Tutoring in Thailand: Jessica Richardson '13 Goes the Distance
How far would you go to make a difference in the lives of others? This summer, Spring Hill College psychology major Jessica Richardson traveled 18,000 miles to complete her most recent service project.
The senior stand-out is back from a three-week trip to Thailand, coordinated through the nation’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). As a member of Spring Hill’s ROTC program, run in conjunction with the University of South Alabama, Richardson was selected from applicants all over the country to work with students at one of the country’s top military academies.
Located two hours outside of Bangkok in the Chulachomklao province, the military academy accepts only the country’s best and brightest students. “It’s like a West Point for Thai students,” said Richardson. “I tutored the equivalent of college freshman through seniors in conversational English.”
Known by faculty and staff for her exceptional work ethic and focus, Richardson is part of the Spring Hill College Donnelly Scholars program, established in 2008 to serve first-generation college students.
“As a beginning Donnelly Scholar, Jessica was considered high-risk for attrition,” explained Tracey Childs, director of Spring Hill’s Center for Academic Excellence. “Jessica, however, has overcome many obstacles, and has not only beaten the risk, but enhanced campus life. She has taken advantage of her ROTC experience. She wakes up when many students are still asleep, participates in a rigorous physical regiment, and then comes back to our campus to take classes.”
A Mobile, Ala., native, Richardson said she knew right away that Spring Hill College was the perfect college fit. “I liked the campus, the atmosphere, and the community feeling. Because of the college’s smaller class sizes, I was able to get more hands-on experience,” said Richardson. “The professors here really make time for students.”
Richardson also emphasized that the SHC faculty helped her develop personally and professionally. “I’m always out in front of people. I’ve gone to psychology conferences, given presentations, and reported on my own research. I’m comfortable, now, talking in front of an audience.”
Dr. Jamie Franco-Zamudio, assistant professor of psychology, has watched Richardson grow and mature over the past several years. “Jessica is a diligent, determined student. She is dedicated to serving others and providing support to those in need,” said Dr. Franco-Zamudio.
Though Richardson has always been driven to serve others, she said her visit to Thailand was a life-changing experience. “It was great. People there are so friendly, and it’s a fascinating culture,” she added. “Everyone was eager to learn, and made significant strides as the weeks went along,” said Richardson. “It’s amazing to think about—the students I worked with will be future leaders of their country.”
Though there wasn’t much time for sightseeing, Richardson did tour a few temples, rode an elephant, and witnessed a ceremony with the nation’s princess, who is a military professor in Thailand. She hopes to return to the country next year with the same program as a ROTC team leader. “Right now, I’m really enjoying staying in touch with everyone. We’re on Facebook, we’re texting. But I’d love to go back and see how much my students have progressed.”
Richardson, who graduates from Spring Hill this December, will be commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the United States Army. “I’ll probably go active duty for four to eight years. During that time, I’m hoping to complete my master’s degree online, and then pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.”
It is Richardson’s dream to work with psychological operations in the military. “My goal is to work with soldiers who have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or similar conditions. It’s my passion—the area in which I think I can really use my knowledge and skills.”
Richardson is a member of Spring Hill’s Psychology Club, and two national honor societies, Psi Chi and the National Honor Society of Leadership and Excellence. In addition, she tutored students at Denton Middle School, Blount High School, and Mary B. Austin Elementary, as well as worked with the elderly at Crowne Health through Spring Hill College’s Foley Community Service Center.
Spring Hill College faculty and staff are confident Richardson can do anything she sets out to accomplish. “I am proud of Jessica in all that she’s done, and I am thrilled that she was given the opportunity to leave the country and be immersed in another culture,” added Childs. “She will, no doubt, be successful in whatever she pursues. She is smart, empathetic, and resilient.”
*For photos from Jessica's Thailand Trip, visit the Spring Hill College Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sprhill