Navy ROTC midshipman Cheyenne Nelson completed an extraordinary assignment last month. Nelson and her unit had the honor of welcoming VIPs to the third annual Night to Shine at Embry-Riddle’s Daytona Beach Campus.
“Night to Shine is the most sought-after volunteering event in my ROTC unit,” said Nelson, a volunteer Tim Tebow Foundation Night to Shine events for two consecutive years. “This event is very important for my unit because it is very humbling. Night to Shine causes us to pause and remember why we do what we do; to protect those we hold most dear while fighting for their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.”
Embry-Riddle cheerleaders and Navy ROTC midshipmen were among the welcoming committee that escorted local special needs guests down the red carpet. Other student groups, faculty, staff and community members acted as “paparazzi,” cheering guests on as they made their grand entrance. Volunteers also danced the night away with guests and their caregivers during the special prom experience.
Unity for Community
Night to Shine is just one example of student service that impacts those outside the Embry-Riddle campus community. Both Daytona Beach and Prescott students often work together to make a difference within their local communities with more than 5,150 combined service hours in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017.
In Daytona Beach, more than 100 students participated in a campus-wide Day of Service last spring.
“The Volunteer Network arranged several activities for students to get involved with,” said Sean Murphy, assistant director of leadership & civic engagement. “Projects included Habitat for Humanity, landscaping at a local behavioral center, an Easter egg hunt for visually-impaired children and more.”
Similarly, students in Prescott worked together on a number of community service projects.
“The local international festival uses student volunteers from across campus to assist with everything from presenting information and food to set-up/clean-up, security, entertainment, and more,” explained STEM Outreach Director Andy Fraher. “We also host events such as robotics tournaments that involve numerous volunteers.”
Personal & Professional Development
Community service not only engrains Embry-Riddle and its students, faculty and staff into their local communities. It also reinforces the importance of personal development. Students learn firsthand about leadership, working in a team, communication and identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
“These projects allow students to fine-tune their life skills,” Murphy said. “Depending on the service, they often develop relationship-building skills, capacity to plan and execute an idea, and even new abilities or talents.”
Additionally, community service projects enhance student perspectives about social justice.
“Volunteers work with young people, church groups, community organizations and the Veterans Administration. They are exposed to individuals from all walks of life,” explained Fraher. “This broadens their view of the world, and hopefully, helps them to develop empathy and compassion.”
Volunteerism and a broad world view can also positively impact a student’s employability. Employers often look at volunteer service when considering candidates for a position. According to a 2013 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Research survey, 81 percent of human resource managers said skilled volunteering would make a college graduate more desirable. Yet less than half of college seniors considered volunteering at a nonprofit as a way to develop their skills, leadership and marketability.
“I think it all comes together for students when they get to their final year and employers see their academic performance, community service activities, and general ability to handle many situations,” said Fraher.
At the heart of community service is “community.” And community members like Bobbi Coleman are grateful for the overwhelming student and campus support for the Daytona Beach Night to Shine event.
“It’s really exciting to see students involved in this event, because it’s at their campus and it’s important they take ownership in it,” said Coleman, event co-organizer and Christ Presbyterian Church member. “Our event is one of only two that are not held in churches. The first year we had to get special permission to hold the event at Embry-Riddle, but it has since become a flagship event for the organization.”
Service also provides students with direct exposure to issues that affect their local area, including everything from homelessness and poverty to littering and illiteracy. Time spent volunteering for these causes helps students understand how they can effect change and truly make a difference.
“Students who volunteer are great ambassadors for the university,” Fraher said.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.