The spirit of service at the College of William and Mary continued to thrive during the 2007-2008 academic year as students engaged in a variety of service projects around the world, expanding their learning and earning them accolades from national organizations and government officials.
Starting with service
Nearly 200 students, most of whom were freshmen, kicked off the academic year by participating in the first-ever Students Helping Out Williamsburg (SHOW) Day. The volunteers worked with various non-profit organizations in the Williamsburg area, cleaning, roofing and assisting with other tasks. The event was organized by the Office of Student Volunteer Services (OSVS) as a way to provide new students an orientation to the service opportunities available at the College. The OSVS has partnerships with 90 local non-profit groups, agencies and schools and works closely with the Sharpe Community Scholars Program, which provides an opportunity for students to connect their academic studies with civic engagement.
This year, the College offered more international service trips than ever before. The 16 trips -- to locations including the Dominican Republic and Tanzania -- had students setting up medical clinics, providing educational programs, doing research and building relationships. BreakAway, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to train, assist, and connect campuses and communities in promoting quality alternative break programs, said that the College offered far more international service trips than any of the other 100 schools who are members of its organization.
In addition to the international trips, the College offered students an opportunity to serve in the United States, as well, with seven spring break service trips. The annual spring break trips are so popular among students that they have, in years past, camped out the night before sing-ups. This year, a lottery was held for the first time year to decide whom the highly coveted spots would go to. Those who participated in the trips this year worked on a variety of issues including hunger and affordable housing in locations ranging from Washington D.C. to New Orleans, La.
Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine visited the College in January to discuss civic engagement and praise the College students for their efforts.
“There are a lot of different stats, but that 320,000 hours is a pretty amazing thing when you think about it,” said Kaine during his visit, referring to the number of service hours William and Mary students contribute every year. “The power of an hour well spent is pretty significant, so when you think about what aggregate impact that can make, it is a great thing.”
Additionally in January, the College was again named as one of the top producers of Peace Corps volunteers in the nation. According to the organization, the College is the fifth-highest producer of volunteers among medium-sized schools, with 51 alumni currently serving in the Corps. Although the College holds the fifth place in the Peace Corps’ listing for medium-size schools, its rank rises even further when the number of its volunteers is considered in relation to the number of undergraduates in its student body. William and Mary, with an enrollment of 5,700 undergraduates, can boast one Peace Corps volunteer for every 112 students.
In March, the College was again recognized for its leadership in service when it was chosen to host the National Service-Learning Forum. Sponsored by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the forum brought to campus some of the nation’s leaders in the fields of K-12 and higher education service learning and civic engagement. The event was the first in a series being held around the country that will culminate this fall with a summit on national and community service.
Recently, William and Mary recognized its students and campus service organizations for their contributions at the College’s annual Celebration of Service event, sponsored by the OSVS and the Sharpe Community Scholars Program. The following is a listing of awards and recipients:
- Tradition of Service Award: Jeree Harris
- Spirit of Service Awards: Nik Belenger and Bailey Thomson
- Service Organization of the Year: Project Phoenix
- Community Partner of the Year: Rita Welsh Adult Literacy Program
- International Service Trip of the Year: Student Organization for Medical Outreach and Sustainability (SOMOS)
- Alumni Humanitarian Award: Kristin Corcoran
- Freshman Service Star: Samanthe Tiver
- Walk the Talk Senior Awards: Austin Pryor, Liz Ketner, Jim Donecker, Kristin Corcoran, Joshua Weyland, Shaun Loria, Lindsay Usry, Wendy Chan
The months ahead
Though the end of the school year is drawing near, many of the College’s students will remain as engaged in service as ever. Recently, 40 students were awarded summer service grants to conduct service projects during the summer. This year’s grantees will be working on a variety of projects, dealing with issues ranging from literacy and hunger to medical relief and poverty. The students will be serving in locations as close as Newport News and the Eastern Shore, Va., and as far off as Bangladesh and China.