With more than 640 students participating, this year’s freshman service day was the biggest Southern Adventist University has held so far. The incoming class is the third largest in the school’s 130-year history and the largest since the annual event began. On August 18, 2022, all new students joined together on 33 different projects throughout Chattanooga and the surrounding communities. From trail maintenance at Red Clay State Park to preparation for the university’s local food distribution, to helping neighbors with their yard work, the required event provided opportunities for campus newcomers to venture into nearby neighborhoods and make a difference.
“Freshman service day allows students to grow in their walks with Jesus as they model Him,” said Julie Devlin, service learning and community service coordinator. “Each one is taken out of his or her element to be a part of another organization’s mission. This can be a real eye-opener for most of them in understanding what’s needed right here in the university’s backyard.”
Devlin served alongside students packing food bags for those in need. The group was assisted by police officers as part of an ongoing effort by the Collegedale Police Department to partner with Southern. Freshman service day was an opportunity for the police team to work closely with the community they serve, according to Assistant Chief of Police Jamie Heath.
“We were immediately made to feel welcome by Southern students and faculty alike,” Heath said. “Our department looks forward to future service days and other opportunities to live our agency’s motto of ‘Service Before Self.’”
Southern’s Christian Service director Cheryl Craven joined students at one of three work sites where they helped elderly couples with yard work. Craven described one couple as “beaming” and added that at another site, the husband and wife were moved to tears by the students’ contributions to their lawn and home.
“Freshman service day engages students in service within their first month of being on campus,” said Craven. “It aligns their Southern experience with the university’s mission statement to ‘… embody academic and professional excellence, and pursue Spirit-filled lives of service.’”
— Amanda Blake is a junior journalism major at Southern Adventist University