“Be great. Go serve.”
This was the challenge presented to Union College freshmen during the new student induction ceremony Monday night at Conway Boatman Chapel.
Keynote speaker Walter Crouch, Ph.D., issued this simple, yet meaningful challenge and encouraged students to measure success not by material gains, but by interpersonal growth achieved through volunteer work. As CEO and President of Appalachia Service Project, a Christian volunteer organization concerned with home repair for low-income families in Central Appalachia, Crouch is a credible source for this advice.
“I want more than success for you. I want you to be great,” he said, urging students to become volunteers as a means for reaching transformation.
“Imagine living in a home where you have to set out pans and buckets every time it rains…a home where several children huddle together to sleep on the floor of one room every night,” said Crouch. “The need is great…we need your help.”
The 233 new students in Monday’s audience were invited to serve among Crouch’s volunteer groups. The ASP, based in Johnson City, Tenn., travels each summer to various sites in Appalachia where substandard housing is common. “Many of those are right here in Knox County, where ASP worked on 14 homes this past summer, 11 of those in the Stinking Creek area,” Crouch said.
Union College was the home site for the first ASP mission in 1969. Union hosted the group again this past year and many years in between.
Crouch’s message was part of the ninth annual new student induction ceremony known as CIRCLES, an acronym for Celebration, Integrity, Responsibility, Civility, Learning, Engagement and Spirituality.
During the service each year, various groups pledge to help students succeed. These groups include faculty, staff, community members and current students. The highlight of the event is a candlelit, formal presentation of the college’s Integrity of Character medallion. Each student receives the medallion and keeps it throughout his or her college career.
Then, at the baccalaureate service on the eve of their undergraduate commencement, these students will be asked to present the medallions back to important mentors who particularly helped them succeed.