GW Serves is a monthly series featuring students who are living out the university’s mission to build up public service leaders and active citizens to create a better world for all.
By Nick Erickson
George Washington University senior Dylan Rexroth sat back in a chair in a tucked away corner office of a building he knew all too well—Miriam’s Kitchen on Virginia Avenue. The human services and political science major has racked up countless hours of community involvement during his time at GW, and there was excitement in his voice as he recounted all the opportunities and people he’s met through civic engagement.
But his voice became quieter as he recalled working as an instructor at the Horton’s Kids Community Resource Center in D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood. His shoulders dipped as he thought of the emotional toll it took on him seeing kids from an underserved community try to balance the struggles of living in poverty while matriculating through school.
The octane in his voice briefly rose when discussing one little girl there in particular, who he fondly remembered as especially gifted and way ahead of her grade level. But then his volume lowered again. “Is she going to get the opportunity to thrive?” he softly asked.
Whether it’s his dream job of one day being the U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development or working in the nonprofit sector, Rexroth is dedicated to combating poverty so a lack of access to basic needs doesn’t hold back kids such as the little girl in Anacostia from their potential.
“That just sort of reinforced my determination to serve people that deserve more, using the privilege that I have to help those who have been deprived of it,” Rexroth said.
Rexroth himself is grateful for a support system that included high school guidance counselors footing the bill for AP tests, his church, financial aid offices and his family and friends. That’s why the central Pennsylvania native has been so willing it to pay it forward through a laundry list of volunteer activities while at GW.
He works in a direct service role twice a week as a Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service engageDC leader at Miriam’s Kitchen—a D.C. nonprofit providing wraparound services to end chronic homelessness. There, he has many tasks from prepping food to organizing clothing to sorting mail. While these may seem thankless, he believes this work is vital as Miriam’s serves as a P.O. box for D.C. residents who might be receiving Social Security checks, and the more he and his fellow volunteers do this work, the more time a professional human services worker can be advocating for the vulnerable population.
“Every hour we spend sorting mail is another hour a case worker doesn’t have to,” he said. “They can spend that time contacting the D.C. government and working with clients.”
In addition to Miriam’s and Horton’s Kids, Rexroth has worked through the Nashman Center on projects such as tutoring work with the Latino Student Fund, doing program evaluation of the AnBryce Foundation tutoring program, written grants for First Generation College Bound and through an ethical leadership course, partnered with D.C. Public Schools to help high school students reach their required 100 hours of community service before graduation.
He has also been involved in clothing drives with Miriam’s, the Nashman Center and GW's Office of Sustainability teaming up to distribute 2,500 pounds of clothing to those in need.
“I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've had to be able to meet so many people and work with so many different organizations who are unified on poverty relief,” Rexroth said.
Rexroth is doing all of this while balancing a dual-degree program that includes an undergraduate human services and political science path and a Master of Public Administration concentrating in social policy and public finance.
Through his studies and volunteer experience, he’s become especially passionate about affordable housing policy and believes the best way to bring people out of poverty is to secure suitable living spaces first. As he put it, it’s much easier to work on getting a job, rehabilitation services and social services if housing is secured than tackling those tasks in the reverse order.
He hopes local and national governments continue to introduce resources, such as D.C.’s housing voucher program, to combat chronic homelessness and poverty.
“Now it’s a matter of connecting people,” Rexroth said. “The question is do we have the will to do it? Are we willing to put in the resources to do it?”
Rexroth is dedicated to doing what it takes to make sure “yes” is the answers to both of those questions.