The ultimate goal of the students and staff members who make up Clayton State University’s AmeriCorps program is that their service, their support for the community outside of Clayton State, can make a difference.
That was certainly the case during AmeriCorps’ recent Alternative Winter Break trip to Give Kids the World in Orlando, Fla. Sixteen Clayton State students, along with Jennifer Welch, AmeriCorps program coordinator and Dr. Samuel Maddox, associate professor of Psychology, volunteered at Give Kids the World, a 70-acre nonprofit storybook resort where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to a week-long, cost-free fantasy vacation, from Dec. 9 to Dec. 13.
While the reward of service is often in the performance of the service, AmeriCorps received a special reward via a post on Clayton State’s official Facebook page from Bruce Nagy, of Kamloops, B.C., Canada, whose family was staying at Give Kids the World. In part, Nagy’s Facebook post said…
“I cannot say enough about how wonderful everyone treated us all during our entire stay! Sorry, I am not much of a writer, but, right now I am holding back some tears, trying to express how much your campus group from Clayton State, on BOTH occasions that they visited the Village, (helped). How heartwarming they all were, courteous, the smiles... they were ALL SO AMAZING!!!”
Nagy also noted that he had the chance to speak at length to one of the Clayton State students, who Welch identified as Racquel Valadez, a Clayton State junior psychology major from Colorado Springs, Colo., and a member of the University’s women’s cross country team.
“(Racquel) was the only young lady… that I was fortunate enough to exchange conversation with, (though that’s) not excluding any of the other extraordinary ladies & gentlemen that treated our entire family with utmost respect. From the Gingerbread House, to the most excellent Halloween Show, and costumes, my daughters, wife & myself, will never, ever forget the love that Clayton State showed, not only to us, but to everyone else at Give the Kids the World Village!!! GOD BLESS ALL OF YOU, may good health come your way, and a heartfelt THANK-YOU!”
In addition to Welch, Maddox and Valadez, the AmeriCorps “Team Orlando” consisted of Jessica Dent (Augusta), Sara Diggins (Austell), Josee Dolce (Riverdale), Keyauna Hopkins (Macon), Catherine Hutchins (Atlanta), Exell Jackson (Columbus), Samantha Lapier (Dalton), Joel Lymon (College Park), Christopher Manning (Houston), Jevon Miller (Macon), Nicholas Reed (Statesboro), Hillary Rimes (Savannah), Venus Royster (Atlanta), Breanna Simpson (Jonesboro), and Whitney Smith (Macon).
Prior to leaving for Orlando, Maddox noted that, in addition to offering a valuable service to the community, the students will also have the opportunity to address the emotional and psychological impacts on children and families of terminally ill young people. Clearly, AmeriCorps did have an impact on one family, and did indeed make a