EKU Community Service Trips Benefit EKU Campus and Service Region
Eastern Kentucky University strives to exemplify regional stewardship and community engagement throughout its 22-county service region in Southeastern Kentucky. Due to a transformation in EKU’s student life community service programming in spring 2014, an increasing amount of EKU students have participated in service opportunities benefiting the EKU service region.
EKU student life has significantly changed operations of and participation in the campus community culture since 2014. The number of students participating in the “Saturday for Service” monthly program doubled in 2014, and the program expanded into several counties of the service region, including Boyle, Estill, Garrard, Lee, Madison, and Pulaski. In addition to expanding service opportunities beyond Madison and Fayette counties, student volunteer contributions for the spring’s 2015 Greek Weekend Day of Service totaled 619, the largest Saturday for Service in the program’s ten-year history.
During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Alternative Break Program has expanded offering a more diverse list of opportunities to students of all EKU regional campuses. This semester, eight new trips themed around social issues present on EKU’s campus or service region, such as hunger, poverty, and civil rights, were offered. William Keaton, the Assistant Director of Student Life Community Service since fall 2013, said engagement with service issues in another community better allow students to reflect back on the service issues they see in their own communities.
One example is the 2015 Washington, D.C. trip based on the recent discussion of hunger on campus with the opening of The Colonel’s Cupboard. Keaton said students participating in this trip learned about hunger in an environment different than their own and how to address the same issues in their own community.
“Students who come back from the trips are more motivated to give back to similar causes in their home towns or here at EKU,” said Keaton. “These trip help prepare the next generation of civic leaders for the communities they live in.”
For the upcoming academic year, Keaton is planning to expand the Alternative Break Program to include local service trips in the EKU service region during fall break 2015, and a tour East Kentucky during spring break in 2016. This weeklong trip will educate students on what civic leaders, community organizations, and entrepreneurs are doing to invest in their community. Keaton hopes to offer several weekend service trips in the service region during upcoming fall and spring semesters, and also introduce international service trips during the summer months of next year.
Keaton’s goal is to grow EKU's participation in community service. The department will launch a college chapter of the American Red Cross, which Keaton says will engage more students with service to local disaster relief and preparedness, and supporting military families and veterans. Keaton hopes this program will be the first of many other campus chapters of national service organizations.
Keaton seeks to establish a student advisory board and service council to help empower students to provide greater leadership of the program. Keaton is confident in connecting students with members of EKU faculty and staff who are dedicated to serving EKU’s service region.
“The direction set for the University by President Benson, and for our department by our Vice President, Dr. Laurie Carter, challenges each of us to not just follow best practices, but set a standard that other Universities will follow,” said Keaton. “It is truly an exciting time to be a Colonel.”
By: Kristen Hogan, Intern
Office of Government Relations and Regional Stewardship
Published on July 22, 2015