Freshmen provide community service throughout year 

Meredith Stafford, staff writer

This year, the First-Year Service Day will take place on different weekends throughout the semester rather than on one day in the beginning. Freshmen students will work with their BCC mentors, instructors and classmates on a chosen day to provide service at a singular location in Rome. Classes are allowed to sign up for more than one slot during the semester. Students who are unable to attend their BCC service day will have the opportunity to go to Berry College Volunteer Services and get connected with an alternative service date. 

According to Student Director of Academic Transitions, Lily Calhoun, the singular service day was not an option this semester because of COVID-19 safety precautions. Having all freshman students in Rome even for a short period of time would be unsafe for both the students and the Rome community. Calhoun also said that this new style of service day would allow for more consistent interaction between Berry and the larger community. 

“We decided it would be a great idea to send them out into the community throughout the semester in a way that really connects Berry students with the Rome community in a continuous period of time,” Calhoun said. 

First-year students have many options in terms of service. BCC classes will work with a variety of Rome organizations and nonprofits such as the Davies Homeless Shelter, Rome Little Theatre, ECO Center and the Hospitality House Thrift Shop. There will also be options for clean-up-based services such as with the Coosa River Basin Initiative. 

“This way, Berry students are getting the opportunity to really invest in the Rome community and I think this way the community is able to feel the effects of that in a more long-term and satisfying way,” Calhoun said. 

Calhoun is optimistic about the benefit this year’s changes will have for first-year students as well as the continued support that Berry students will provide to the community. She described the service experience as being an eye-opening and important opportunity for students.

“I think that provides a nice perspective shift to remember that life is not just about us,” Calhoun said. “It’s about serving our community and being a good steward to that community.”

Noah Isherwood, Associate Student Director, views the change as both a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a chance for sustained service. According to Isherwood, the new service days correspond to both the needs of the students and Berry’s community partners.

“You are, as a class cohort, incorporating service intermittently throughout the entire first semester so it becomes more of a community experience,” Isherwood said. “Hopefully, we think, we’ll have a little bit more sustained power.”

According to Isherwood, this new approach to service is to encourage the spirit of ministry, which he said is an integral part of life at Berry.

“‘Not to be ministered unto, but to minister’: that’s one of our big mottos,” Isherwood said. “So, making it more of a consistent ongoing thing for the entire freshman class rather than a one and done sort of situation is a lot more productive and a lot more exemplary of that sort of idea.”

According to First-Year Mentor Maddie Fox, there are usually around 40 different BCC classes and the First-Year Service Day used to be set up where each class attended a different service site on the same day. She feels that the new change is an improvement because it allows for more in-depth and useful community help.

“I remember feeling my freshman year almost like we were really more of a trouble to the people that we were volunteering for than a help and you never want that to be the case,” Fox said. “I really like that the few service sites that we have are people who actually really need the help. So, I feel like it’s going to be a lot more of a fruitful and useful experience for the service sites and for the students.”

In addition to this, Fox is looking forward to the future of service opportunities at Berry as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes and new chances for work arise.

“There was a lot of talk about how we could make first-year service more of a lifestyle and less of a to-do list task and so I’m excited to see the ways that they continue to develop it over the next few years,” Fox said.

Similar to the other mentors, First-Year Mentor Marilyn Bermudez thinks the flexibility of the service this year is one of its primary advantages. 

“It gives us flexibility and time to manage when we can do a service day and when we can’t,” Bermudez said. “It also gives especially our student athletes more opportunities to go and volunteer and serve the community when they wouldn’t be able to, especially with fall sports being in full swing already.”

The service time slots are also later in the day than in previous years, which is, according to Bermudez, a good incentive for students. 

“A lot of the volunteer spots have already been filled up numerous times by other BCC 100 classes because the feedback we’ve been getting is that they enjoyed volunteering so far at these specific service sites,” Bermudez said. 

Bermudez compared this semester’s Service Day opportunities to her own experience as a freshman and concluded that the anticipation of serving throughout the semester as well as the multiple chances would help freshmen see the effect of serving the community. 

“A lot of the freshmen I see have such good and giving hearts and they want to serve the community in any way that they can,” Bermudez said.

Leave a Reply