Tabitha Bentley: A Leader in All-Around Service

by Marilyn Sherman

There's a reason why Tabitha Bentley's e-mails end with this quote from César Chávez: "The end of all education should surely be service to others." The SESP junior, a social policy major, has a habit of working to change her world for the better.

One way she has already enhanced the world of SESP is by co-founding SESP's first student organization, Promote 360. The mission of the service organization is to promote the social, academic and professional well-being of minority students — an all-encompassing goal represented by the 360-degree reference.

Junior Tabitha Bentley co-founded Promote 360, the SESP service organization that supports minority students.
Junior Tabitha Bentley co-founded Promote 360, the SESP service organization that supports minority students.
Photo by Andrew Campbell
A desire to provide a network for education and policy majors led Bentley to initiate the organization in 2006 with co-founder Cass Chen (BS07), and she has been president for two years. "The idea for a minority group might not have been so readily received elsewhere. This was the ultimate setting," says Bentley. "So many people are excited about it and see the need for it — not just students but professors. Everyone sees it's vital."

Since its founding, the group has organized projects both on campus and in the community. For example, Promote 360 mentors Chicago-area high school and middle school students, building interest in college attendance. The group also hosts speakers and networking events, including a welcome for the SESP community each fall.

In addition, members have met with applicants to the Gates Millennium Scholars program, sharing information and helping with applications. "It was so great to help these kids who were so ambitious," Bentley recalls. "Perhaps they didn't have the money to go to college or parents who had gone to college, but we wanted to encourage them. It was a wonderful opportunity to connect with the upcoming generation."

Bentley's greatest satisfaction comes from the teamwork that allows Promote 360 to pull off ambitious projects such as Empowering Young Minds, a daylong event inspiring Chicago-area middle schoolers to consider college. In the future she would like to see the growing organization incorporate more SESP students of all concentrations and years.

As a pre-freshman, Bentley found her home at SESP after looking at the web site and realizing how much the interdisciplinary nature of the school appealed to her. "It was everything I was interested in — policy, education — in one major," she says with a smile. "I'm really grateful that I found SESP and that I've had the kind of support that I have."

Combining pursuits comes naturally to Bentley. Besides Promote 360, her many activities at Northwestern include directing the gospel choir, participating in the Caribbean student organization and chairing the Eva Jefferson committee for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. All the while, she maintains a top grade point average and teaches Sunday school. "When I'm busy, I think that's when I do my best. It keeps me organized," she says.

Similarly Bentley's career goals are wide-ranging. For a couple of years after graduation she plans on teaching in a Latin American or Caribbean country. "I have a deep passion for that area because my parents are from the Caribbean," she says. Over the summer she got a head start on teaching with an internship through the Breakthrough Collaborative as a middle school English and history teacher in Miami.

Afterward, she plans to earn a graduate degree in public policy. "I simply want to master the occupation of serving the public. Providing education as well as implementing a workable educational system is a great task. My desire is to learn how to do it and do it well," she says.

Whether she's teaching kids or tackling policy, what motivates Bentley is the desire to provide others with the kind of nurturing environment she has experienced. She says, "I've been really blessed. I have a very supportive family, and because of that I was able to take advantage of everything that was offered. I'm very self-motivated, but some don't have that support. If I can provide that support, it's very rewarding."
By Marilyn Sherman with photo by Andrew Campbell