The Hamilton Holt School’s 2020 Outstanding Graduating Senior forged a unique path through Rollins that exemplifies a sense of purpose and service.
Madison Kress ’20 knew Rollins was right for her when she visited Orlando Hall and spotted the big, oval wooden tables that beckon big ideas and discussion. She could envision herself sitting there, engaging with her classmates and professors, and learning how to become an agent of change armed with purpose.
While Kress is a traditional-age college student, she gravitated toward the flexibility of Rollins’ Hamilton Holt School, where she double-majored in communications and psychology and created a work study role as communications and community student outreach coordinator. Kress spent all four years in this position, helping increase the school’s social media presence and launching the popular Holt Happenings event series.
Kress thrived in the small, discussion-based classes anchored by the close-knit relationships she was able to develop with both her professors and fellow students, and she applied these skills in and outside the classroom. She served as the lead Holt senator in the Student Government Association (SGA) and sat on its executive board as the public relations chair, expanding her leadership to the greater community.
After graduation, Kress will continue her internship with Radiate Social, a boutique PR firm for which she recently wrote a video script for Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings. Longer term, she hopes to work with educational institutions, possibly in community outreach and marketing, that support students of all ages.
On the cusp of graduation and during a time of unprecedented uncertainty as the world is facing a global pandemic, we asked Kress to reflect on her four years at Rollins and to look toward the future.
Being in class with students who had jobs and families really pushed me. I’ve had the most life-changing experiences. I’ve learned from classmates, including a single mother and someone who immigrated from Brazil, about things they’ve had to sacrifice. This whole experience has added such perspective to my life and has been truly humbling.
As a double major in communications and psychology, I always look for ways to bring the two together. Through developing and organizing the Holt Happenings events, I was always paying attention to questions like, “Is this effective communication? How is this serving the community?” Being the point person for these events—like the networking night we did this spring with the Center for Career & Life Planning in the new Kathleen W. Rollins Hall—really helped hone my strategic planning skills.
This nontraditional path is so much better than anything I could’ve expected from a school. It’s inspired me more and more to want to give back to the community.
Rollins opens the doors to all kinds of opportunities. During my four years, there was never a time when I expressed interest in something and was met with anything other than assistance and enthusiasm. Erik Kenyon, a philosophy professor and the Holt School’s director of student and faculty engagement, is one of my mentors, and he really helped me find my voice. My academic advisor, Debbie Tatum, was always so supportive and encouraging whether it was related to my academic endeavors or community outreach.
The opportunity to get involved with the community helped me become a leader. And I know these kinds of opportunities may be a bit harder to come by in the real world, but by being a big fish in a small pond at Rollins, I feel prepared to leap into a bigger pond. Rollins taught me that if you want to make it happen, you can make it happen.
Photo by Scott Cook
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