleviate poverty by assisting local organizations in expanding capacity to make change.

Through the program, Dupree served at Show Me KC Schools, an organization that offers a variety of programs, services, and events designed to help families navigate Kansas City’s education landscape. Her year of service at Show Me KC Schools ultimately grew into a full-time role as project coordinator, up until her relocation to Chicago in the spring of 2019 in search for a change of pace.

“My grandmother is from here, so the city is familiar,” Dupree said. “But I was ready for a new challenge. I said, ‘Let’s put on some big girl pants and do something new.’”

Photo of Alexis Dupree and wellness group

Two Adler courses — one leading high-impact teams and another on entrepreneurship — ultimately encouraged Dupree to start Little Spaces Wellness, a community wellness hub. Through Little Spaces, Dupree is conducting health and wellness workshops for local nonprofits.

‘That missing piece’

While working at an Irish pub in Old Town, Dupree learned about Adler University from one of the bartenders who had recently graduated.

For months, Dupree had been researching graduate programs that would recognize her AmeriCorps service and provide financial help. But it wasn’t until she heard about Adler that she realized the University was near the top of a list on the AmeriCorps website — providing a discount on tuition to AmeriCorps volunteers.

“It’s a given that education is expensive, especially for those who continue their studies beyond a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “I’m grateful for the financial support that the AmeriCorps tuition assistance and the John Lewis scholarship has provided.”

However, Dupree hopes more students are afforded the same opportunity.

“Especially those in the online space because it can be even more challenging to find scholarships for these types of programs compared to those that are in-person,” she said.

Dupree chose to pursue the organizational leadership program as it seemed to make the most sense based on her educational and professional background. The program trains students to influence and revitalize domestic and international organizations as scholars, practitioners, and entrepreneurs with a socially responsible focus.

“I’m a person where things come to me spiritually and emotionally,” she said. “I don’t always have the answer in the moment, but I knew I needed a piece to my puzzle. Organizational leadership just felt like that missing piece.”

Two courses — one leading high-impact teams and another on entrepreneurship — ultimately encouraged Dupree to start Little Spaces Wellness, a community wellness hub. Through Little Spaces, Dupree is conducting health and wellness workshops for local nonprofits.

“I work at the intersection of art, education, and wellness. I’ve been a teacher. I’m an artist. I teach yoga — and now I’ve started a wellness business,” she said. “All of these are rooted in social justice and Adlerian theory. I guess I’ll continue making good trouble for a while.”

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