New at Earlham: Edee Malley is recipient of Columbus, Ohio's ‘20 under 20’ award
October 01, 2020
Edee Malley credits her ingenuity to the homeschool education she received while growing up in the Old North neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio.
“I learned to be creative,” said Malley, a member of Earlham’s Class of 2024. “My schedule was more flexible than other kids and I didn’t want to be bored.”
She rarely had time to be. Throughout her childhood and into her teen years, Malley became known for organizing educational activities for children, a practice that evolved into popular summer camps serving hundreds of youth over a span of eight years. She also became an environmental activist and ardent volunteer, a product of the many field trips she took to the city’s park systems. She would later join the Franklin County Youth Council as an advocate to amplify youth voices, especially around issues related to teens’ mental health.
“I spent a lot of my time at the local parks and I became very aware of the environmental crisis that faces Columbus and the world at large,” she said. “From a young age, I was incredibly vocal about sustainability. I chose to ride my bike rather than drive whenever I could and encouraged my peers to make more environmental choices.
“I joined the Franklin County Youth Council because I wanted to help end the stigmas surrounding mental health, especially in teens,” she said.
In the year before enrolling at Earlham, Malley’s summer camps and activism caught the attention of city leaders who awarded her with Columbus’ “20 under 20” award, a nod to her commitment to serving the greater good.
“I was surprised to get the ’20 under 20’ award,” she said. “It was an honor. I had not realized that my work had influenced so many people until I wrote it all down.”
Malley wouldn’t discover Earlham until several months later, but the institution quickly became one of her top choices.
“I really liked the College’s commitment to sustainability, diversity, and social justice,” she said. “It seemed unique among other liberal arts colleges. When I visited, I knew it was right for me.”
From lemonade stands to ‘girl power’
Like a lot of children, Malley sold lemonade to her neighbors and designed obstacle courses in her backyard. But at the age of 10, her imagination blossomed. She and her friends began operating a pizza restaurant out of her home for several years, approaching 100 customers on their most popular nights. In an effort to help working families and provide fun for other children in her neighborhood, she began art and crafts summer day camps with her friends, initially with supervision from her parents.
The practice continued every summer until she finished high school, with the camps becoming more sophisticated in every passing year, serving dozens of children five days a week for several hours per day. Eventually, her parents realized she didn’t need their help anymore.
“As I got older, we eventually started offering theme camps,” she said. “One of my most popular camps was a ‘Girl Power’ camp where we talked about relationships and menstrual hygiene. We wanted to give girls a space to learn the things they needed to learn. I’m really proud of those camps.”
Eventually, the camps earned notoriety from local television news programs and The Columbus Dispatch, one of Ohio’s largest newspapers. Referrals started generating a greater number of applicants for her programs.
“We didn’t charge at first to attend,” she said. “Eventually we had to charge nominal fees to offset the cost of food and supplies, but I didn’t do it for the money. I did it to offer the children an experience.”
Recognition from city leaders
A longtime volunteer at the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Malley learned about the opportunity to serve on the Franklin County Youth Council through her mentor at the library. The Council encourages youth to be active in community service initiatives across the city.
In her two years of service, she became an indispensable member of the organization’s Teen Youth Council and became certified in mental health first aid and facilitation. She also volunteered at the Star House, which provides youth experiencing homelessness with a safe space to learn and grow.
“When she joined the council, she brought so much light and fire to our organization,” said Susie Shipley-Norwood, the director of the Franklin County Youth Council.
She became the council’s photographer and led the charge with other youth to develop a pocket-size card titled “YOU ARE NOT ALONE-BUSTING THE SILENCE” that provides teens with information and resources that address mental health crises. She also chaired the council’s annual community discussion in honor of National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day in May 2019.
Shipley-Norwood didn’t hesitate to nominate Malley for the City of Columbus’ “20 under 20” award, which she eventually won in October 2019. She was presented with the award during a ceremony attended by city leaders and is an initiative of Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther, an Earlham alumnus from the Class of 1998.
“Edee is such an awesome, awesome young lady,” she said. “She is phenomenal. She knows what she wants and she works hard to get it.
“If there was anyone who deserved to be acknowledged for her work, it would be her.”
Despite the mayor’s connection to campus, it was word of mouth that first connected Malley to Earlham.
“My parents recommended Earlham to me because of its focus on sustainability and social justice. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit before everything shut down last spring due to coronavirus,” Malley said.
Malley has already started contributing to the vibrancy of campus life through the College’s Bonner Scholar program, which supports positive community change through service, research, and action. For several hours a week, she is volunteering her time at Miller Farm, the College’s experiential agriculture program, by weeding and growing produce. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, other traditional volunteer opportunities are on hold indefinitely.
Malley hasn’t selected her major yet, but her career plans are shaping up. She hopes to work for a non-profit serving women or LGBTQ+ youth. She is also interested in local and state politics. She plans to work for a non-profit organization serving women or LGBTQ+ youth. She is also interested in local and state politics.
"I plan to make a difference in the world, and I know that my education at Earlham will equip me with the tools necessary to make that plan become a reality,” she said.
Brian Zimmerman, director of media relations