Students Work for Positive Change On and Off Campus

Posted: December 12, 2011 at 5:09 pm, Last Updated: December 15, 2011 at 11:27 am

Text by Erin Cushing; video by Paul King

Stroll through the Johnson Center during a weekday afternoon, and you’ll be inundated with signs, posters and fellow students advertising numerous student-run charity events. Whether as part of Greek organizations, student interest groups or academic departments, students find ways to give back to their communities, often focusing on projects that appeal to their own interests.

Many students find their philanthropic niche through the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE), which is extremely active in both the campus and outside communities.

CLCE sponsors numerous events throughout the year, such as the current holiday spirit food and gift drive. With community partner Our Daily Bread, a local nonprofit organization, CLCE participants are collecting food and gift items and delivering them to needy families throughout the area. Students can donate food or gifts, help package the items and even deliver them directly to the families in the area.

Another student organization that has worked to help others on a global basis is Mason Cru, an on-campus Christian organization. Mason Cru hosted Love South Sudan, a program where Mason students collected and packed seeds to send to families of South Sudan, a newly created republic in Africa that is struggling to feed its people.

The packs contained five sets of vegetable seeds, so that each family would have food to grow for themselves and crops to sell, creating a sustainable agriculture. More than 600 students helped to assemble the packs, load shipping boxes and label the boxes.

“From the minute I walked into the room until the minute I had to leave for class, the experience was fun and heart-warming,” says Lakshmi Meyyappan, an electrical engineering major who took part in the event. “I could see that people were truly experiencing the joy of giving.”

Mason’s Student Government also sponsors charitable events. Their latest effort was a kick-off event to spur on Mason students participating in the Annual AIDS Walk in Washington, D.C., which was held on Oct. 29.

A few days before the walk, Student Government provided food, booked musical performers and handed out literature about the AIDS Walk to support those who had already pledged to participate and to encourage other Mason students to take part. Many Mason students who eventually participated in the AIDS Walk signed up as a result of this event, and others did so through the efforts of CLCE, which organized a Mason team for the walk.

The Iota Alpha Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta supported their national philanthropy, Autism Speaks, at the National Walk for Autism Speaks in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Iota Alpha Chapter

Greek organizations at Mason are committed to service, both on campus and in the greater community. For example, the Iota Alpha Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta supported their national philanthropy, Autism Speaks, at the National Walk for Autism Speaks on Oct. 22 in Washington, D.C.

The sorority sisters were on hand to pass out special Halloween trick-or-treat bags to the children of Matthew’s Center, a nonprofit organization in Manassas, Va., dedicated to helping autistic children. The Iota Alpha chapter has adopted Matthew’s Center, sending sisters to help repair and paint the school building. The sisters are also directly interacting with the children and assisting staff with daytime and afterschool programs.

“Our partnership with Autism Speaks is a close one,” says Catherine Miller, an Alpha Xi Delta sister and public relations vice president for the sorority. “Many of our sisters have family members or friends who live with autism and know what it’s like to be personally touched by autism,” explains Miller, a tourism and events management major.

The students who tend the on-campus garden near the Potomac Heights residence hall have found a way to combine their passion for green and sustainable living with a desire to help those less fortunate than themselves.

Sponsored by the Office of Sustainability, the garden produced seasonal vegetables and fruits. Half of all the produce harvested from the garden was donated to Food for Others, a Northern Virginia-based charity.

“We felt it was very important to share the produce with those in need in our local community,” says Danielle Wyman, sustainability projects coordinator with the Office of Sustainability. “On donation days for Food for Others, we would see families coming to pick up the beautiful fresh vegetables that we were dropping off. It is always extremely rewarding to see the food pass right from our hands to the hands of those in need.”




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