First-year Student Growth
Last weekend the Center for International Studies and Programs (CISP) recognized members of the Leadership Through Service Living Learning Community (LTSLLC) for their dedication to service through exemplary volunteerism and academic excellence. The program is designed to help first-year students make the transition into college a little easier by pairing participants with seasoned peer-mentors. As added guidance, the CISP staff placed firm mile markers on progress to ensure they are on track throughout the year. Students were housed on-campus in MacKinnon Hall where they developed a willingness to serve the community around them. Celebrating the success of these students, Saturday, April 28th 2012 was the LTSLLC Awards Banquet. At the Awards Banquet, members of the program received a well deserved $1,000 educational award for their completion of 300 service hours for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Students served in various community organizations like the Boys and Girls Club of Toledo, Day Care Centers, Rehabilitation Facilities and projects like the Litterbug movement. Some of the most popular activities were making Valentine’s cards with youth, A Spelling Bee Competition with the elderly and Thanksgiving Dinner at a local Assisted-Living Facility. The ultimate giving experience occurred when the students decided to volunteer their Spring Break in New York City, where they made a difference in thousands of other’s lives. Students passed out “free hugs” on street corners in Times Square, served in the soup kitchens, and gave PB&J Sandwiches to people on their daily commute.
Other valuable experiences from this year include sleeping outside in a cardboard box at Tent City and experiencing what it was like to be homeless for a night. They have walked around campus without shoes to experience what it is like for people in other countries to go without shoes. They also wore the same outfit for a whole month in order to raise money for the women who were victims of human trafficking. These opportunities have provided a semester-long period of reflection for the students to become aware of a community outside of their own, as well as, a call to action to promote change in their surroundings where ever they go.
As a mentor and a friend, I was proud to see the growth that LTSLLC students exhibited thus far and was impressed by them at the Awards Banquet! It was touching to watch them receive the awards they worked for. In my eyes, it honestly wasn’t about them walking up there for that educational award check. They were walking to the finish line of SUCCESS. They had completed over 300 hours of service per person, created friendships & networks that will last a lifetime, touched at least one person’s heart by genuinely giving back. Each of these students grew as individuals and they have completed their 1st year of college! It’s amazing to see their transformation from August to April. I loved the banquet! It was beautiful, classy and prestigious. These students know that we are here for them whenever they need us and if we can’t help them, they know we WILL guide them to where they need to go. Ultimately, Antonio, Sara and Angie did amazing jobs as mentors to these freshmen students. From the roughest moments through the times that were a breeze, the LTSLLC students never failed.
Students put together the banquet celebration of their accomplishments of meeting the goal of 300 hours of community service. Members of the community including Jarrod Calhoun, Whitney Harris, Andrea Hollett, and Scherrie Hogsett gave testimonies on their first year experience and what it meant to be a part of the Living Learning Community. Though none of us may have fully known what we were getting ourselves into at the beginning of this year, one thing is for sure, the Leadership Through Service Living Learning Community has made a profound impact on the lives of these 30 students, their mentors, and the community.
When I walked into the banquet room for our final meeting together, as the Leadership Through Service Living Learning Community Members and Peer Mentors came together, it wasn’t the sharp Rocket pride decorations that I noticed, it wasn’t the neatly put together center pieces for the tables, or the slideshow on the projector; it was my fellow mentors and mentees. They were shining like the sun with accomplishment and triumph.
It was a room full of big hearted students, ready to give their testimonies about how service has changed not only their college career, but molded them into better people than they were yesterday. Throughout the banquet we heard many students from our program speak about how service has impacted their first year here at The University of Toledo. Every one of the student speakers said that this Learning Through Service community has challenged them; it has allowed them to come out of their shell, keep up their grades, make new friends, get involved on campus, and most importantly, it has taught them the meaning of community service and how it is up to us to change the world. To me, that is invaluable. The banquet was a smashing success and we are all very proud of the hard work and dedication to service exhibited by our students in the Toledo community to making our world a better place.