9 ways University of Alabama students are giving back to their community

The University of Alabama considers service a priority and a privilege. The combination of students who want to make the world a better place and a university administration that encourages those efforts creates a culture of service. This culture not only impacts campus, but seeps out into the world as students graduate and join communities outside of Tuscaloosa.

Courtney Chapman Thomas, senior director for service and leadership, believes the habit of service is a lifelong one. The University of Alabama’s Center for Service and Leadership instills traditions of service and generosity throughout campus.

The Center for Service and Leadership is the stepping stone to lifelong giving and philanthropy. His goal is to help students develop their passions and connect them with one of about 200 nonprofit organizations in the community. Chapman Thomas said it’s her job to listen to what students are passionate about, the injustices that keep them up at night, and give them the skills to do something about it.

“Community engagement and service are critical in a student’s life,” said Chapman Thomas. “It takes their personal experiences and allows them to go out of their comfort zone to do something for others.”

University of Alabama students participate in the Ripple Effect, a pre-class service day that connects students to the Tuscaloosa community. (University of Alabama)

For college students, service is what creates connections and turns thought into action. At the University of Alabama, students from across the nation and world bring their diverse backgrounds and experiences to the table, said Chapman Thomas. This diversity creates a range of passions to be explored and fulfilled. The University of Alabama staff empowers students to speak out, be passionate, and make a positive impact on their community.

“College students get a bad rap for being lazy and selfish, but the reality is they believe the world can change and that they can be the catalyst for that change,” Chapman Thomas said. “Each week, hundreds of students choose to go to schools, food banks and shelters to make a difference rather than sleep in, hang out with friends and have a day off.”

The students felt the effects too. “Service was a big part of my college experience at the University of Alabama,” said Ibby Dickson of Alabama. “I think that’s ingrained in the culture. Tuscaloosa and UA have a great partnership. I believe students want to be involved in the Tuscaloosa community the same way they want to visit Tuscaloosa and be on campus.”

University of Alabama students celebrate after donating nearly £566,000 of food to the Beat Auburn Beat Hunger campaign. (Contribution)

Personal philanthropies, fundraisers, and year-round service programs supported through the far-reaching reach of the Center for Service and Leadership at the University of Alabama include:

Great Days of Service: The Center for Service and Leadership hosts major days of service to the campus community throughout the year. These service days provide students, faculty, and staff with opportunities to serve throughout the city.

ripple effect: A day of service during Welcome Week before classes begin that connects students to the Tuscaloosa community.

Hands on Tuscaloosa: This Day of Service, held during the Fall and Spring semesters, gives students an opportunity to take a break and give back.

MLK Day of Service: In partnership with the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, this outstanding day encourages everyone to do their part and remember that no service is too small.

As friends: Each year, students volunteer to be mentors to help the mentees with homework, strengthen reading and math skills, and participate in enrichment and recreational activities. Al’s Pals mentors commit one afternoon per week, Monday to Thursday from 2:30pm to 5:15pm, for 10 weeks during the semester to mentor first through fifth grade elementary school students at local schools. It’s a great way to get involved, meet fellow students and make a difference in the children’s lives at the same time.

University of Alabama students are participating in a 13-hour dance marathon to raise money for families of sick children. (University of Alabama)

Defeat Auburn Defeat Hunger: Each year, BABH competes with Auburn University’s Beat Bama Food Drive to support local food banks. Since its inception, this friendly competition has donated more than 6 million pounds of food to Alabamaers. In addition to the annual food drive, BABH is committed to education and advocacy on food insecurity issues throughout the year.

habitat for mankind: The University of Alabama’s Habitat for Humanity chapter engages students in defense, construction, education, and fundraising to support Habitat for Humanity International’s mission of building homes, communities, and hope.

UA dance marathon: UADM exists to provide financial and emotional support to children and families undergoing treatment at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham. The Dance Marathon, the flagship event of UADM, is a nationwide movement involving college and high school students from more than 150 schools. These students are raising money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in their community.

serve baby: The Serving Bama team organizes about 10 service opportunities weekly with local non-profit organizations. They address causes such as outdoor and environmental efforts, home safety, community development, and animal welfare.

This story was originally published on the Soul Grown website.