Volunteerism, Community Service - Hallmarks of the FSC Experience
Students participating in a teambuilding exercise at Camp Fire USA.
Students Cynthia Navarro and Samantha Story sort through donated items at Lighthouse Ministries.
LAKELAND, Fla. (July 28, 2011) — When it comes to volunteering and giving back to the community, the current Florida Southern College student body leads the way in what has been a century-long tradition of service at the institution. This summer, a group of FSC students braved the heat and dedicated a week of their summer vacations to volunteer with several different local non-profit organizations. From July 10-15, 13 FSC students got an in-depth look at how charities operate by devoting their time and energy to work with a variety of humanitarian agencies, attend instructive seminars, and gain leadership skills while benefitting the surrounding community.
The charities weren’t the only ones to be positively impacted. “The experience was life changing,” said senior Cynthia Navarro. “It made me realize how important volunteering is and how even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference in the larger scheme of things.” This residential, academic program was part of a series of adventurous opportunities offered to FSC students this summer. Called the Summer Odyssey Series, the programs get students out of the classroom and into the real world as they learn about a specific topic by taking part in in-depth, hands-on experiences. In this first program, the Make a Difference Odyssey, students came to campus for a week to live, eat, and work together while making new friends and campus connections. Open to any level and major, the program drew a diverse group of students.
Students worked with a different charity each day, beginning with Florida Baptist Children’s Home. As the week progressed, they also served with Volunteers in Service to the Elderly (VISTE), Lighthouse Ministries, Camp Fire USA, and Volunteers of America. They performed tasks ranging from yard work to sorting through donations. At Volunteers of America, an organization that works with homeless veterans, the students met with a veteran who shared his experience in receiving assistance from the organization.
“Each agency was special in its own way, each making a huge difference in someone’s life,” said Navarro. “The time flew by as we worked. Serving others provides a sense of accomplishment that cannot be topped by anything else.”After each day of working in the field, the students participated in educational seminars given by organizations that work closely with Florida Southern College student volunteers, such as Give Kids the World, Central Florida Autism Institute, and Race for the Cure. Students learned about each group and the work that they do, while being exposed to more opportunities for community involvement.
“We did a lot of hard work but had a lot of fun, too,” said LuAnn Mims, archivist at Florida Southern College. Mims is also the coordinator for Student Awareness Generates Action (SAGA), FSC’s campus-wide initiative to incorporate community awareness and civic service into the curriculum and student activities. SAGA initiated the Make a Difference Odyssey as part of their desire to integrate more direct community action to their on campus educational activities.
“We want our students to be out there, making a difference in the community,” said Mims. “These students now feel confident in leading their peers out on service projects. They understand how vital volunteers are to the work that these agencies do.”
Mims offered the following calculation to quantify the students’ contributions. “We had 13 students, who each worked 25 hours, which is 325 collective hours. If a paid employee was doing this work at minimum wage it would cost the charities $2,375 to complete the same tasks that we did for free. Without volunteer efforts, a tremendous amount of the great work that these organizations do would not be possible.”
Navarro says she gained enduring friendships and a commitment to charitable work through the experience. “The group developed a deep bond and I am looking forward to continuing my friendship with each individual as well as visiting the agencies again.”
For more information about Florida Southern College’s Summer Odyssey Series, please visit www.flsouthern.edu/odyssey/ or call 863.680.3088.