Students reach out into the world to help others

Nicklas Grifhorst
Editor in Chief

As Rochester College makes its transition to become a university in Fall 2020, one of the focuses during the process was an emphasis on community outreach.

Last semester, 100 RC students were recorded taking part in some kind of community outreach, accumulating a total of over 3,780 hours of service in a three-month period. RC was able to track these numbers thanks to an addition to the chapel system that allowed for all students to gain up to seven points toward their Telos/Chapel grade if they participate in the outreach.

“It is an essential part of what it means to be spiritually formed,” said Chris Shields, assistant dean of spiritual formation and campus pastor.

One of the campus community’s core beliefs is to help those in need and to be able to reach out into the community.

“As a Christian university I think it is important for us to practice what we preach,” Katelyn Hargrave, chapel coordinator, said. “If we are teaching our students to be active participants in God’s world, then we should be living that out.”

Shields echoed that sentiments and encourages students to think about “how do I relate to God's world? “I think that as we are all here as educated people. We have to use those things for the sake of God’s world and to help people flourish,” he said.

The staff involved in the process of community outreach don’t want students to feel forced to participate, but see it as a good and valuable use of their time if they are compelled; a way to earn points without actually being in chapel.

“Many of our students already serve others in their degree programs through internships and required volunteer hours, which helps students gain experience and learn in a hands-on way,” Hargrave said. “Our hope is that through TELOS, we can encourage students who aren’t already volunteering to jump in and find a way to do so, and for them and those who already do volunteer somewhere to think about why they are helping others and about the people they are helping in light of being a part of God’s world.”

Shield is highlighting a few of the students who have stepped into the community and made an impact. Here are their stories:

Craig “Jake” Feldman - Shoveling for those in need

Freshman, Christian Ministry Major

Jake Feldman volunteers his time after snowstorms to go out into the community and shovel, scrape and salt people’s driveways for those who can’t. He says the work can be stressful, and it can take up to eight hours to finish all of the addresses on his list.

“Serving others makes it all worth it for me—time and energy well spent,” he said.

Doing this work has allowed him to get to know members of the community better, and he says those relationships strengthen him.

“I get life from helping those who are unable to help themselves, and in serving them, I am also serving God,” Feldman said.

Feldman hopes that the work he does beings peace to someone's day.

“They know that they have one less thing to worry about each day, and they know that they will be free and safe to live the way that they want to live,” he said.  “I want people to feel loved because of my work. I want them to gain the knowledge that they are cared for.”

Robyn Pruitt - JDRF Walk and God’s Helping Hands

Junior, Pre-Physical Therapy major

Robyn Pruitt took part in the JDRF Walk in downtown Detroit, which raises money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The money she raised through the event went toward research for Type 1 diabetes.

“By participating in the walk, I was able to raise money with many others who supported the cause, and meet children and families who were affected by juvenile Type 1 diabetes,” she  said.

Pruitt also volunteers her time at God’s Helping Hands, where she assists workers by helping sort through shoes.

“I've always enjoyed volunteering; it's just something I've always done,” Pruitt said. “My parents always made sure that I understood that by serving other people I was also serving the Lord.”

Pruitt says volunteering has helped keep her humble and be more appreciative of God’s blessings.

“When volunteering, I don't do it for myself. I do it so I can help people gain new light on their situation or life,” she said.

Sarah Brackney - Troy Beaumont Hospital

Sophomore, Nursing Major

Nursing students are some of the biggest contributors to RC’s community service. They are required to put in a certain number of hours at a hospital over the course of their semesters. Sarah Brackney has worked at Troy Beaumont Hospital in the medical-surgical unit for her clinicals.

“Most of the work I did at clinical involved taking patients vital signs, performing general head-to-toe assessments, and sitting down to get to know the patient,” she said.

Brackney said she enjoys hearing about her patients’ lives. “Often times there's not much else to do at the hospital but sit and talk. Getting to know my patients is something I truly enjoy doing,” she said.

During these clinicals, Brackney said she is often reminded of the times when Jesus would go sit and talk with the poor and unwanted, where he would preach to them and listen about their lives.

“I'm able to follow after Jesus in a way that exemplifies his characteristics of healing and community,” she said. “If I can just touch the heart of one person lying in a hospital bed and turn their day into something enjoyable out of something completely awful, I'll have accomplished my goal.”

Samantha Wojcik - Samaritan House

Senior, Nursing Major

About to finish the nursing program, Samantha Wojcik has taken part in several clinicals, and she has chosen to spend her free time volunteering at Samaritan House in northwest Macomb County.

“It puts into perspective what is important in my life, and how truly blessed I am,” Wojcik said.

Samaritan House serves as a non-profit food pantry for low income people in the county, Wojcik’s mother serves as the executive director.

“Many of the people that come in are hard working people who have fallen on hard times and unforeseen circumstances,” Wojcik said. “Seeing that makes me realize that this could happen to me or anybody I know, so it makes me feel good that I can do my part to help these people.

Wojcik said she can leave a place like Samaritan House feeling good, knowing that she was able to help people in need.

“After they come to Samaritan House, they have a sense of security knowing they have food for that week,” she said. “That is one less thing they need to worry about for that week.”

Taylor Wakerley - Lapeer County Parks and Rec

Junior, Sports Management Major

Taylor Wakerly volunteers with Lapeer County’s Parks and Recreation department where she coaches fourth- through sixth-grade basketball. She said she tries to focus on themes such as leadership, teamwork and adversity.

“I coach, because I love being able to teach not only basketball, but the life lessons that are also taught throughout the season,” she said.

Wakerly hopes her players not only improve on the basketball side but are also able to take what they learn and apply it to life outside of basketball. She hopes to have prepared her players for the unknowns in both sports and life.

“Seeing these boys grow over the past couple years has had a huge impact on me,” Wakerly said. “They are so thankful and polite and continue to grow in every aspect of life.”