Event Highlights Importance of Service for New Students
Galloway, N.J. – Around 80 students, staff and faculty traded half of their weekend for a full day of combatting food insecurity in the annual New Student Day of Service on Saturday, Sept. 9.
Robert Barney, associate professor of Social Work, gave the keynote address, which focused on his research on food insecurity and how service efforts are created in order to help alleviate some of the problems that people are experiencing.
“It feels like my focus as a researcher parallels what Merydawilda (Colón) and Jeff (Wakemen) have been organizing,” Barney said, referencing the day’s organizers. “I’m going to be presenting on the topic of food insecurity as it relates to COVID-19, specifically what was going on in the first few months of the pandemic and comparing food insecurity in South Africa with South Jersey.”
He hopes that students will continue to learn more about:
- Prioritizing hunger and food insecurity in terms of student efforts and addressing needs by giving back to both the local and broader global community;
- Recognizing that food insecurity is contextual, so we can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach to fix the systemic problem;
- Recognizing some of the complexities involved in service and how critical thought and ongoing engagement are needed in order to address those problems.
Volunteers then began their project: packaging food with Rise Against Hunger. Stone Powell-McDavitt, partnership manager for Rise Against Hunger, shared that the organization has worked with Stockton University in previous days of service. They’re now looking forward to continuing to collaborate and work with Stockton students.
Sorting and Packing Meals in Four Steps
“(The students are) so great,” Powell-McDavitt said. “They’re always willing to participate, learn, get involved and always ready to serve.”
The students formed groups and joined Powell-McDavitt on the assembly line. The first group funneled rice, soy and vitamins into packages, which were then taken to the second group for weighing and sealing. The last group organized the packages, added important nutrition information stickers and loaded them into boxes.
By the time students completed the project, Rise Against Hunger reached their goal of 17,000 meals being packaged and prepared for shipping to underserved communities globally.
For new students Melanie Chin, a Biology major from Hillsborough, and Katie Bouffard, a Social Work major from Williamstown, the day presented more opportunities than service: it gave them a chance to connect with more students like them who are interested in community engagement.
“I think that being able to give back and see the impact that you can make is really cool, fun and fulfilling,” Chin said.
“It’s really important to connect with your community because there’s such a wide range of people who have different problems, or even dreams and aspirations, and being able to connect with your community helps you see that, understand them better and better help others,” Bouffard said.
New students weren’t the only volunteers: sophomores, juniors, seniors and even alumni came out to support the service project. One junior, Digital Studies major Ar-Rasheed Brisco from Rahway, believes that participating in days like these is exercising one’s civic duty.
“Because I’m a student here, this is my environment, home and community, even if temporarily,” Brisco said. “So, if I neglect it, refuse to take care of it, or don’t foster it, how can I expect to get anything out of it? How can I expect it to continue to be a vessel for people for years after me? The only reason we’re here is because of the people before us, so we have to keep it going.”
The volunteers also had a chance to learn more about Stockton’s Food Assistance Program from Monica Viani of the Dean of Students office and the Westminster Christian Worship Center Food Pantry in Atlantic City from Thelma Witherspoon, senior pastor.
According to Merydawilda Colón, director of the Stockton Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning, and Jeff Wakeman, director of Student Development, this day is more than a day of volunteering; it’s a reflection of Stockton’s commitment to providing opportunities for students to engage in their community meaningfully.
“This is the beginning of their journey of service, and we hope that they remain engaged,” Colón said. “We look forward to making this exciting and purposeful for them so that they see why we host service days and learn the implications of service in their communities both locally and globally.”
“We’re trying to get the new students in the habit of not only serving the community but of learning about the social justice issues that are happening locally and around the world,” Wakeman said. “The students today aren’t just going to do service, but they’re also going to learn about world hunger, local hunger and some of the local people that they could partner with for projects in the future.
We really hope that this launches a student into their service career.”
Explore Service-Learning at Stockton University
New Students Give Back During Fall Day of Service
Galloway, N.J. — “It was spontaneous, but like, a fun spontaneous.”
That’s how Ryan La, vice president of Circle K, described the New Student Day of Service, which happened during (and next to the finish line of) the famous Ironman Race Sept. 10.
Around 60 students weaved through racers, cyclists and orange barriers along the Black Horse Pike to the John F. Scarpa Academic Building at Stockton University Atlantic City for a day of education, service and fun.
19th Annual MLK Day of Service a Success
The Stockton Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (SCCESL) coordinated the annual event, which had 32 programs both on and off campus for the first fully in-person day of service since 2020. Merydawilda Colón, director of SCCESL, welcomed participants during breakfast.
– Story and photos by Loukaia Taylor