Community service has been a priority for a group of 21 seniors who recently graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College. The students were part of the Wesleyan Service Scholar program on campus, where students completed 75 hours of service per semester throughout their college experience. Collectively, this group contributed over 11,400 hours of service, which at minimum wage is over $99,790 of value added to the community.
Many students worked with children in the Upshur County school system as their primary site placement. Johnnie-Jo Hovis, a business administration major from Buckhannon, invested her time at Buckhannon Upshur Middle School, working in Mrs. Plymale’s eighth-grade special education class and the Project ISAAC after-school program. Summer Propps, from Lewisburg, WV, dedicated her time to Mrs. Drake’s class at Tennerton Elementary School where her passion for students with special needs aligned with her health sciences major. Mrs. McNeish at Buckhannon-Academy Elementary School (BAES) served as a site supervisor for Khori Lowther from Jane Lew, WV. As a nursing major, Lowther was able to enhance the classroom environment through her understanding of the developmental process. Kayla James, of Bunker Hill, WV, capped out her experience at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School after time in WE LEAD and tutoring at Stockert Youth Center. As a psychology major, working with Mrs. Coit-Fetty, the school counselor, was a perfect fit. Monica Miller shared her kindness with Mrs. Tenney’s fourth-grade class at Union Elementary School. Supporting students and developing relationships is second nature to this nursing major from Grafton, WV. Stephanie Johnson modified her service site from a classroom at BAES to start a Girl Scout troop at the school. She was able to connect to her home community of Buckhannon and utilize her education degree and Girl Scout background to develop this new community partnership. Throughout their experiences, “watching students blossom” continues to take the lead as a favorite memory.
Students had the option to serve at the Child Development Center (CDC) of North Central West Virginia or Mountain Cap of WV’s Creative Beginnings Child Care Center as their site placement. Serving at Creative Beginnings Child Care Center were Kylea Arnold, Miranda Farmer, and Anna Slayden. Arnold shaped her experience in the infant and toddler room. Watching the children grow from infancy through preschool was a warming feeling, and one she will continue to experience as an educator in her hometown, Weston, WV. While Farmer of Looneyville, WV, pursued her psychology degree, she excelled in her one-on-one interactions with students in early childhood education. A scholar from Martinsburg, WV, Slayden’s time at the care center built onto her biology degree in preparation for her dream to become a physician’s assistant. Bay Shaver, a sociology major from Monongah, WV, indulged in her love for children in various classrooms at the CDC. It seems fitting that each of these scholars supplemented their Wesleyan experience by molding the minds of children while developing themselves.
The Center for Community Engagement & Leadership Development department on campus houses the Service Scholar program. In addition to the many sites that involve children, partnerships extend to community services and nonprofit agencies. Kat Wilson, from Rock Cave, WV, connected her passion for animals and environmental studies knowledge to serve as an advocate and volunteer for the Lewis-Upshur Animal Control facility. Riley Queen showed off her love for her hometown, Buckhannon, by working with the Upshur County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. Her unique experience growing up in the community and her talents as a graphic design major resulted in a few new projects for the bureau. The Buckhannon Volunteer Center is relatively new to the community. Elizabeth Stover, from Charles Town, WV, has grown with the center while using her marketing degree to develop materials and a social media presence. Coming from Brownsville, PA, Zach Paci’s experience at the Buckhannon Police Department helped him recognize the needs and challenges of the region. Having this type of knowledge helped him better understand students in his clinical experiences as part of his education degree. A criminal justice major from Spencer, WV, Chase Webb, sorted countless donations and interacted with the neighbors at the Clothes Closet. These community partner sites all have limited staff and time for creativity giving students the opportunity to “add an extra spark of energy to the environment.”
The Wesleyan mission statement outlines our goal to graduate students who “demonstrate local and world citizenship through service.” One way that students are able to connect to issues and service opportunities is through events and programs offered by peers in the Wesleyan Engaging Leadership through Education, Awareness, and Development (WE LEAD) program. Ammanda Frame, Samantha Fisher, and Hannah Willey were team leaders on the WE LEAD Poverty Reduction team. As an accounting major from Glenville, WV, Frame understands the challenges of poverty. Before graduating, she led her team to collect personal items and luggage for youth in the foster care system. Fisher, a psychology major from Given, WV, loved helping neighbors in need through the free, monthly community dinners the team implemented. Being from the capital city of Charleston, WV, Willey was able to connect to the statewide issue of poverty. Part of understanding poverty is learning to work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures; as a nursing major, this skill is invaluable.
Casey Stallman’s biology degree affirmed her belief that there isn’t a way to look at a person and know what they may be experiencing on the inside. From Salem, WV, Stallman’s helped develop an annual suicide prevention walk and counseling fund for students unable to afford services. “A Day on Campus” exposed middle school children to a college environment, and the “Period Project” helped Wesleyan students have access to feminine hygiene products. Leanna Barkley, from Lower Burrell, PA, helped lead these projects while balancing majors in psychology, sociology, and gender studies. From Kingwood, WV, Emily Rebelo earned her psychology and gender studies degrees while being a leader on the WE LEAD Gender Equality team. Rebelo, although not a Service Scholar, chose to dedicate her time to the important issues and walk alongside Barkley to develop these impressive projects. Lauren Hatcher is from Christiansburg, VA, and graduated with an English degree. She served at various service sites and as a leader on the WE LEAD Human Rights team. However, her most important role was helping to select and transition new Service Scholars into the program.
Collectively these students have left their legacy at Wesleyan and in the Buckhannon community through their service and dedication to leadership development. In return, the knowledge, skills, and relationships they gained along the way will follow them into their bright futures. These students are ready to continue John Wesley’s call to “Do all the good you can.”