Through service, Palestine Small changes her own life

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IMG_0909Working with local community organizations, December graduate Palestine Small, who graduated from the Carolina Center for Public Service’s Buckley Public Service Scholars program, spent her time at Carolina in service to others. Like many Carolina students, Small has a deep desire to serve, but her motivation comes from a need to help those walking a path she is all too familiar with. Small, a 47-year-old sociology major, worked with a specific purpose to fulfill a commitment to change her life and make something of herself.

“I went through 31 years of hate, “said Small. “I was raised in foster care, introduced to drugs and alcohol through a family member, suffered from family abuse, incest and rape and spent time in prison. Then one day I went into rehab and someone said to me ‘I want you to change your life. You don’t have to come back to this.’”

That day was September 12, 2006. Since then, Small has completed the drug rehabilitation program at TROSA in Durham and taken classes at Durham Technical Community College. After coming to UNC as a transfer student through the Carolina Student Transfer Excellence Program (C-STEP), Small found the Buckley Public Service Scholars program where she could learn about various types of service as a framework for how she hoped to connect with organizations to help those struggling with the same issues she faced.

“Throughout the path of rediscovering myself, I found that I have a yearning to help people,” Small said. “I am supposed to help by sharing my lifestyle and letting people know they can help themselves, too.

“I chose the Buckley Public Service Scholars program as a way to give back to the community and as a way to connect to self-help organizations and help those in need. I have been where they are and I know the way out.”

Palestine Small - BPSS Graduation 13 020Now that she has graduated, Small plans to continue on her path in service to others. She intends to apply to divinity school, then go to law school with a goal of bringing together the two disciplines to impact the juvenile justice system.

Reflecting on where she was and how far she has come, Small said, “I had two people in my life who saw something in me, who believed in me. I wanted to be that person they saw. I could not let them down.”

“I am grateful for what the BPSS program has done for me – it helped me make connections in the community to help people and let them know change is possible.”


Watch this short video of Palestine Small telling her story and talking about her experience as a Buckley Scholar.

Read more about Palestine Small in Celebrating Carolina’s Diversity, the bi-annual newsletter of UNC’s Central Development Office’s Alumni Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity.