Lenise Sunnenberg calls the silver that weaves through her long, dark hair “earned streaks of wisdom.” This hard-earned wisdom has come with a benefit that goes beyond appearances and is driving her desire to be a force for change in her own hometown.
“Who I am now and what I can offer to my community is so much more than I ever could have been before I started attending Ohio State Newark,” says Sunnenberg.
At Ohio State’s Newark campus, students have the opportunity to become involved in service-learning projects and internships in the local community. In many cases, those opportunities open doors and prepare students for their future in ways they never expected. That’s what happened for Sunnenberg.
Through an internship with the T.J. Evans Foundation, Sunnenberg met muralist Curtis Goldstein and started helping him paint a mural in an alley between the Canal Market District and the Licking County Courthouse. The art is part of a broader effort to revitalize Newark’s downtown.
Combined, Sunnenberg realized, her writing and art skills could lead to a satisfying career working with social organizations in her own community.
“I want to help people communicate their message in a way that is honest and sincere, yet appealing,” said Sunnenberg. “Working on this mural, I’ve seen how important art is to culture and to community. I would love to do more with my art. I’d also really love to do something with my writing minor and grant writing to help these wonderful causes that are out there.
"I have a lot I can give. Visually and in the written word, I can help communicate a message. I have the discipline element it takes now to make something wonderful happen.”
Sunnenberg took a long road to Ohio State Newark. She graduated from Newark High School in 2003 and enrolled at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. She said she was passionate about art, but admittedly lacked the motivation needed to ensure success.
She later left the art institute, returned to Newark and had a family. Her children began to provide the motivation she needed to continue her path to education. “I realized that I might be ready to go back to school,” said Sunnenberg. “Because the Newark campus is so close to my home, I was able to raise my family and go to school at a world-class institution. It was a wonderful option for me."
Sunnenberg came to her college classes with the perspective of a stay-at-home mother and a single mom. Those experiences made her want to study more about gender roles in society and culture. These topics have become a focus for her and provide inspiration as she seeks more ways to positively impact her community.
The 31-year-old is taking classes on the Newark and Columbus campuses this year with a goal of completing her degree and graduating in August 2017. She added: “Who I am now and what I can offer to my community is so much more than I ever could have before I started attending Ohio State Newark.”