College reflects upon another year of service

Reveley (center) meets with student service leaders. By Erin Zagursky.As the school year nears its end, William and Mary is looking back on its students’ service efforts and celebrating the difference the College community is making both locally and abroad.

Last Wednesday, Interim President W. Taylor Reveley III met with a group of student leaders to discuss their service experiences, and, this week, the College community will gather in an annual ceremony to celebrate the service efforts of its students over the past year.

“Service is in the best tradition of William and Mary,” Reveley told the students. “I’m very proud of you.”

Most of the students in last week’s meeting were seniors who have been involved in the College’s domestic and international service trips, often as leaders. Director of the Office of Student Volunteer Service Drew Stelljes was also among the gathering, which took place in the Wren Building basement. The group ate pizza and discussed with Reveley how they had become involved in service work, how service work had affected them, what problems they had faced, and what they thought the College needed to do to better support the service efforts of its students.

Reveley suggested reaching out to alumni for support and looking into holding mini-courses in order to get more junior faculty members involved in service learning. He also praised the students for their efforts and told them that civic engagement is something that the College could tout because of them.

“I’m really impressed by what I’ve heard,” he said. “The College must build on what you’ve done.”

This week, William and Mary’s student volunteers will gather again along with faculty, staff and community members when the OSVS and Sharpe Community Scholars Program host the annual Celebration of Service ceremony. The event will take place Wednesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. in the University Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium. During the ceremony, the College’s many student volunteers will be celebrated for their efforts in the local community and around the world in fields ranging from medical relief and AIDS education to housing development and disaster relief.

Senior Jeree Harris, who has, among other things, been an advocate for alternative education in the Williamsburg community, will be the ceremony’s student speaker. At the end of the event, the annual Spirit of Service Awards will be announced. The awards recognize two non-graduating students who have been heavily involved with community service and have “demonstrated a sense of caring, enthusiasm, and willingness to be involved in addressing community concerns through individual or organizational initiatives,” according to the OSVS Web site.

Each year, William and Mary students contribute more than 323,000 hours of community service, according to a 2006 survey. Over the last few months, the College’s commitment to service has been recognized by both state and national leaders. In March, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation sponsored an event at the campus entitled, “Service Nation: A National Forum on the Future of Service-Learning.” The forum brought some of the nation’s leaders in the fields of K-12 and higher education service learning and civic engagement to William and Mary to discuss how to incorporate learning into civic engagement. During the event, the College was presented with the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction Award for its exemplary service efforts. In January, Virginia Governor Timothy M. Kaine visited the College to praise its civic engagement efforts.

For more information about student volunteerism at the College, visit http://www.wm.edu/studentactivities/osvs/. For more information about the Sharpe Community Scholars program, visit http://www.wm.edu/sharpe/.