LSU Students Give Back to the Community with a Day of Service at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School
It was a typical hot summer day in Southern Louisiana, but while many in Baton Rouge were looking for ways to beat the heat, a group of LSU students were hard at work. No, they weren’t spending the Saturday studying for a summer school exam or getting ready to move into their apartments or dorm rooms for the fall semester; these students were giving back to the community by committing a day of service at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Baton Rouge.
“I feel that it is important for LSU students to give back to the community because we have all received help along the way in some form or fashion, whether it be from family members, friends, church members or just someone from our community,” said Collin Miller, biological sciences senior from Bastrop, La. “I also feel it is important to give back because of the close ties that LSU has with the surrounding area. When we come to LSU, we become a part of this community, and we should do everything we can to make it the best place it can be.”
Vice Chancellor of Strategic Initiatives Isiah Warner, Office of Strategic Initiatives, or OSI, Academic Coordinator Laura Meiki and Miller, a LA-STEM scholar, coordinated the project with the school’s principal, Sister Joseph Charles.
“Our office has been involved in many service projects. However, as a result of the leadership of Laura Meiki and Collin Miller, this was one of OSI’s most successful projects in recent memory,” said Warner, LSU Boyd Professor, Philip W. West Professor of Analytical and Environmental Chemistry and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor.
“I felt that this project was an extremely high priority because the goal was to make major improvements at a primary school,” Miller said. “As college students, education is our top priority, and for many of us, our early school years were when we became really excited about learning. Taking this into consideration, it only seemed right to do everything we could to make the school an excellent place for kids to come and learn. Doing this may get many more students excited about learning and help produce the next generation of LSU students who will make even greater contributions to the community.”
Student volunteers from OSI’s LA-STEM Summer Bridge Program, OSI’s Research Experience for Undergraduate Program and the LSU Summer Scholars Program spent the day painting the school’s classrooms and library and washing the walls to prepare for the new school year. Greek organizations including Phi Beta Sigma and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities and Sigma Gamma Rho, Delta Sigma Theta and Zeta Phi Beta sororities also participated.
“The group of students that devoted a Saturday morning during the summer to give back shows that these students realize the importance of helping the university’s surrounding community, and it also shows that these students understand LSU’s commitment to the community,” said Lauren Thomas, industrial engineering senior from Alexandria. “This project also showed the unity among organizations at LSU.”
Miller agreed that the number of students giving up their Saturday to give back to the community reflects the commitment that LSU students have to improving the areas around campus.
“The fact that these groups of students would give up a Saturday morning during the summer to participate in a service project speaks volumes about their character,” Miller said. “It says that these students are unselfish and that they not only recognize that things need to be done to better the community, but they also take the initiative and lead the way instead of waiting for someone else to take care of it.”
Warner said that the most common statements he heard from students during the service project was that they were having fun and enjoying giving back to others.
“In addition to developing scholars, we desire to develop leaders,” he said. “Leaders should first learn to be givers and followers – learn to serve – in order to be great leaders.”
According to Warner, there will be more service projects and other opportunities for students to give back to the community throughout the year.
“This is only the first of many service-learning activities in which these students will be involved,” he said. “As scholars in our OSI programs, they will have many such activities throughout their undergraduate careers at LSU.”
In addition to this service project, OSI and the LA-STEM program plans to continue to help St. Francis Xavier in the future.
“Each summer, the incoming LA-STEM freshmen take a service-learning class with Dr. Marybeth Lima during the OSI Summer Bridge Program,” Miller said. “The task for this summer has been to make designs for updating the school’s playground equipment. Over the course of the summer, the students have learned about designing safe playgrounds and interviewed students at St. Francis Xavier to find out what they would like to see on a playground. Due to lack of funding, however, we can’t be sure that we will be able to build the playground, but if is definitely something that we would like to accomplish.”
LSU’s Office of Strategic Initiatives supports the high achievements of LSU students, faculty and staff through education, mentoring and research. By achieving this vision, the office will assist in raising LSU’s standing among its peers. The office’s additional goals include assisting the Office of Academic Affairs in implementing programs that encourage and enhance the diversity of the student body – particularly at the graduate level – and the diversity of the faculty – particularly in the sciences and engineering. It includes programs such as LA-STEM and Research Experience for Undergraduates. The LA-STEM program promotes the life and diversity of the STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – student body by bringing together students with diverse backgrounds and experiences. For more information on OSI, visit http://osi.lsu.edu/. For more on the LA-STEM program at LSU, visit http://www.lsu.edu/lastem/.
The LSU Summer Scholars Program is an eight-week summer program that prepares selected under-represented minority students to make a successful transition from high school to the university. This summer experience offers students the opportunity to become adjusted to the academic, personal and social challenges they may encounter at LSU. For more information, visit www.lsu.edu/ssp.
Ernie Ballard | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations