Guilford’s commitment to service honored

Service Awareness Week highlighted students’ commitment to one of Guilford’s fundamental principles: serving the community. Spanning the week of April 6, the awareness week gave Guilford a chance to celebrate the impact its students have had on their surroundings. In the past two semesters alone, Guilford students have completed over 60,000 hours of service, earning a place on the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for the second year running.

“My thoughts about service are as simple and complex as every experience that I’ve had leading up to this moment,” said Cathy Hamilton, director of UNCG’s Office of Leadership and Service-Learning. She spoke during an April 7 panel entitled “What is service?” headed by James Shields, director of Guilford’s Community Learning Center.

“You find out where people are doing good work in the world and join them. It’s as simple as that – and it’s as complex as that,” explained Hamilton.

The panel made a point of distinguishing between the concepts of “helping” and “serving,” which are often confused by those new to service, by distributing a flier blazoned with illustrative excerpts from Rachel Naomi Remen’s 1996 essay, “In the Service of Life,”

“Helping is based on inequality, whereas serving is based on giving ourselves to others just as worthy as we are,” read the flier. “When I help I have a feeling of satisfaction. When I serve I have a feeling of gratitude. These are very different things.”

“What I always say in my training is that if you are going here because you have seen a population that needs help and you have identified yourself as someone who can give them that help, then . you’re there for the wrong reasons,” said Marshall Jeffries, senior Bonner Scholar at Guilford. “Embedded in the assumption that you can help is the assumption that people don’t understand how to help themselves. Communities hold all the tools they need to help themselves. Sometimes it just takes a catalyst.”

Jeffries was one of fifteen graduating Bonner Scholars to give a final reflection on his four years of service in an event partitioned into two days, April 1 and 8.

Presentations ranged from a video created by seniors Ebony Knowlin, Saron Smith-Hardin, and JaNell Henry to a series of photographs courtesy of Yasmin Casado and Shevon Hackett.

Each senior was asked to reflect on the lessons learned during the program. Uniformly, students felt that their experience serving the community had changed their ideal future career.

“I now know that I want to go to law school and work in child advocacy,” said Knowlin.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself,” added Casado. “Like: who knew I could live in a tent?”

“The most valuable learning happens outside a classroom,” said Jeffries, before beginning a slideshow of the people who had influenced him in his four years as part of the Bonner program. “I have been allowed to see a lot of communities and a lot of oppression, and it has humbled me.”

Yet despite the magnitude of work completed by Guilford students, there still exists the fact that a small percentage of people on campus represent the volunteers behind those 60,000 hours. Community leaders are still looking for ways to increase interest in participation. Shields summed up Guilford’s hopes for the future.

“Most of the service . is only done by a small number of people. That being said, there are other people on campus doing things that may not be recognized as service. How do we take this thing we call service and make it appealing, make it something of value?”

Service Awareness Week, with its variety of speakers young, old, new, and experienced, was a step towards that goal.