The school year has finally come to an end after what feels like an eternity. I’ve taken my last final and can now focus on my final year of undergrad starting in the fall. Though I am beyond excited for what the next year has to offer, I think it is appropriate to reflect on the stressful, yet meaningful year that I have had working in the Center for Community Engagement.
I have had the privilege to collaborate on 13 community and campus-wide events focused on engaging and informing students and community members alike. Semester service days have encouraged over one thousand Missouri State students to meaningfully serve the Springfield Community. Over fifteen hundred pounds of shoes were collected in November for Stomp Out Hunger and provided over 5,000 meals for distribution through Friends Against Hunger. The spring and fall Community Engagement Fairs connected over 100 community partners to university students eager to serve the community. Three documentary screenings and panels have provided a powerful narrative on child abuse as well as homelessness and hunger for students, community members, and partners to grasp the cultural competencies required to empathize with the populations we strive serve effectively. Students completed over 35,000 approved service hours for scholarship and GEP classes since the beginning of the 2016 school year. These numbers make me proud. They quantify the hard work that we, as an office, have put into promoting an inspired campus culture focused on community engagement and service.
Yet, these accomplishments were only a fraction of the effort put out by our office students and staff. This doesn’t include the Vision Screening Program trip to Haiti, Nixa Alternative Court program office case workers, or the dozens of community agencies paired with students for the year’s service learning program. I could go on and on listing the achievements of the school year for the Center for Community Engagement; however, I have one project that I would especially love to highlight. It is not a community outreach program or a Zone Blitz project. It is not a documentary screening or donation drive.
The project that I am extremely proud of is the CCE’s work in redefining its vision, values, and mission statement. As an office, we have created a new focal point to reflect and better ourselves as a means to foster a more sustainable and reciprocal student-to-community network. The effort to fulfill our duty as a public affairs institution and as a representative of the Community Engagement pillar is made possible by the internal office motivation to strive to do more. More community talks. More students applying to Bear Breaks Immersion trips. More meaningful service performed. More open office environment inviting students to come in a feel more comfortable asking for help. More community agency partnerships.
This office has brought me friendships and mentorship from so many individuals that always look for more. It is an incredible environment to be in. My leadership and ability to take on responsibility has been tested and though I have made mistakes along the way, I always strive to do more. Community Engagement is more than just service hours and documentaries. It is about creating connection and meaning. Redefining our vision and how we achieve it is crucial to fulfilling our duty as Bears and citizen servant leaders.