Maya Rioux

“My internship and volunteer experience gave me new insights.”

Growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, Maya Rioux '16 thought she had a pretty good idea of what the city was like. But that was before she spent a summer interning at East Tennessee PBS and volunteering at the Knoxville Farmer’s Market. "The Hollins community really propels their students to go after internships, and I decided that I was going for an internship in my hometown," she said. "It was eye opening."

Her experiences there brought her into contact with parts and populations of the city she hadn’t known before. During her PBS internship, Maya worked for the director of community engagement. "I ended up spending my summer [at] different design meetings and event meetings, and also getting firsthand research opportunities in terms of the new population of east Tennessee that we needed to reach through the PBS programming." Her internship enabled her to "study those populations and interact with them while also taking a step back and seeing the perspective I once had when I was younger," she said "This provided a nice look at the geography of Knoxville, both literally and socioeconomically."

Her volunteer stint with the Knoxville Farmer’s Market introduced Maya to innovative ways of addressing issues in the Knoxville food supply. The Farmer's Market's token system, which patrons can use instead of cash or cards, also takes EBT [electronic benefit transfer], "which is helpful because Knoxville’s poorest populations live right outside the downtown, so they’re able to come in and use their EBT cards and buy fresh produce—a nice option for the people of Knoxville to start addressing their food desert issues."

Even after 18 years living there, Maya is still seeing new things in Knoxville. "I think I learned to love Knoxville again. I was able to rediscover the city for what it is today and see how lucky I was in growing up there."