Volunteering My Way Through Summer

This summer, I interned with the Maroon Volunteer Center. The Maroon Volunteer Center (MVC) is a student-driven initiative connecting Mississippi State students to community partners in the Starkville-Columbus-West Point area. The MVC acts a portal or a clearinghouse, pointing students to where they can volunteer in relation to their interests academically and professionally. We have over 30 community partners throughout the Golden Triangle Area. The MVC is located in Moseley Hall on the third floor. We are under the Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement, also located in Moseley Hall. There is always something happening at the MVC, whether it’s going to help mentors at the Boys and Girls Club of Starkville, or teaching freshman football players how to make no-sew blankets for Project Linus, there is no end to the fun and madness that goes on in the office. The MVC’s mission is “to holistically instill within its participants the ideals of diversity, citizenship, leadership, and service.” I hoped to emulate these ideals through my internship project.

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My internship officially began June 1st and I have, for the past month, been coordinating a service event known as Service DAWGS Day. Service DAWGS Day is the service day during Dawg Daze (August 10-15) for the new incoming students of Mississippi State University. On Service DAWGS Day, the Maroon Volunteer Center coordinates and transports 500+ volunteers to 35+ community partners in the Golden Triangle Area, including, but not limited to Columbus, West Point, and Starkville.) We even have a site in Sturgis, MS. Our goal with Service DAWGS Day is to encourage students to get involved with the community of Starkville early on in their college career. Many students who volunteered at Service DAWGS Day in years past have returned to volunteer with the MVC at multiple events throughout the years.

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Daily duties with my internship include contacting non-profit organizations throughout Starkville about participating as a service site, helping these organizations design a project for the volunteers, signing a site agreement with them, and recruiting volunteers to be site leaders. Getting the service sites is probably the most important element of Service DAWGS Day, besides recruiting 500+ volunteers. Another important aspect of the Service DAWGS Day is recruiting site leaders. Site leaders are the volunteers who will liaise between the student volunteers and the community partners. More than likely, the site leaders are volunteers who have participated in Service DAWGS Day before or with the MVC. I will continue to recruit site leaders and hold a training session for them August 10th before Service DAWGS Day.

Advertisement has taken up most of my time. Creating a postcard design, ordering the postcards, and standing out in Mississippi heat to hand out these postcards to incoming freshman was how I spent my month of June. Orientation Fairs were a great way to reach incoming students about Service DAWGS Day and the MVC. I also used the MVC Newsletter, Facebook, and Instagram pages to help promote the event. By the end of July, our office will order about 6,000 postcards to send to the resident halls to reach the freshmen who will be moving in August 8th.

One of my favorite parts of my internship has been leaving the office and going to visit the community partners at the service sites. My favorite site to visit was the Sally Kate Winters Family Services. Their mission is to offer services to children and families so they can “experience an improved quality of life” (Sally Kate Winters website). Heather Ursy, the outreach coordinator, took me on a tour of the facility. They have a house for children who are in the foster system or who have run away from home. The children they work with range from newborn to 18 years of age. Sally Kate Winters works with the children to gain the skills and the right materials to succeed in life, even continuing after the children are 18 years old and helping them transition to adulthood, guiding them through applying for jobs, applying for school, and setting up utilities. They are a non-profit organization so they rely on donations and volunteers. At the moment their programs include Emergency Shelter Program, Runaway and Homeless Youth Program, Resource Center, Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Transitional Youth Program. Our volunteers will be going out to their facility in West Point to clear some gravel, re-sod the grass, and lay a stepping stone path across the sod with painted stones by the children to memorialize the project.

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Service DAWGS Day is a way for the community of Mississippi State University to reach out to the communities of Starkville, Columbus, West Point, and others. Each year, many community partners look forward to having the students out at their facilities. I am so excited to see how this event impacts Starkville and Mississippi State University this year. It has been a blast coordinating Service DAWGS Day so far, and I can’t wait to hear what the students have to say about their experience in the post-event surveys.

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Tori Lee

Cultural Anthropology Graduate Student

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