November 3, 2004
Tammara Anderson spoke as part of the “What Matters to Me and Why” series.
By Cortney Fielding
Published in the Daily Trojan: Thursday, November 4, 2004
Tammara Anderson, executive director of USC’s Joint Educational Project, addressed an audience of 50 students and faculty members at Ground Zero Coffee House on Wednesday afternoon, telling them that in her opinion, helping other people is what matters most.
Anderson spoke as part of the “What Matters to Me and Why” series sponsored by the Office of Religious Life, Student Senate, Academic Senate, Academic Honors Assembly, Mortar Board and the Academic Culture Initiative.
“There are children all over (Los Angeles) on long, long waiting lists,” Anderson said, addressing the need for mentors.
Most people do not realize how many children do not have anyone at home to talk to or to help with school, she said.
Anderson said JEP, a program that takes USC students and places them as mentors, translators, teachers’ assistants and other positions within the community, offers as much to students as it does to those they help.
“It’s about building relationships and learning about the world,” she said. “In college you’re young, you’re idealistic, and you’re trying to find your place in this world.”
Anderson said she sees the big impact that JEP makes on the community when children who have been mentored through the program attend USC and become JEP volunteers themselves.
Anderson began her career at JEP after graduating from USC almost 23 years ago.
“I never thought I’d be here this long,” she said.
Anderson, who has been at USC for over half of her life as both a student and a staff member, said she views this part of her life as a second chance after a car accident almost took her life the summer she was to begin USC.
“After the accident, they covered me with a sheet,” she said. “They looked at the car and looked at me and thought there was no way I could be alive.”
Anderson said it was only after she moved her hand sometime later that the medics realized she was alive and rushed her to the hospital, where she spent two weeks recovering.
The accident left Anderson with a punctured bladder, a broken pelvis, problems with her jaw and scars running down her face.
After the accident, “I was not the same person physically or mentally,” she said.
Anderson said she struggled to make family and friends believe she was all right.
“I didn’t want anyone to worry about me because they were all trying so hard to help,” she said.
Anderson remembered overhearing a family friend complimenting her mother on how well she was adjusting shortly after the accident.
“I was lying in bed and remember thinking ‘good, it’s working,” she said.
Because of scars from the accident, Anderson said she gave up on the idea of ever dating or marrying, and decided to put all her energy into school.
“That whole first year at USC, I sat in the first row and never talked to anyone. I just did work, went to the library and went straight home,” she said.
It wasn’t until friends “dragged” her to a party that her life began to turn around.
Anderson was standing by the wall when a boy she later dated asked her to dance.
“That changed me,” she said. “Until then I thought I would never have that part of a life.”
It was this boy who made her realize the effect one person could have on someone’s life, she said.
“We just don’t realize the effect we can have on other people,” Anderson said. “It could be just a phone call or a single visit once a month.”
James Kincaid, the Aerol Arnold Professor of English, will be the final speaker of this semester’s “What Matters to Me and Why” series on Dec. 1.