Community Service Day events at Saint Leo demonstrate the university's core values in action.
"The only ones among you who will be really happy are those that have sought and found how to serve." Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965, Nobel Peace Prize)
It was reflected in the laughter of students such as Majalukah Berry and Jodecia Parkins, Saint Leo University students and friends from Jamaica who said standing for two hours filling plastic bags with lentils and rice "didn't feel like work at all."
It shone through the smiles of the other 565 volunteers, swaying and bopping to blasts of music that pumped through the air, energized by a common goal.
Scooping and pouring. Bagging and boxing. Working elbow-to-elbow, students, faculty and staff packaged 100,000 meals for the hunger relief organization Feeding Children Everywhere. Bound for Nicaragua, it was food for young bodies packed with love for their souls.
It echoed in the quiet gasps of disbelief from those who attended a presentation about creating a hate-free world.
During filmmaker Brent Scarpo's showing of his stirring documentary, Journey to a Hate Free Millennium, participants shuttered at the stories of brutal hate crimes, which then led to thoughtful discussion about the imperative for action and the hope for change.
It was embodied in bronze. A life-size statue of a young black man, books tucked under his arm, and a robed monk stretching out his arms in welcome.
Members of the Saint Leo community dedicated the university's newest piece of public art, "A Spirit of Belonging." The statue commemorates Saint Leo's integration in 1898, when the Benedictine monks who founded the institution admitted a black student, Rudolph Antorcha, even though Jim Crow laws mandated segregation in all public facilities throughout the state.
Community Service Day events reflect Saint Leo's core values.
Community Service Day was a reminder of what matters most at Saint Leo University. As Florida's first Catholic college, Saint Leo's history is rich in faith and values. The university has kept the spirit of the Benedictine mission alive by embracing core values of responsible stewardship, respect, integrity, personal development, community, and excellence.
But more than words on paper pinned to office walls and printed in viewbooks and annual reports, the values are integrated throughout the entire university.
Into academic and co-curricular programs.
And into the daily actions of faculty, administration, and staff who serve the university's diverse student population – from traditional University Campus students, to military servicemembers attending one of 19 centers around the country, to any of the thousands of adult learners around the globe studying online.
Core values "infused" into Saint Leo education and way of life.
"The core values are infused in all aspects of education here at Saint Leo," said Paige Ramsey-Hamacher, director for multicultural and international services, who coordinated the educational presentation portion of the day's events.
"We as staff and faculty make it our mission to help in modeling the values that are core to Saint Leo University," she said, adding that each student is charged with embracing the values and deciding what they mean to him or her personally.
"The values represented in Brent Scarpo's presentation, for example, have to do with respect, community, and personal development. Respect because we as human beings are called to respect all people and value differences. As a community, we are all called to serve and care for one another – in this capacity we can reach out to the greater community in love."
According to Rhondda Waddell, professor of social work who helped organize the outreach efforts with Feeding Children Everywhere, service is a core principle of the teachings of Catholic social justice, the "heart and soul" of the university's mission – something "truly special and very real" at Saint Leo.
"Our community service projects and clubs that include Community Service Day, Student Engaged in Rewarding Volunteer Experiences (SERVE), Samaritans, the RotarAct Club, Student Government Union charities, sororities' and fraternities' charities, La Familia, the Saudi Students Club, the Social Work Club, the Psychology Club, the Social Justice Club – and the list goes on – demonstrate our collective goodwill put in to action as a significant part our Catholic tradition.
"It is clear that one of the things that makes Saint Leo unique is that we are about care and compassion for others."
Image Credit: Saint Leo University Communications