April 15, 2013

VSU Students Committed to Community Engagement

VALDOSTA – On April 3, approximately 70 Valdosta State University students participated in a “Day of Service” to highlight community engagement. Volunteers worked throughout the day at the Valdosta Early College Academy, Boys and Girls Club of Valdosta, Habitat for Humanity, and helped plant 10 long-leaf pine trees on campus. 

According to Brian Roberts, assistant director for Student Life, Valdosta State hosts a day of service during the first few weeks of the fall semester; however, this year another day was added as part of President William J. McKinney’s inauguration celebration. 

Community service is an important part of college life at Valdosta State. Last year, 23 Greek organizations volunteered 23,787 hours of community service within the region. 

In addition, 207 members of Enactus (formerly SIFE) completed 13,024 community service hours on 20 projects that impacted approximately 30,000 children and adults in Lowndes County. 

College students volunteer for many reasons including meeting new people, gaining valuable work experience, improving professional skills and an overall desire to help others. 

Roberts encourages students to track their volunteer hours through VSU’s Campus Connect, an online portal for student organizations. 

"When students graduate we can provide them with a transcript of their service hours,” said Roberts. “Many students need to keep track of their hours as part of their requirement for student organizations and others are required to have service hours for their classes.” 

Chelsie Norton, president of the VSU Honors Student Association (HSA), said HSA members are required to complete at least four hours of community service per year to remain active in good standing. 

“I believe that service projects are vital to exposing our members to a variety of issues in the local community,” said Norton. “We always have fun while we work, and it is a terrific bonding experience for all of us.” 

Members of the HSA have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, Relay for Life, Up ‘til Dawn, Operation Christmas Child and tutoring at the Valdosta Early College Academy. 

“Participation in service projects allows our members to discover new avenues for hobbies, interest, and even employment,” said Norton. “A good honor student possesses scholarship and intellectual strength; a great honor student takes opportunities to share with and learn from others.” 

For Erika McCoy, a Stone Mountain, Ga., native, it is not about the hours; she considers it her calling and part of her daily life. 

“I started volunteering when I was in middle school,” said McCoy, who is scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in speech communications. “I don’t pay attention to the hours…I volunteer because it makes me feel good to see how it helps other people.” 

When McCoy arrived at Valdosta State she began looking for opportunities to volunteer. 

“I came to college not really knowing too many people…however, when I became active in service projects in the community that quickly changed,” said McCoy, who has logged more than 480 hours of service in four years. 

McCoy said that her parents are her inspiration and have shown her the importance of volunteering. 

“Both of my parents are my inspiration,” said McCoy, who serves as treasurer of the VSU chapter of Habitat for Humanity and secretary of the university’s chapter of National Council of Negro Women. “My dad coaches various sports. He gets off from work and goes straight to the practice field and no one is paying him, and I think it is cool for him to take time to be a role model for young men in the community who might not have a father.” 

McCoy volunteers at Habitat for Humanity, South Georgia Medical Center, and the Valdosta Literacy Center. She is also the co-founder of VSU’s chapter of Hearts Everywhere Reaching Out (HERO) for Children, an organization in Georgia dedicated to improving the quality of life for children infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS. 

After graduation, McCoy plans to make community service part of her profession. 

“I want to become a community relations director or director of communications for a non-profit organization that caters to children and adolescents,” said McCoy, who serves as the community service and fundraising chair for Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society. “I will definitely continue to volunteer after graduation. When you grow up with a passion for something, whether it is a sport, hobby, food, etc., it is hard to suddenly stop and go cold turkey. Besides, volunteering is something that has become second nature to me. I value every moment that I am able to assist in the community.” 

Kieya Smith, senior from Covington, Ga., said she became active in community service during high school years when she received some persuasion from her parents. 

“My parents wanted to teach me that there are others less fortunate, so I went out and worked with children. It actually gave me an appreciation for what I have,” said Smith, who serves as vice president of VSU’s Student Action Council. “Valdosta State has provided me with a lot of opportunities that I would not have had at other universities.” 

Smith, an early education and special education major, serves as a Girl Scout leader, VSU ambassador and orientation leader. 

“I love working with children, and I want to help children who are less fortunate than me,” said Smith, who plans to get a master’s degree in social work. “I think you should give back to your community wherever you live, and Valdosta is our community...you can always make an impact.”