Step Forward Day sends students into service

The annual Welcome Week event sent students around the city to help with projects at different service agencies.

Students gathered outside the MU Student Center at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday for MU’s annual Step Forward Day. The event was hosted by the Service Programs department of the Office of Student Engagement as part of Welcome Week.

Small groups, each led by one or two upperclassmen students, ventured out into Columbia to participate in one-day service projects, giving new students a chance to serve in the community they’ll call home for four years.

After participating as a freshman in 2017, MU sophomore Erin Davis served as a site leader this year.

“When I did it my freshman year, I made a couple new friends that I still have,” Davis said. “My site leader gave me so much advice and I wanted to do the same.”

Davis led a group that went to the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri. She said they spent 3 hours at the food bank packing rice krispies for donation.

Site leader Madison Helms said her group planted lettuce and turnips with the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, a cause that was particularly of interest to her.

“I’m involved in agriculture at home and I love that I have the chance to do it here and for a great cause,” Helms said. “The Center for Urban Agriculture has a huge impact on the city of Columbia produce large amounts of produce for families that can't afford it.”

Other groups spent the day on activities like baking cookies with veterans at Truman Veterans’ Hospital and playing trivia with residents at Candlelight Lodge Assisted Living.

Davis said she plans to apply to be a site leader again next year because of Step Forward Day’s impact on both the community and MU students.

“I think it helps new students meet new people who also enjoy volunteering,” Davis said. “[It] gets people involved not only on campus but in the city of Columbia. We’re all going to live here for a while, so it’s nice to give back.”

Helms echoed Davis’ sentiment, saying that community service is an important way for college students to connect with their town and their peers.

“Giving back whenever you have the chance is the greatest feeling anyone could ever have, in my opinion,” Helms said. “To me, new MU students getting involved in the community gives them a chance to make it feel like home, not just somewhere they go to school.”

Edited by Morgan Smith | mosmith@themaneater.com

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