Blythe Duckworth: Discovering the Secret
“I naturally love to watch how people behave in groups, and how they act in different circumstances, and the way society shapes us. My time as a sociology major helped nurture my love for understanding how society and groups of people think and interact. This is useful in everything I do.”
For 793 days, almost 5,000 miles from home, Blythe Duckworth '07 has committed herself to serving the greater good.
The journey began when Duckworth joined the Peace Corps and became a part of a community development project in Lviv, Ukraine. Working with an agency called People's Aid, she is helping build a non-profit sector that is still very young and upcoming.
"I work toward the goal of transparency and democratic values in the workplace," she explains, citing the need for greater communication and organizational structure within the agency.
Duckworth's commitment to service was evident in her years at Transylvania. Her internship with AIDS Volunteers of Lexington led to her receiving a two-year fellowship with the Jesse Ball DuPont Fund in Jacksonville, Fla., where she worked with such non-profit groups as the Girl Scouts and the National Audubon Society.
Duckworth discovered another passion while at Transylvania, though, that ultimately led her toward joining the Peace Corps and engaging in a life-changing experience.
"I knew I had to study abroad," she remembers. "I saw students after they returned from their trips and they seemed changed somehow, like they had a secret, and I wanted to discover that secret."
And she did, spending a term at London's University of Westminster.
"The time away from such a comfortable environment was extremely challenging, but absolutely gave me a more worldly perspective and a better relationship with myself."
It's a lesson that Duckworth continues to learn. Once again finding herself in a different world, she realizes that the challenge of bridging cultural gaps is often accompanied by self-discovery.
"My experience in the Peace Corps has shown me what it really feels like to struggle with my environment and my work," she says. "This struggle has helped me find a deeper understanding of what truly brings me joy—sharing culture and stories through food."
After completing her service in the Ukraine, Duckworth hints at the possibility of starting a business in the food industry that also contains elements of a social enterprise, hoping to not only serve food, but also serve her community.
The project seems ambitious. But Duckworth has already proven her ability to step beyond what is comfortable and easy. "My greatest accomplishment as a student and afterward is that I have never stopped challenging myself," she says.
Perhaps that is the secret she discovered.