New Union students focus on community during Service Day

Published on
August 23, 2016

New Union students focus on community during Service DayUnion College welcomed nearly 300 new students to campus last week with a freshmen orientation session that not only focused on adapting to the college environment, but serving the community.

On Friday, August 19, every incoming freshman was asked to participate in Service Day, a day long community outreach experience now in its second year. Students spent the morning picking up litter, cleaning business windows and making repairs at public facilities throughout Barbourville and Knox County.

Stefanie Edgell, Union College’s Programming Assistant with Americorps VISTA, said “Service Day was a huge success.” Edgell organized this year’s Service Day through Union’s Center for Civic Engagement and the Office of Student Development as part of Union’s two-week freshmen orientation program.

“Service Day could not have happened without help from the community members, faculty and staff and student leaders,” Edgell said. “Their service hearts, and passion, helped introduce the incoming freshmen to many local areas and community members,” Edgell said.

Mary Gabriel, a Union College freshman from Danville, said she “enjoyed the opportunity” to participate in Service Day. Gabriel worked with 15 other students and peer mentors to operate a mobile pet adoption clinic with the Knox-Whitley Animal Shelter.

“Service Day is a great way for incoming freshmen to get involved with the community and get to know the town we will be living in for four years,” Gabriel said.

Civic engagement is a primary component of Union College’s mission, so much in fact, that three scholarship opportunities exist for students who engage in ongoing service activities. Gabriel, and the 300 freshman students on campus with her, are all eligible and encouraged to take advantage of those service-based scholarships.

Gabriel is excited to take advantage of these programs, especially the U|Grad scholarship program. It combines components of academic standing, participation in extracurricular activities and community service to provide a scholarship (up to full tuition) during the student’s last semester at Union.

“This is something I definitely want to follow up with,” Gabriel said of the U|Grad program. “After this weekend, I was thinking I need to make sure I stick with this.”

The Service Day was part of the Union College Experience - a week-long program of activities geared at engaging college freshmen into various aspects of campus life. Students appear on campus one week earlier than upperclassmen and participate in campus tours, classroom prep, student support services and spend time learning about each other through a number of social experiences. The program was developed to engage students and improve student retention at Union; statistics that have improved each year the program has been made available. Union freshmen continue the Union College Experience throughout their first semester with class sessions developed around advising and mentoring.

To learn more about Union’s mission to support community service and outreach, please visit