After converting Make a Difference Day to a month-long virtual service event last year due to COVID-19 safety measures, the Community Service Learning Center (CSLC) is bringing back in-person service projects for this year’s event. Make a Difference Day will be on Saturday, Oct. 16.
Student volunteers for Make a Difference Day, of which there are around 200, according to Graduate Assistant for Civic Engagement Giavonna Ward, will meet up in the Kirkhof Center on Saturday morning. There, they will listen to a keynote speech by Grand Valley State University alum Jahaven Haye. After that, participants will be split up into groups and head off to 12 different service sites where they will complete roughly three and a half hours of service at each site.
“It’s a great way for friends and student organizations to go do service, but it creates a community within those groups as well,” Ward said. “With service through the CSLC, our goal at the end of the day is we really want to make students active citizens.”
The objective of Make a Difference Day has always been to get students, especially those who live on the Allendale campus, out to see the community in the greater Grand Rapids area. Service projects are also great team-building activities for all involved, especially clubs and other groups who sign up together.
“We have students participate in things where they’re doing service but we’re also teaching them about the community, about the people who live here, about the history of it and why it’s important to give back to their community,” Ward said.
Service sites this year are mostly located in the Grand Rapids area, but there are a few on or near GVSU’s Allendale campus. Some of the service sites participating in Make a Difference Day include: the Blandford Nature Center, Habitat for Humanity, GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project, The YMCA, The YWCA and Kids Food Basket
“There’s a lot of different options and different kinds of service projects that are going to be done at those various locations,” Ward said. “It should be a really good mix for students to see the different types of volunteer opportunities here in the Grand Rapids area.”
Haye’s keynote speech is going to be another way for the CSLC to get student volunteers excited about service. Haye, who currently works as Youth Development Specialist for the Urban League of West Michigan, experienced several forms of student collaboration during his time at GVSU.
“While he was here at Grand Valley, he was super involved in community service, was in a fraternity here and he’s a super great guy and has continued to do a lot of that volunteering and community engagement work since he’s left GVSU,” Ward said. “We think he’s going to be a really great example for our students to show them what their options are and how they can get involved post-graduation.”
For CSLC employees and student volunteers alike, the most exciting part of this year’s Make a Difference Day is the return to in-person service after months of virtual workarounds. While Ward said that Make a Difference Month was successful last year, there is really no replacing the comradery and team-building that comes with in-person service projects.
“We did a really good job of bringing service projects to students with things like drop-in service, but you can’t replicate going out into the community and seeing, on the ground, what that community partner is doing,” Ward said. “Getting students back out into the community is going to really get people excited about service work again.”
Signups for Make a Difference Day have already closed, but more service opportunities and upcoming events can be found at gvsu.edu/service.