Saginaw Valley State University staff, faculty and students make a concerted effort to support the community, and sometimes, those endeavors are most evident to a pair of fresh eyes.
After working at a different university for nearly three years, Kerry Rastigue arrived on SVSU’s campus in September to help the institution apply for a designation as a “community-engaged university” from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
She has seen the evidence.
“It became apparent to me — almost immediately — how engaged this campus is with the community,” said SVSU’s coordinator of Service Learning. “It’s part of the culture here at SVSU. The community really founded SVSU, so there’s this culture of giving back.”
Caring Cardinals can be found in all corners of the campus, she discovered. They can give back via volunteer hours or through monetary donations. They can turn classroom assignments into opportunities for the underprivileged and spend spring break helping the needy.
Katrina Friedeberg, SVSU’s associate director of Student Life, said she’s been “amazed” at how many students are involved in helping the community.
“There’s always an eclectic mix of students who are willing to donate their time,” she said. “A lot of students don’t get these kinds of chances at other universities.”
The community support will continue into the holiday season. So far, SVSU has adopted 56 needy families through the United Way of Saginaw County’s Holiday Wish List 2013 program.
In the 2012-13 academic year, 577 SVSU students volunteered their time for almost 8,500 hours — and those numbers only reflect data submitted to SVSU’s Student Life Center.
Friedeberg said SVSU continues to ramp up its community support and could post larger numbers this academic year. The numbers already are adding up.
In November, SVSU contributed $25,185 to the local Special Olympics chapter as part of its Battle of the Valleys fundraising competition with rival Grand Valley State University. In 11 years, SVSU has topped donations from GVSU — a school enrolling more than twice as many students — all but three times.
“Students here put in a lot of hard work (in volunteerism),” said Student Association President Dylan Kosaski, who helped coordinate more than 100 volunteers who helped the effort. “It’s great to see the impact we can have on people.”
Over Thanksgiving weekend, five students involved in SVSU’s Alternative Breaks program helped organize donations and clean the retail floor at Detroit’s Disabled American Veterans’ warehouse.
More Alternative Breaks outings are planned for the coming academic year. In December, 12 students will volunteer at a Grand Rapids Habitat for Humanity facility. In January, Alternative Breaks trips will send students to a YMCA in Asheville, N.C.; Beds for Kids in Richmond, Va.; the Southern Appalachian Labor School in Kincaid, W. Va.; and Break for the World in Washington, D.C. Students are required to apply lessons learned during such volunteer outings to service projects within the Great Lakes Bay.
SVSU will host its third annual Project Linus event on Jan. 20, when students will make fleece tie blankets that are donated to the local chapter of Project Linus. The organization gives the blankets to critically ill children.
Rastigue said she’s been impressed with the volunteer hours logged by SVSU student-athletes. She praised specifically the athletes’ involvement with SVSU’s Community Youth Days, which provides free sports clinics to area children throughout the year. More than 600 youths participated in the program over the last year.
“It’s really good for students to be exposed to community service,” Rastigue said. “It engenders a sense of civic engagement and, hopefully, they’ll have a lifelong commitment to serving the underserved.”