Students, Faculty Contribute to Communities through Volunteer Efforts
Mon, 02/18/2019 - 16:40pm | By: Caron Blanton
Students and faculty members at Mississippi Public Universities represent a powerful force for good when they devote their time and talent to numerous community service opportunities. In the 2018 fiscal year, more than 15,000 student and staff volunteers gave more than 400,000 hours of their time to work on more than 3,700 projects. This equates to more than $33,000,000 in volunteer time. University volunteers raised almost $650,000 through their efforts.
Jackson State University students volunteer in the Jackson Public Schools system to promote academic excellence and post-secondary education. Students help combat and raise awareness of hunger and homelessness by volunteering and donating to the local Salvation Army, Stew Pot, and Mississippi Food Network.
JSU Students also assist with the revitalization of the social, economic, and physical conditions of the surrounding neighborhoods, and greater Jackson metropolitan area. Through these volunteer efforts, students are able to raise awareness of issues such as hunger and homelessness; develop a thorough understanding of themselves, their community, and the complexity of social problems and potential solutions; and analyze community action to differentiate acts of charity form transformative change.
Mississippi State University students engage in volunteer efforts through approximately 276 community partners and state and non-profit agencies. Students are connected to local community agencies and non-profits through 300 campus organizations or clubs, Greek organizations, leadership programs with a service component, the Maroon Volunteer Center (the campus volunteer center led by students), and academic classes with a service or volunteer component through the Center for Community-Engaged Learning. Approximately 12,043 students volunteered last year through the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement, the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, the Center for Community Engaged Learning, and the Department of Housing and Residential Life.
An estimated 3,800 MSU faculty and staff members regularly participate in community volunteer activities each year. Faculty and staff regularly volunteer with approximately 276 community partners and non-profit agencies through campus and community organizations, and through the campus volunteer center (the Maroon Volunteer Center) and the community volunteer center (Volunteer Starkville). Faculty and staff also serve volunteer leadership roles as advisors for over 300 campus groups and organizations.
Mississippi State students, faculty, and staff completed 3,772 community development projects and volunteer events from 7/1/17-6/30/18. Volunteer events and projects include K-12 and GED mentoring and tutoring at local schools and non-profits, building nine homes for local families through Habitat for Humanity, serving as volunteers for seven local food pantries and food banks, maintaining and building community and campus gardens, leading healthy eating and living programs through local schools and daycare center, building paved walk-ways at the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge, beautifying local parks and roadways, participating in hurricane and tornado disaster relief efforts, raising money for local and national non-profits, serving as part of alternative service breaks within the state of Mississippi, participating in AmeriCorps National Service programs, and taking care of animals at local animal shelters.
In addition to ongoing volunteer efforts, over 2,000 students participated in large-scale one-day service days, including MLK Day and National Volunteer Week Events. These 2,000 students volunteered at one of 30 community locations completing over 6,000 volunteer hours.
Among Mississippi Valley State University's most impressive programs is its Community Service/Service Learning component that requires students to assist Delta communities through tutoring, mentoring and working with needy citizens. Each MVSU student is required to complete service projects. Freshmen must earn 60 hours and transfer students must earn 40 hours. This program has contributed more than 60,000 community service hours per year since its inception in 2003.
MVSU Office of Community Service Learning is gearing up to kick-off its “READ with Valley” program, which gives student athletes the opportunity to visit local elementary schools to read to the kids. The athletes also carry posters to sign and leave so that interested students will know when games are and encourage community support at athletic events. Through the RISE (Raising Inspirational Sons of Excellence), the Valley Men's basketball team members visited Greenwood, Carrolton and Winona to mentor fifth grade youth on better eating habits, sports and etiquette skills and inspire them to be great.
The University of Mississippi's comprehensive strategic plan, Flagship Forward, includes the M Partner component, which was unveiled in March, was outlined in the university's comprehensive strategic plan, an ambitious new approach to the university's longstanding commitment to improving quality of life in Mississippi. Held last Spring, M Partner Community Day engaged students in the three partner cities, Charleston, Lexington and New Albany through volunteer projects.
UM Students in the McLean Institute's Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative also worked with youth from each M Partner city to help them understand how the entrepreneurial mindset can be used to address challenges.
In the largest day of community service each year at the University of Mississippi, known as the Big Event, thousands of students say “thank you” to residents of Oxford and Lafayette County by volunteering for projects that may include painting, yard work, washing windows, cleaning, assisting the elderly and much more.
The Big Event began in 2011 with more than 1,200 students who participated in volunteer projects across the community. The following year, the effort enjoyed a large increase in both volunteers and projects, resulting in more than 3,000 students signed up and nearly 300 service projects.
The 2018 RebelTHON dance marathon at the University of Mississippi exceeded all expectations from years past by raising a record-breaking $265,912.30 to aid children in need of medical treatments.
After the 2017 fundraising goal of $150,000 was exceeded by nearly $20,000, the 2018 RebelTHON committee set a goal of $225,000 to benefit the Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital at the UM Medical Center and exceeded the goal by $40,000.
University of Southern Mississippi students annually engage in more than 100,000 in volunteer service hours. Service projects include everything from students creating architectural designs or communication plans to tutoring in area schools to fundraising for area nonprofits.
Since 2010, USM has participated in The Big Event, an annual event in which service projects are conducted by University volunteers to benefit the Hattiesburg and Gulf Coast communities.
USM faculty play an instrumental role in helping to develop a strong sense of community engagement among students. Nearly 18 percent of USM's service hours in 2017 were performed by students as part of a class initiative.
Recognized with the prestigious Carnegie Community Engagement classification, USM continues its commitment to cultivate and sustain stronger communities through the work of the Center for Community Engagement (CCE).
Chi Omega annually raises more than $50,000 for the Make-a-Wish Foundation through its annual event, Songfest. Delta Delta Delta's support of St. Jude Hospital topped $86,000 in 2017-18.