“I Choose Memphis” spotlights Memphians who are passionate about calling this community home. New Memphis Institute provides the profiles.
Name: Jon Alfuth
Job title and company: Teacher, The Soulsville Charter School
Length of time living in Memphis: Three years
Life history: A native of cold snowy Wisconsin, I never thought I’d live in the South! I attended college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I majored in political science and public service. There I developed a passion for public service through my studies and my work as a leader in the school’s marching band. During my studies I realized that I wanted to serve through teaching. Since I’ve moved here to Memphis I’ve served as a community leader in Stand for Children, started a teacher voice blog at bluffcityed.com and serve as a Teach Plus Policy Fellow.
What brought you to Memphis? I decided to enter the teaching profession through Teach for America. They place in dozens of regions around the country, but I was attracted to Memphis because I immediately saw that this is a city that is willing to take the necessary steps to improve its public education system. Our schools have partnered with organizations like the Gates Foundation, we have an excellent elected school board and superintendent, and the community is committed to providing the best education possible for our kids!
What current local initiative excites you most? I’m very excited by our city’s push to attract and retain young talent. My favorite initiative might not be an official local initiative, but I think it’s an important one nonetheless. I’m very excited by the number of microbreweries that has opened up in the past three years. When I first moved here we only had Ghost River; in the time I’ve been here we’ve added Memphis Made, Wiseacre and High Cotton, all of which produce excellent selections. While big initiatives are just as important, I believe we also need things like this to make Memphis welcoming to a diverse group of people.
What is your favorite local festival? In the same vein, I love the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest! The festival isn’t just another beer festival. They only bring in brewers that live close to Memphis. They feature a lot of home brewers as well as microbreweries from Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. Every brewer brings their A game with their standard beers as well as selections that you often can’t buy in the grocery store. This festival is a great introduction to the developing brewery culture here in the south.
What is your favorite local restaurant? Hands down, South of Beale. The standard menu is fantastic and they always have unique specials that change every day. The thing I like the most about South of Beale, however, is the people. Everyone there is incredibly friendly and quickly learns who you are. I’d gotten to the point that one of the bartenders even knew my favorite drink at one point and would make it for me when I came in! I go there so much that one of my friends has taken to calling it ‘my office.’
What connects you to the city? I’m connected to Memphis through the people I’ve met and became friend with here. Memphis is a great town with a lot to do, but it’s even better when you can share it with others. I’ve meet some wonderful people in my three years here through my work, Teach for America and the New Memphis Institute. These connections are what help tie me to Memphis. People here are also very friendly and are always willing to meet someone new, so there’s always a new adventure to be had. As long as I have people to share the city with it feels like home.