University of Southern Mississippi Honors College students took time out recently from preparing for finals week to bring a smile to the faces of some local children.
The Honors College Ambassadors hosted a holiday party Dec. 7 at the Aldersgate Mission, a community outreach organization for underserved children who live in the Briarfield Housing Complex in east Hattiesburg and the surrounding community. It provides after-school programming for more than 50 youth in grades 4-12.
Southern Miss Honors College students gave a back-to-school party for the children early in the semester, providing backpacks and school supplies. The group decided to follow that with the holiday party, where they brought cookies, cake and other refreshments for the children.
The event also included a visit by Santa, played by Honors College junior Robert Williamson of Columbia, Miss. who gave presents to the kids purchased by Honors College students.
Anna Claire White of Hattiesburg, a junior in the Southern Miss Honors College, serves as philanthropy chair for the ambassadors. “We decided we wanted to support a local community agency, and we felt like Aldersgate was a great choice,” White said.
Aldersgate, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, is a mission of Main Street United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg. Rev. Linda Dixon oversees the program. “Their (Honors College students) service means they care about these children and are filling them with joy in time for Christmas,” Dixon said.
Honors College students also provide tutoring services to the children on Wednesdays after school. Stacey Ready, coordinator of general honors for the Honors College who also volunteers with Aldersgate’s College Bound program, said the volunteer effort is a great experience for the children and Honors College students.
“I’m so proud of our students,” Ready said. ‘When we held the back-to-school party for Aldersgate, they fell in love with these kids and wanted to know what they could do for them next. They also serve as great role models for them.”
The Honors College at Southern Miss is one of the oldest in the nation, with the first honors classes being taught in 1965 as part of an honors program. The college was formally inaugurated in 1976 as an expansion and reorganization of the former Honors Center and offers special opportunities for students who demonstrate high academic potential, intellectual curiosity and ambition, regardless of their field of study. For more information about the Honors College, online visit www.usm.edu/honors.