Belmont’s newest Bruins spent the day before classes began for the fall semester serving their new hometown as part of SERVE, the University’s annual orientation service event. More than 2,000 freshmen and transfer students loaded buses across campus and spent the afternoon serving at Nashville public schools and a number of nonprofit organizations across the city including The Red Cross, Project C.U.R.E. and Cottage Cove Ministries, among others.
Before being dismissed to their sites, students were welcomed by Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher in the University’s Curb Event Center. “As I told you during the recruitment process and throughout orientation, we don’t know what your purpose is in life, but we know it’s not about you,” he said. After speaking to the group, Dr. Fisher introduced Mayor Megan Barry who received a standing ovation from students as she took the stage–she received another as she left.
Mayor Barry addressed the group, highlighting their ability to influence the community in the coming years. “When you see the eclipse, you are reminded just how little you are in the cosmos. But you need to think about what you can do with what you have here at Belmont. I have five words for you: Don’t be small. Be big. You have a chance to really impact this place over the next four years,” she said. Further emphasizing Fisher’s challenge to always consider others, she went on. “I have a quote in my office that says, ‘Power is about waking up every day and having a chance to make a difference in someone’s life.’”
After telling the group about the recent loss of her son, Barry continued in her remarks, mentioning the power each student has in the lives of those around them. “If you see someone struggling, reach out. Don’t wait. If you see somebody who needs a hand, extend yours. You have that power,” she said. “I am so grateful you’re going to embark on your freshman year by going out to serve our city. Thank you. And welcome to Nashville!”
Belmont Director of Service Learning and event co-organizer Tim Stewart said the opportunity for students to serve in their new city is an intentional piece of the orientation experience at Belmont. “SERVE is essential because it heightens student connections to each other and the University, while connecting the students to their new community, too,” he said. “It helps each student realize that they are a part of something bigger than they may have realized at first.”
As an institution committed to service, students at Belmont are challenged to engage and transform the world throughout their time on campus and beyond. “The opportunity to serve within their first few days on campus is so important,” Stewart said, “because it sets the tone for each student’s time on campus. We believe that service is an integral part of who we are — it’s the Belmont way. Students are introduced to all aspects of student life during the first few days on campus, and service is an essential piece of being a member of the Belmont community.”
Freshman public relations major and SERVE participant Calista Ginn said the opportunity to serve alongside her fellow new students was an exciting way to learn more about her new home while doing good. “Serving is a great way to assimilate to the community and Nashville, especially for those of us who aren’t from around here,” she said. While serving at Cottage Cove, Ginn and her team completed many projects including cleaning the organization’s facility and bus, sorting donated items, painting and finishing landscaping work.
SERVE has partnered with Cottage Cove for many years and the organization’s Executive Director Brent MacDonald said Belmont students provide significant support for his team throughout the school year. “We’ve loved our partnership with Belmont for years,” he said. “We only have four staff members across two locations, so all our Belmont volunteers and work study students are a big help.”