Nearly 100 students, alumni and guests gathered at Florida State University this weekend for a reunion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Service Scholar Program.
The weekend included dinners and breakfasts, networking receptions, service visits to local nonprofits, and plenty of dialogue and reflection.
Rose Rodriguez called the program the most impactful part of her college experience and found the chance to meet so many people who had a role in shaping it inspiring.
“This past weekend gave me an opportunity to learn about our past, to appreciate the present moments with my peers and look forward to the future of our program,” said the third-year scholar and incoming board chair.
The program, which is housed in the Center for Leadership & Social Change, is designed to promote civic responsibility as an integral part of a liberal arts education at Florida State University and to recognize students with an outstanding record of service and leadership. Scholars commit to a rigorous curriculum that combines study of community issues, service learning and meaningful community service over the course of their four years at Florida State.
The turnout, including at least one person from all 20 scholar classes, shows a real attachment to the program, said coordinator Estee Hernandez.
“To me it demonstrates a commitment to this program, memories, people, and the university that really is exceptional,” she said, “and I was very moved by that.”
Many scholars described the immediate connection they felt with others, even those they did not know. In some instances, scholars discovered connections with people they had just met.
Caleb Dawkins, a freshman and member of the program’s 20th cohort, met other scholars who had been admitted through participation in Service Leadership Seminar and one who works for Southern Scholarship Foundation, where he lives.
He also met a scholar with whom he shared a service interest at Boys Towns and was able to “learn from him about his experiences and get tips about anything that could help me with my service.”
At a roundtable discussion on Saturday morning, current scholars discussed their service interests and alumni talked about how they’ve maintained a commitment to service in their personal and professional lives.
The weekend had the feel of a family reunion for Jillian White, an alumna and former program coordinator.
“One of the prevailing sentiments was that while the program has changed over the years, the underlying values have not: Service Scholars share a commitment to community and to being good and doing good.”