“My professors at Austin Peay have always asked me to think about how I can take what I’m already good at and use that to help a bigger group of people than I have before.”
Major: Foreign Languages (specialization in Spanish)
Hometown: Clarksville, Tennessee
Before Joshua Rees, a Clarksville native, could travel across town to attend Austin Peay, his path took him to two of the largest cities in the world on a journey that would help him discover his true calling.
After graduating high school, Rees elected to pursue a two-year mission through his church. His mission first took him to Mexico City, Mexico, where the 19-year-old immersed himself in the city’s culture, before returning to the United States, and spending the next two years in New York City, teaching English to Spanish speaking New Yorkers.
“I was sent to Mexico City so that I could learn Spanish for my mission, so it was like taking four college classes in Spanish in just a six-week period,” Rees said. “But it was a major help when I returned to (the U.S.), because of the work I did in New York City, teaching English classes for the city’s enormous Spanish-speaking community.
"Part of my mission was to help (Spanish speaking immigrants) learn English as they worked towards passing immigration tests to become American citizens.”
Rees could have accepted scholarship offers from a number of out-of-state universities following his mission, or he could have elected to stay in New York City, but he instead chose to return to Middle Tennessee and attend Austin Peay.
The University’s proximity to family and friends was important, Rees said, but just as critical were Austin Peay’s small class sizes and dedicated faculty that would help the foreign languages major discover a way to use his missionary experience to make an impact on the world.
“When I got to Austin Peay, I pretty quickly discovered how fantastic the professors were here, and they helped me to realize that I had a gift for speaking Spanish now and that I shouldn’t let that gift go to waste,” Rees said.
“The way my Spanish teachers conduct class; they’re not just cracking open a book and helping us learn grammar, they’re discussing social issues in other countries and how it impacts us here — they’re finding ways to show students how they can take what they’re learning and use it to help other people.”
Rees plans to continue his education after graduation, pursuing a graduate degree in teaching before transitioning into a career teaching Spanish at the high school level.
Ultimately, Rees said he’d like to continue his missionary work by opening an English learning program to help the immigration population of Middle Tennessee.
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“My professors at Austin Peay have always asked me to think about how I can use what I’m already good at and use that to help a bigger group of people than I have before, and I think I can do that by serving Tennessee’s growing Spanish speaking population,” Rees said. “These people want do right and they want to be a part of the community, so if I can work with them to get a better grasp of the English language, they can become citizens and they can find better jobs. That’s something I can do to help.”