Giving to Receive

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Community service is important to Georgia Southern University students, which is why their efforts to make a lasting impression on campus and the Statesboro community led to the University’s first-ever recognition on the the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

More than 3,900 students engaged in nearly 396,000 hours — the equivalent of more than 15,000 days of community service — according to data from the 2011-2012 academic year. “This award recognizes the dedication of our students, faculty and staff to invest their lives in this community,” said Todd Deal, Ph.D., director of the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement (OSLCE). “A significant part of our mission is service to the region, and this award demonstrates that we certainly are meeting that.”

This was the first time Georgia Southern has applied for and been recognized with the award, which promotes the historic civic mission of the nation’s colleges and universities. As part of the application, Georgia Southern reported service by its pre-service teachers and nursing students, as well as the community service efforts coordinated through the OSLCE. The application did not include the countless hours of service by the University’s Greek organizations. Students reached out to those in need in various ways: distributing meals through the Bahamas Red Cross, performing building renovations, raising money for the Statesboro Food Bank and working with nonprofit agencies in the community.

One student meeting the needs of the community is sophomore electrical engineering major Chase Lakhani, who said he has cultivated a love for the community and University through working with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and its Statesboro ReStore and Statesboro Safe Haven, and working on projects like upgrades to the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds.

“Community service has opened up the door to so many opportunities that, otherwise, I would not — could not — even conceive of participating in,” the Buford, Ga., native said. “Community service has given me new friends, experiences and opportunities that extend way beyond a volunteer hour log sheet.”

While the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognition sheds light on the University’s attention and obligation to enhance the region and community, the benefits of students’ efforts extend far beyond the agencies and the people they help. “Participating in community service has made my experience here at Georgia Southern unforgettable. My life has changed because of the opportunities the University offered,” alumna Lindsay Higgs said. “I have a solid foundation to refer to as I enter the workforce … and because I found my passion through community service, I now understand the true meaning of happiness, and I am excited to share my knowledge with others as I continue my journey in my nursing career.”

The Duluth, Ga., native, who graduated last month with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, spent much of her time working with alternative break trips. During these trips, students dedicate a week out of their winter, spring or summer academic break to volunteer locally, nationally or globally while also learning about social issues.

Higgs plans to continue her service work post-graduation through a new organization, Active Citizen City: Atlanta — an initiative geared toward graduates in the area to encourage their involvement in social issues pertinent to the Atlanta community.

Also continuing her community service work is graduate student Tiara Johnson, who participated in alternative breaks as well as weekly trip programs, during which students visit and provide support to service agencies in Bulloch County. As an undergraduate, she volunteered with The Hearts and Hands Clinic of Statesboro, which provides basic medical services to Bulloch residents with no health insurance. While Johnson is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the University, she is continuing her involvement within the community.

“I want to somehow marry my love for medicine and my commitment to service, and through my
experiences here at Southern, I have been given the tools to do so,” she said. “Even after I get my degrees, I will not lose sight of my end goal, and I will never forget how much I have learned while serving others.” — Crissie Elrick

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