November 8, 2012

Who takes a job to purposely live on the poverty level? Kelsey Marx of Clinton does. The 2012 Mississippi State University graduate is an Americorps VISTA volunteer for Mississippi Industries for The Blind (MIB) in Fondren. While her position allows her a yearly stipend – just $10,000 – her focus is on serving and learning.

Marx sought opportunities out last spring, knowing she’d want to remain close to home. That’s when the MIB job popped up. “It was a lot about fund raising, organizations and grant writing,” she said. “That part interested me.” An English major at Mississippi State, Marx would have the chance to write in her new position.

On the job since this time last month (November 8 is actually her one month anniversary), she enjoys the position so much, she said she may stay longer than the one year term she committed to. MIB Executive Director Michael Chew told us Marx has the option. “If we like her,” he said with a laugh. And it’s obvious they do.

At the age of 22, Marx brings a wealth of experience to her job. She has worked with churches in student ministry, helping to write grants and plan events. Those skills have already allowed her to write a grant through Causality, a national firm that gives non-profits and organizations effective communication and branding strategies. While this application didn’t make it through, she remains optimistic for a future success story. “Better luck next time,” she said.

Another area Marx feels she has a corner on for MIB is that of social media. “Growing up in my generation, that’s how you communicate with people,” she told us. “It’s fun for me to post pictures to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.” Starting a blog, Marx said though, has been an enjoyable challenge. “I’ve never had to be creative like this.”

If all of this seems like a fun, “first job out of college” position, Marx would tell you it is. But there’s another reason – call it kismet – for her to be at MIB. Marx has Von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) disease, a rare, autosomal dominant genetic condition that predisposes individuals to benign and malignant tumors. The connection? The disease most often affects sight. “It’s in my family,” she told us, though she doesn’t currently show signs of being affected herself. “I thought it interesting to learn that there are others here at MIB who have VHL, too.” Marx says the experience has given her insight. “I have the opportunity to see how people with my disorder live and work in a sighted world.”

A runner and rock climber in her spare time, Marx is also a traveler. Though she has seen much of the world, she has yet to visit Thailand, Japan, China. “There’s really no place I don’t want to go,” she said.Marx will make a short trip soon – via a moving van – to Fondren. “I’m very excited,” she told us of the opportunity to move in with friends. “Walker’s has been my favorite restaurant for a long time and, now that I’m back from Starkville, I hang out at Sneaky Beans after work almost every day.”

So if that year comes and goes at MIB, will Kelsey Marx be on a new journey? “That’s the question,” she pondered. “I’ve thought about traveling and teaching abroad but it all depends on this year. I’m leaving it open.” Marx says a professional writing program in grad school is another option. For now, she’s thrilled with her current opportunities. “I’m excited to help get Mississippi Industries for the Blind more recognized and more a part of this community.”

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