Monday, December 5, 2016

Student Groups on Student Groups on Student Groups

by Brandon Dawson
Freshman Scholar Advisory Board Member



From the moment you step on campus, you are completely bombarded with information regarding student groups, community service, and on-campus events. The only problem? They all sound AMAZING. You have hundreds of options to choose from and only 24-hours a day (not to mention classes and getting adequate sleep!). This is the struggle of college freshmen all across the country and when I got to Duke University, I decided to take on the challenge head first.
 
One of the very first things that I got involved with was Duke Student Government, or DSG. Freshmen can run for senate positions on the various committees that it encompasses. I ran to be a senator on the committee for Facilities, Environment, and the Arts, and fortunately, I won! 
 
As DSG Senators, we are tasked with creating projects that will enhance the campus that we have come to love. The project that I took on revolved around reducing the amount of waste that our university sends to the local landfill. I proposed that since paper towel waste is completely compostable, and Duke already has a contract with a local composting company, putting compost options in the freshman campus bathrooms could push Duke in the right direction of sustainability.

After frequent meetings with the Deans of Housing, Dining, and Resident Life, as well as the Director of Housekeeping, my project has been approved for a three-month pilot in one of the freshmen residence halls to begin at the start of second semester. If the pilot proves to be beneficial, the project will be implemented in all freshmen residence halls at the start of the next academic year.

Since theater was something I had always done in high school, I wanted to continue this in college, and there were plenty of options. I auditioned for Duke’s Mainstage Production and was cast in Henrik Ibsen’s “The Wild Duck.” Receiving class credit for our rehearsal time, our cast worked non-stop to bring this wonderful show to life. 


 Not only did I see it important to be involved on campus, but I also wanted to contribute to the surrounding Durham community. I luckily got involved early on with the Durham Beekeepers Association to continue a passion of mine from high school in protecting the declining honeybee populations. This organization has hives in numerous locations in Durham and holds community events to teach the local citizens about the importance of honeybees. 

I also got the opportunity to volunteer in the community, as well. Since I was fortunate enough to have my vehicle on campus, I volunteered through AdvanceNC and drove voters to the polls who didn’t have access to public transportation. I have been able to complete shifts at the Duke Campus Farm, which provides produce to the local community and to Duke Dining. There was even a morning where my entire sustainability class volunteered with Duke Zero Waste Football and sorted waste generated from the game into trash, recycling, and composting.

Whether you are interested in conservation work or building race cars (something my roommate does on campus), there is most likely a student group on campus to satisfy you. And if not? Make your own! It is so crucial to get involved on your campus and to regularly be exposed to and meet new people. Through these, you can create lasting connections with people from all walks of life and backgrounds. And who knows, you just might learn something new! I know I have.

As the Freshman Scholar Advisory Board Representative, we’ll follow along with Brandon’s first year of college. Click here to see more from Brandon!
 

In 2016-17, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.2 million to fund the ENF scholarship program, which provides college scholarships, ensuring a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important parts of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and each other. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, click here.
           

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Little Service Sunshine

by Alexa Vaghenas
2016 Most Valuable Student Scholar, Yale University


College students often become enclosed in a sort of "bubble" over the course of four years, wrapped up in their studies and social lives, preoccupied by extracurricular activities and on-campus events. Although this can lead to individual growth, unforgettable experiences, and admirable accomplishment, too often we forget about the greater community around us. On Friday November 18, I volunteered at the New Haven Sunrise Cafe for Elks Scholar Service Days. A freshman at Yale University, I knew it was time to pop the "Yale Bubble" and give back to the small city of New Haven; my new home.

As a Sunrise Cafe volunteer, I was tasked with serving breakfast to the homeless. Shifting my sleep schedule a bit to get up at 6:45 on a Friday morning, I walked several blocks to the basement of St. Paul and St. James Episcopal Church and followed the cheery logo of the Sunrise Cafe. In the kitchen, a small but mighty assembly line of students was gathered around the tables of pancakes, sausage, cereal, granola bars, fresh bananas, orange juice, and freshly blended fruit smoothies. Our job was to match the food to the customer's order and then pass the tray along to the waitress, who would officially gift these men and women with their free and healthy breakfast. At some moments, the orders came in so quickly we forgot to pour milk into the cereal! At other moments, the rate at which the pancakes and sausages could be cooked held us back, but that only gave us the opportunity to strike up pleasant conversation with the kitchen staff and surrounding volunteers. It was quite a sunny way to start my day! (Pun intended.)

Both myself and the homeless found a home Friday morning in the Sunrise Cafe. Although short-lived, by volunteering for those not fortunate enough to have a home, I found a sense of connection and community that, previously in my fall semester, had been missing. No matter what obligations we have, it is so important not to become so consumed by our individual lives that we forget to give back. Service makes us humble, genuine, and human. It is these core values that the Elks National Foundation represents, and I sincerely thank the organization for all the goodness they promote. Without them and their advocating for the Elks Scholar Service Days, who knows how long it would have taken to add a little service sunshine into my day? 

For more information about the Elks Scholar Service Days click here.

In 2016-17, the Elks National Foundation appropriated $4.2 million to fund the ENF scholarship program, which provides college scholarships, ensuring a bright future for our nation’s youth. As important parts of the Elks family, Elks scholars have many social and service opportunities to connect with the Elks and each other. For more information about our scholarship programs, and for ways Lodges can get involved with Elks scholars, visit enf.elks.org/scholarships.