For the past 14 consecutive years, SMC kicked off the academic school year with their coveted Freshman Day of Service. The one day event involved entering freshman, divided into small groups led by a faculty/staff member and two sophomores, who were sent to schools, churches, soup kitchens, shelters assisting children, the elderly, the environment, and animals, assisting with cleaning, painting, cooking, socializing, landscaping and any other tasks the service organization might need. Beginning in 2015, that “day” of service will be turned into a “year” of service opportunities.
Candice Sloan, Chaplain and Adjunct Professor of Religion at SMC, and the SMC Service Committee were charged with planning the Freshman Day of Service. Last year they evaluated the event, which had reached maximum capacity (too many students to work efficiently for organizations), student satisfaction, the level of 1-day effectiveness, and the desire of students for more in-depth volunteer opportunities and decided to go in a new direction. Upon the Committee’s recommendation, SMC reallocated resources from the Day of Service and with the assistance of the South Carolina Campus Compact was able to secure an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer for the upcoming 2015-2016 Academic Year.
VISTA , founded in 1965 as a national service program to fight poverty in America, was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993. Today, more than 46 million Americans live in poverty. AmeriCorps VISTA taps the skills, talents and passion of more than 7,000 Americans annually to support community efforts to overcome poverty. VISTA members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities.
Stephanie Smith, from Florence, SC, will be the AmeriCorps VISTA serving SMC. Smith holds an M.A. in English, Concentration in Creative Writing Fiction, from East Carolina University, Greenville, NC and a B.A. in English, Minor in Creative Writing, from Francis Marion University. Smith shared she “is passionate and committed to the mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty and looks forward to making a tangible difference and finding the fulfillment that comes from using your knowledge and skills to help those in disadvantaged circumstances turn their dreams into reality.”
According to Sloan, “Smith’s primary job will be to encourage volunteerism and incorporate creative service-learning into the SMC curriculum as well as co-curricular activities. We are hoping Stephanie will be a bridge to the neighboring Arcadia community and the SMC community.” Smith will work with Arcadia Elementary School and Arch Ministries, an afterschool program for children at Arcadia Elementary. The majority of students at Arcadia Elementary School come from low-income families, with 99 percent receiving free or reduced lunch. About 80 percent are Hispanic, and many have parents who speak little or no English.
“Smith’s ability to foster ongoing SMC volunteer opportunities (such as mentoring, tutoring, etc.) should increase education levels in the Arcadia community and show elementary children college IS a real possibility. Likewise, it is hoped SMC students will in turn, value their college experience and appreciate their coursework by the opportunity to utilize their skills and abilities in projects with children and their families at the school and at Arch Ministries. Bringing SMC’s founding father, Dr. David English Camak’s vision, ‘providing resources for education and for life,’ full circle,” shared Sloan.