Belmont held a “Unity Through Service Week” coordinating with the campus theme, E Pluribus Unum, to offer convocations and volunteer opportunities to students. Tim Stewart, director of service learning, and student Gabrielle Hampton were the driving forces behind the week.
The week began with an opening convocation on Sept. 17 featuring Caroline Blackwell, executive director of the Metro Human Relations Commission. Later in the day, students and faculty had a “mix-it-up” luncheon in the cafeteria. As they entered the cafeteria, they each drew a colored card from the bowl, and sat at tables coordinating with their color. At each event, the first 40 students to arrive received a single ticket, which could be exchanged for a single free meal from one of the food trucks on during the Unity Rally on Sept. 23.
“The crowds started small, and grew as the week went on. Some of the later events were very heavily attended,” he said. One of the most well attended events of the entire week was the one concerning homelessness. “There were about 80 students that came to homelessness program and that was great to see.”
Another one of the most successful events of the week was a field day held for adults with disabilities. Several Belmont athletes came to volunteer for the event.
During the central service learning event was the service project on Sept. 22, students, staff and faculty picked up garbage and cigarette butts off public streets surrounding campus. The entire University seemed to rally to show unity after inclement weather delayed original plans.
The week culminated in the Unity Rally, which featured food trucks where students could redeem their tickets obtained earlier in the week. It was an opportunity for all those who participated to celebrate all that was accomplished during the week.
“Considering this was our first year, I think we had a very successful week,” said Stewart. “We did a good job laying the groundwork for the future, and it was great to see all the students getting excited about it.”
Several non-profits were partnered with over the course of the week, including the Green Bag Lady, Starts!, Real Food Farms, Dismas House, Sports4all and the Metro Homeless Commission. Throughout the week, participants were encouraged to donate money specifically to CommunityNashville, a local non-profit selected as the Week’s philanthropy. The organization, founded in 1978, seeks to build unity within the Nashville community by raising awareness of bias, bigotry, racism and threats to human rights in the region.