For Clayton State sophomore Rickita Burney, owning a home means giving her and her two children an opportunity to live in a stable environment. But she’s not doing it alone—the Laker family recently helped her build the foundation to her new home. Burney joined more than 50 Clayton State students to participate in Laker Service Day on Aug. 27 to demonstrate the University’s commitment to community service.
“To know that other people care about volunteering; I think it’s an unselfish act to go out and help somebody else,” said Burney, a legal studies major who transferred to Clayton State.
Laker Service Day is a day-long event to teach students the importance of giving back. The activity replaced the former Service Learning Institute and Party For Good events to wrap up the new school year kickoff.
For the first half of the Saturday, students engaged in different exercises to explore social justice issues and their effect on community service. In the afternoon, the group gathered in the courtyard outside of the Student Activity Center to build wall frames for three homes developed by Habitat For Humanity Southern Crescent.
“We chose Habitat because it was natural,” said LaShanda Hardin, program coordinator in the Department of Campus Life. “I think it makes the students feel good to know that they made a difference.”
Hardin said students learned the difference between community service and volunteerism and how they interconnect, placing emphasis on the fact that service goes beyond an individual’s actions to encompass their role as an active citizen.
“Volunteering itself is just you doing a job for free. That can be anywhere at church or at a school or a nonprofit,” she said. “But community service means that you are actively engaged in your community. It’s not just the action, it’s other things that go with it.”
The University’s Department of Campus Life has a strong partnership with the Southern Crescent division, which encompasses Clayton, Henry and Fayette counties. Ciara Dunn, a senior health and fitness management major, developed her relationship with Habitat for Humanity through the student chapter as campus vice-president. An internship with the non-profit led to her obtaining a job as a program coordinator.
She has designed an alternative spring break program, as well as Southern Crescent’s first summer camp dedicated to community service.
“Statistics show that when kids are in a stable neighborhood their test scores are higher,” Dunn said. “It’s a big role to be a part of that and take pride in building a home and helping someone out.”
The sweltering heat did not dampen spirits during Laker Service Day as the whack of hammers hitting nails could be heard throughout the courtyard. Snow cones and a DJ helped make the building project more fun. It was also the first time that many students had done any type of carpentry work.
More importantly, Clayton State students who participated in Laker Service Day left felt the service learning activity gave them a chance to do some hands on work as opposed to working from textbooks and assignments.
“I like volunteering and seeing things get done,” said Thomas Wragg, a sophomore studying supply chain management in the College of Business. “This is a humbling experience. I’m more fortunate, so I want to use whatever I have to help others.”
Wragg said he remembered times when his mother, who was divorced from his father, struggled financially and was evicted from her home several times. Laker Service Day reminded him of why it’s important to not take things for granted.
“Finding yourself on the street when you get home is a terrible feeling,” he said. “So giving somebody shelter and protection they need will help them succeed in life.”
Burney moves into her home in November. Her 7-year-old daughter, Zariya, and 12-year-old son, Khali, tagged along and could see first-hand what it meant for people to band together for a good cause.
She said she hopes the project will encourage her classmates to tell others about organizations like Habitat For Humanity so they can volunteer.
“I hope they take the knowledge back to someone else and recycle the process,” she said