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Around the Columns

Outside the box

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Truman Scholar Kam Phillips encourages youth to “Dream Outside The Box” with help from the Columbia Boys & Girls Club. Photo by Josh Murray

Kam Phillips has never had trouble dreaming big. Growing up in Fort Worth, Texas, Phillips had widespread interests. She could be found, among other things, riding horses and dancing. 

Soon after Phillips arrived at MU, she began volunteering with the Boys & Girls Club, one of many choices that led to winning a prestigious Truman Scholarship.

“When I started working with the kids, I realized there were opportunities they were not being exposed to,” says Phillips, now a senior social work major at MU. “I wanted them to have the same kind of experiences that I had.”

That led Phillips to create Dream Outside The Box, a not-for-profit organization that uses student groups, mostly from MU, to broaden young people’s horizons. The organization works with children at the Boys & Girls Club to offer minority and underprivileged children new experiences while instilling in them a sense of community. “I want them to realize that rap and football are not their only options,” Phillips says. “We’ve made tremendous progress on what they want to do and what they now list as their career goals.”

Programs exploring subjects and activities such as engineering, horseback riding, fencing and accounting have expanded the children’s vision. Students have taken field trips to a local television studio, participated in mock trials with attorneys and learned about culinary arts by making cupcakes.

The theme each week is the same: to dream outside the box.

Last spring, Phillips was named a Truman Scholar, an honor given to 60 students nationally who display leadership in government positions or not-for-profit and education sectors. She was also one of three students selected for mtvU’s Top of the Class, which recognizes students who inspire change on their campus and in their communities.

I have never met an undergraduate student who is more amazing,” says Julie Middleton, director of organizational development for MU Extension and a board member for Boys & Girls Club. “The youth at the Boys & Girls Club are wildly enthusiastic about Dream Outside The Box.”