Project Serve gives new TU students an early chance to give back to the community
With the new academic year right around the corner, more than 3,000 new Towson University students are getting ready to start their TU experience.
But for a small group of freshmen and new students transferring in to Towson University, they not only get to start their TU journeys early, they get to leave their mark on the Towson and Greater Baltimore communities.
Starting on Tuesday, August 21, 100 Towson University freshmen and transfer students will participate in Project Serve, a three-day community service experience that will let them volunteer at non-profits and community agencies around Baltimore City and County.
For Lisa Hill, coordinator of community service in TU’s Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, many of the students who sign up for the program use it to connect to work that is already going on in the area.
“For many of the students that don’t live in the area, they aren’t aware of the non-profits and grassroots movements in the area.” Hill said. “So this is a way to plug them in, and to help them learn about the great work that is already going on, and how they can connect to it and contribute to those efforts.”
Last year, Project Serve volunteers served a total of 2,340 hours, providing economic impact of over $56,000 based on the Independent Sector annual rate.
This year, Towson University students participating in Project Serve will volunteer at five different locations over three days. This year’s locations include non-profit hunger relief organizations Moveable Feast, Beans and Bread, and the Franciscan Center. Students will also volunteer at the Gunpowder Falls Conservancy and the Irvine Nature Center.
When deciding on the schedule for the volunteers, Hill said Project Serve organizers want to provide a wide variety of social issues that students can learn about, and the different types of non-profits in the area.
“(Project Serve) gives them so many opportunities to make connections, and learn about the volunteer opportunities in the Baltimore area that typically can go to only one at a time,” Hill said. “If you are trying to find volunteer opportunities on your own, you’re not going to see as many as you will Project Serve.”
Along with the 100 incoming student volunteers, Project Serve has 23 upper class student facilitators, and a leadership team made up of nine student leaders who plan the program.
One of this year’s facilitators is Stacey Minang, a sophomore Electronic Media and Film Major from Hagerstown, Md. She participated as a volunteer last year, and jumped at the chance to come back and serve as a facilitator this year.
“Project Serve was such an amazing experience coming in as a freshman and participant. I wanted, more than anything, to be able to share that same amazing experience with the new participants as a facilitator this year,” Minang said.
In addition to community service activities, there will be several team building exercises, social activities, as well as a reunion/celebration banquet. They also have the option of joining the Tigers Serving Others residential learning community.
Tigers Serving Others gives students the opportunity to live together on in the same residence hall, on the same floor during the academic year, and continue to learn about and participate in community service.
After finishing Project Serve, Minang was one of the students who joined Tigers Serving Others. She has also volunteered throughout the semester and joined The Big Event — TU’s largest day of community service.
And while she has been thrilled with the opportunities Project Serve has offered her, she cherishes the connections she made with her fellow volunteers the most.
“(Project Serve) introduced me to some of my closest friends who still play a huge role in my life to this day,” Minang said. “I was also blessed with two amazing facilitators that helped guide me through my first year and who still, to this day, constantly check back in on my friends and I to make sure we’re ok.”
Project Serve volunteers move into their residence halls on Monday, August 20, with social events scheduled that evening. Students volunteer Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Most days will begin with breakfast at 7 a.m., and will last until 9 p.m. And while Hill admits that the week can be draining, the results can give her a burst of energy for the semester ahead.
“I get so much energy seeing all the work our students do,” Hill said. “I always hear back non-profits after our students left, being thankful for the volunteers they had and how much they enjoyed our students. They always ask ‘When can we see TU again?’”
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, TIGER Way.