Building Her W&L Experience Sadie Charles Calame ’23 has built a well-rounded college experience through campus and community involvement.
On any given day, you may find Sadie Charles Calame ’23 tutoring at a nearby elementary school, on her way to the Lexington Fire Station to volunteer or strolling downtown to attend a Habitat for Humanity meeting. Since her arrival on campus in 2019, she has remained on the move.
Calame, a neuroscience major from Charlotte, North Carolina, is the co-founder and president of General Repairs, a new student organization that offers opportunities for students to learn everything from home repair to carpentry work. The group began by offering workshops for Washington and Lee students to learn practical skills in home and auto repair, but quickly expanded its reach to partner extensively with Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity on builds and repair projects. The group now has a roster of more than 130 student volunteers participating in community projects.
“Washington and Lee students spend time in the classroom learning about complex topics like organic chemistry or economics, yet many students do not know how to fix a flat tire or change their oil,” Calame said. “That said, select students, faculty, staff and community members have knowledge on building and repairing anything from a motorbike to a wooden canoe. General Repairs bridges this gap and encourages students to get outside to learn both practical and innovative skills.”
Virginia Harrison ’23, co-founder of General Repairs and a fellow member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, met Calame in their first-year writing seminar and helped develop General Repairs from the idea stage to its current form. Both Harrison and Calame now attend monthly Habitat meetings, and the group has begun scheduling projects around when the two can coordinate student volunteer teams.
“Starting a club from scratch our sophomore year and successfully leading it to a place where it will stay afloat once we graduate has given me an abundance of leadership and entrepreneurial skills,” Harrison said. “General Repairs is founded on a friendship and shared interests, which means the two of us are equally devoted to the club’s success.”
Stephen Neas, the chairman of Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity’s repairs committee, has worked to develop a partnership with General Repairs that is beneficial to the committee’s mission. The students meet regularly with the committee to coordinate work shifts on projects such as roof replacement and repair, handicap ramp construction, bathroom access and flooring repair.
“I have been working with young adults on volunteer projects for 30 years,” Neas said, “and never have I encountered a group as accountable as the W&L General Repairs group.”
Calame’s Johnson Opportunity Grant helped to fund her EMT certification this past summer which has allowed her to also serve as a volunteer with the Lexington Fire Department for 12 hours per week. She noted this role provides her with the opportunity to meet new people outside of her other campus involvement and learn more about the Rockbridge County community.
“Working in emergency medicine has helped improve both my technical and patient interaction skills,” said Calame, who currently plans to attend medical school following a gap year after her graduation this spring. “Both will be crucial for any future medical profession.”
Calame also serves as the president for W&L’s women’s club lacrosse team, after having played for W&L’s varsity women’s lacrosse team for two years. Lauren Vance, associate director of career and professional development, met Calame during her time volunteering as a coach for the varsity women’s lacrosse team, and keeps walking dates with Calame on her calendar to catch up on her various volunteer projects and career plans.
“She is always trying to convince me to join a 6 a.m. paddle in January or some mountain bike ride,” Vance said. “We usually stick to walks around campus, but I love her passion and sense of adventure.”
Calame said that Washington and Lee has allowed her to have meaningful experiences outside the classroom while balancing her academic priorities.
“I have just enjoyed getting to know different people here in Lexington so much,” Calame said, “and I don’t want to leave because of it.”
General Repairs is currently working on several campus projects with the university’s Outing Club. Most immediately, the group plans to replace the deck at the Outing Club gazebo. Future projects include replacing the deck at the top of the alpine climbing tower and building picnic tables for Outing Club use. Having been involved with the Outing Club as Key Staff and a trip leader for Appalachian Adventure, Calame is particularly passionate about leaving behind a legacy other Outing Club members can enjoy.
James Dick, director of outdoor education and recreation, said that Calame’s willingness to lean into her college experience and her initiative with projects on- and off-campus is just part of who she is.
“She is on fire with energy and she is not content to sit around and wait for things to happen,” Dick said. “She can bring others along with her simply by her natural, easy-going attitude and smile. She has influenced a lot of people here – she probably will never realize to what extent.”
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