Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Meagan Jennett

When Meagan Jennett landed a summer internship in Los Angeles, she decided to drive there from Chicago by way of Route 66, the historic highway once nicknamed “The Main Street of America.” Jennett, who hopes to become a photojournalist, documented her seven-day journey in a blog called Traveler.

An idea is born: My friend Emma Chaiken (Class of 2011) suggested the trip. At first, I was a little hesitant. But the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I discussed the idea with two of my professors, Alex Bloom (history) and Andy Howard (studio art), and their enthusiasm for the project settled it. They even began sending me Route 66 trivia and different versions of the famous song, “Get Your Kicks on Route 66!”

Connection to courses: In all of my American Studies classes, we’ve always come back to the question: “What is American? What makes us who we are?” I set out to answer this question during my journey on Route 66. In the process, I was able to embark on my own classic American journey west, something that still has the power to capture the imagination of the American people.

Biggest surprise: I still don’t believe I made it all the way across the country on a road that is badly marked, broken and often dead-ended! It all seems like someone else’s life to me.

Summer of service: This summer I am working for the non-profit organization A Better LA, which is devoted to stopping gang violence all across Los Angeles. One unique thing about the organization is that all of our intervention workers are former gang members themselves! Every week I go to a West Athens-Westmont community meeting and speak with local law enforcement, school teachers, parents, kids, politicians and gang intervention workers. It has truly been an eye-opening experience.

Making a difference: Most Los Angeles area residents have a terrible view of the Southland. To combat this attitude, we have been conducting interviews with local people in their parks and community centers, to give places like West Athens a face and a story. I am learning how to really talk to people and tease out of them exactly what I need to get a compelling story. I sincerely hope that the work we are doing makes a difference in the lives of such deserving people.