Event Highlights Importance of Service for New Students

Ar-Rasheed Brisco, a brother of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., is one of the students who decided to participate in this year's Day of Service on Sept. 9.

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.

Robert Barney giving his keynote to the student volunteers
Barney will be collaborating with the Stockton Center for Community Engagement and Service-Learning (SCCESL) and Student Development in order to create more intentional service projects for students.

“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

Students funneling rice, soy and vitamins into a package

Students weighing and sealing pre-packed packages of food

A student loading a box full of sealed food packages

Powell-McDavitt (right) and students sealing the box of food

The package assembly line in C-D Atrium

“(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.

Nikki DiRocco (left) and Melanie Chin (right) working on the project
Nikki DiRocco (left) and Melanie Chin (right) were both happy to join the Rise Against Hunger service project.

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. 

Student Development and SCCESL
(L-R): Jeff Wakeman, Krissy Collins and Parth Thakkar of Student Development with Merydawilda Colón of SCCESL, shortly before the day began. 

“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

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– Story and photos by Loukaia Taylor