Clemson University Feature Stories

This past school year, more than 100 students went on alternative spring breaks to serve communities across the country, such as in Appalachia.

Clemson students offer helping hands down the street and across the world

By Mary Mattox
Clemson University

Many Clemson Tigers incorporate their heart for service with their mind for knowledge by tying academics and service together. This is the Clemson atmosphere.

“I have come to realize through my alternative winter break trip to the Dominican Republic that my passion is serving people. It’s what I want my life to be about,” said Janey Tupper, a senior Spanish and international health major.

Clemson sorority members came together in 2012 to redecorate the room of a young girl who's fighting a brain tumor. She’s not the only one.

From mission trips across the world to gourmet grilled cheeses, Clemson students, faculty and staff are dedicating their time to others. Service can be found in every nook and cranny on campus and off. Student organizations, undergraduate research, class projects, service-learning, alternative breaks, mission trips, faculty efforts — through all these groups, service is at Clemson’s core.

And service is often larger than the individual.

“It is more about the intangibles one receives from service than the tangible aspects they complete. Service allows people to grow and discover things about themselves,” said Lane Glaze, campus minister for Clemson Wesley.

Rebuilding the brokenness

There are numerous service opportunities for people to get involved, especially on Clemson’s campus. This year, more than 100 students went on alternative spring breaks, which are an “alternative” to the traditional type of spring, fall or winter breaks that most students experience.

Student organizations like Students Helping Honduras, Clemson Wesley, Clemson Alternative Break and Foundation for International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC) encourage students to donate their breaks to helping others.

“We want students to become active citizens through these trips and bring their knowledge back here to make a difference,” said Nancy Thomas, student president of Clemson’s Alternative Break Program.

Students help build a home in the Dominican Republic.Student Kathleen Brand went to Missouri for tornado relief over spring break with Clemson Wesley. “The trip was a great reminder that so many people in the U.S. need our help and lack access to basic materials to rebuild the brokenness in their own lives,” she said.

Whether local, national or international, Clemson students are reaching out to help fix that brokenness in so many lives.

“When people realize their actions in South Carolina affect those in the Dominican Republic and again in Missouri, they can start to make a difference,” Glaze said.

There are more than 400 student organizations on campus, and many contain service aspects. Members of Greek organizations are leaders of how students can get involved.

“In Clemson, Greek Life is a community, and a community cannot exist without service. We need to serve each other to succeed,” said Tupper, who is a member of Alpha Delta Pi.

These students dedicate philanthropy and community service within Clemson throughout the year and engage in all major service events on campus. And the past two years, Fraternity and Sorority Life has gone to the Dominican Republic to build houses.

Students also have the ability to do service within their classes. In the College of Health, Education and Human Development, professors take students on medical mission trips. These trips allow students to apply their undergraduate studies in a different culture, help others and gain experience — teaching them the value of giving back.

“We get as much from the trips as the people we help. It opens the students’ eyes to all the benefits they have,” said Roxanne Amerson, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing.

Across the world, down the road

Not only do they fly across the world to help others, but students also drive down the road to better their local community.

Student organizations Alpha Phi Omega and the Solid Orange Squad constantly work to improve this area. Although, they have different approaches, the organizations maintain the same purpose.

Former Solid Orange Squad member and Clemson basketball player Catalin Baciu gives a book to a child.“I feel we have a duty to provide for those who are not as fortunate. Service to humanity and the concept of giving back is an integral component of higher education,” said Chase Huston, the social vice president of Alpha Phi Omega.

Alpha Phi Omega has logged almost 2,000 service hours for the 2012 spring semester. They primarily dedicate their time to projects and organizations such as Adopt-A-Highway, Clemson Child Development Center, Clemson Community Care, the Blue Ridge Council of the Boy Scouts of America and Helping Hands.

Similarly, the Solid Orange Squad is a service organization composed of student-athletes who want to give back to the community.

“By enabling student-athletes to identify and share their time, talents and abilities, we not only demonstrate our commitment to the community but also grow as engaged citizens,” said Lisa Phillips, the rowing team manager and director of the Solid Orange Squad.

With 62 active members, they reached more than 17,000 community members and 69 Upstate schools in 2010-11. The Solid Orange Squad goes to elementary and middle schools and promotes its “Be a T.I.G.E.R.” program: Teamwork, Integrity, Gratitude, Education and Respect.

Service gives people the ability to make a difference and gain an alternative perspective in life, no matter how it’s done.

“What is perhaps the greatest reason for service, is that everything we do for others benefits us in some way as well, by teaching us something or helping us to better appreciate life,” said Megan Epperson, the president of FeelGood.

FeelGood exhibits service through the simple pleasure of grilled cheeses. Members make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and sell them on campus for whatever “feels good.” In 2011, the group raised $2,285 for the Hunger Project, a nonprofit that seeks to end hunger and poverty.

Service is the basis of what makes a community. It is helping others when many never saw a need.

Landscape architecture student service-learning groups work to improve communities through design, combining academic work with service projects.

Although service-learning applies to a wide range of issues, Mary Beth McCubbin’s landscape architecture service-learning group focuses on identifying and solving current community needs.

In the past, McCubbin’s service-learning groups have worked on projects such as Keowee Key Trails System, Poe Mill Village Revitalization in Greenville County, Vitality Center and Nature Park in Bamberg County and a neighborhood park in Cayce.

“Our students work with community members to identify issues and look for design solutions. It’s a mutually beneficial endeavor — we learn from each other.” McCubbin said.

Through many avenues, Clemson students, faculty and staff serve their communities and are constantly improving the lives of others. As a land-grant institution, Clemson is obligated to serve, but it’s the people in the University who make that obligation first a dedication, then a lifetime promise.

Tags: , , ,