When Adam Frank discovered he had been assigned to work at a school in Memphis, he figured he would move to the city, fulfill his teaching duty and leave. Spoiler alert: that’s not how this story ends.
It was the summer of 2014. Adam and his fiancée, Kate Hedstrom, packed their bags and moved from Seattle to begin their two-year adventure. Now it’s 2016, and they couldn’t imagine leaving the city they call home.
“People, when we moved here, were like, ‘It’s going to grow on you, it’s going to sink its claws into you,’” Kate said.
While it’s clear Memphis has taken ahold of Kate and Adam, they have also sunk their claws into the city.
Adam, 28, was assigned to MLK College Preparatory School in Frayser through Teach for America – Memphis. He continues to teach in the history department. On the weekends he bartends at Memphis Made, a position he found through Kate.
In Seattle, Kate, now 28, worked for the Washington Beer Commission. She hoped to find an outlet here where she could channel her love for the drink, and emailed numerous breweries looking for open positions. She didn’t have much luck.
Instead Kate found a community of people willing to help her make connections, which she said would’ve never happened in Seattle.
“People were giving me to-dos in the city,” she said. “It was so crazy. Like, who are these nice people?”
It was this hospitality and sense of community that helped Kate and Adam feel more at ease about moving across the country.
“I mean obviously you look at Memphis in the news and everyone’s talking about a lot of negative things before you come,” Adam said.
“Which made me feel nervous honestly, but I think the perception has completely changed since we’ve been here,” Kate added. “We kept telling people we were new and they would say thank you for moving here … [it’s] the least pretentious community that I’ve ever experienced.”
After two weeks here, Kate began volunteering on the committee of the Cooper-Young Beerfest. She hit the ground running, helping to organize the festival after only working with them for a little over a month.
Now Kate is helping to organize the seventh Beerfest. She continues to work as the festival’s volunteer coordinator, while also holding a job as an account executive at the marketing firm Archer Malmo.
“Everybody wants your help and your time and your passion towards something,” Kate said. “’Cause there’s still so many things that the city in itself has that we can work together to make better.”
It’s evident the city does have its issues. Adam said he thinks the problem is with people who keep their negative mindset, especially about inner-city neighborhoods.
“I think the main thing is changing the mindset that the rest of the country has,” Adam said. “They see the statistics that it’s the most dangerous city or the second most dangerous city and they focus on that. But there are so many opportunities.”
Teaching in Frayser, Adam said he tries to go to work every day with an open mind, although he is aware of the negative preconceptions many people hold about its residents. The reason he chose education was to try to change people’s mindsets, he said.
“Obviously there is crime in the neighborhood,” he said. “It is dilapidated a little bit. But the people who live there – they really love that neighborhood. So we just got to continue to invest in that. And it starts with education.”
He admits this can be challenging, but said he feels Memphis is a great place to really make a change in the education system. He said being able to connect with students daily and make a difference is the most fulfilling.
“Just the reward of seeing a kid that maybe hadn’t liked school ever [say] thank you sometimes,” he said. “Or even if they never do, you can kind of tell just by looking at them.”
Kate said she found her ability to jump right in and get involved in the community to be the most rewarding. Their work has lead them to meet more people and ultimately feel like they belong in the community.
It’s not all hard work though. Kate and Adam said they love to take advantage of the city’s music scene and hang out at neighborhood places like Memphis Made. That’s not to say the two can’t mix.
“It feels really easy to make a difference in Memphis compared to other places,” Kate said. “There are just tons of cool organizations doing fun things and they’re making a difference. It’s not just for fun.”
Additionally, Kate said she feels both her and Adam are being afforded opportunities in their careers they might not get in a different city. These chances to enjoy the city – their community – with their friends, she said, ultimately influenced their decision to choose901. That, and the fact that it’s incredibly affordable.
“We like our day to day life in this city a lot,” Kate said. “Until that changes there’s really no reason to leave.”