Changing Scenery, Changing Lives

By Leslie Moore

Summer means working or relaxing for most college students, but for some, summer is a time to make a difference. Sasee recently met with a group of ten rising sophomores from Duke University who spent their summer in Georgetown County working with various non-profits. All of these bright young people are from North or South Carolina and are recipients of the BN Duke Scholarship. The program seeks to foster appreciation, mutual respect, and connection between the scholars and the people of North and South Carolina. One of the requirements is to spend 10 weeks in a North or South Carolina community working for a non-profit. Duke has been sending students to Georgetown for four years – changing lives through a change of scenery.

Donald Barringer, Site Coordinator with Duke University, explained that this part of the program is called the Carolina Summer of Service. This year, ten students lived in a house owned by Habitat for Humanity of Georgetown County, not only working, but building community with local residents and each other.

“This year we started our summer volunteering for Habitat for Humanity,” Donald began. “And each student has a job at a local non-profit, working Monday through Thursday. On Fridays the students come together to learn more about the community and work on a joint service project,” Donald told me as we stood in the fellowship hall of Arnett AME Church in Georgetown. On this particular day, students were busy sorting books for Freedom Readers under the direction of Cassandra Jackson, outreach coordinator for the Georgetown branch of this non-profit.

Sarah Watkins, a Winston-Salem native, plans to major in psychology. “I think the best thing about being in Georgetown is learning how important community is here. People have gone out of the way to help us, and our neighbors have even invited us to their homes for cookouts.” Sarah is working at the Plantersville Summer Academy helping with tutoring and administrative tasks. “The kids I’m working with are amazing,” she continued. “They are willing to spend their entire summer learning.”

Ray Funnye, founder and executive director of the Plantersville Summer Academy, spent a few minutes talking with me about the importance of the Duke Scholars’ contribution. “Every year we receive a new group of young people, eager and energetic about helping with the program,” Ray began. “This year we have 268 children in the program, ranging from kindergarten to ninth grade.” Ray continued, praising the Duke group, saying that not only do they provide one on one academic tutoring, this year several volunteers provide enrichment such as ballet and Spanish lessons. “The Duke Scholars are a tremendous asset to our program,” Ray said as we ended our chat. “The energy and enthusiasm they bring is truly a God send.”

Hailing from Greensboro, North Carolina, Taylor Patton agreed with Sarah, saying, “This experience has been amazing. I work at the Family Justice Center that helps victims of domestic violence, and I’ve learned what a big difference a non-profit can make in someone’s life.” Taylor went on to tell me she was worried that she might not have enough to offer, but soon found her work was, indeed, helping. “I can answer phones and make appointments, giving the change-makers time to do their work.” Taylor is a neuroscience major and plans to become a neurologist.

With only three weekends off all summer, these young people stay busy!  Donald told me they are required to plan three community dinners to gain a greater understanding about how to build community. “The most important thing about service learning is that it is not just about what you give, it’s what you take away,” said Donald. “These young people are away from family and have to learn to live cooperatively. During the ten weeks, they grow – not just outwardly, but inwardly.”

Laughter and a sense of fun was the overriding feeling in the room where hundreds of books were being sorted, and as we were leaving, Heeya Sen, shared with me a little about her experience. “It’s rare that a college student has the opportunity to be this involved in the community. We spend a lot of time preparing during the school year, thinking about what our place is going to be.” Heeya, an electrical engineering major, spent her summer working at Tidelands Health, doing data cleanup and various other tasks that gave staff more time to work with clients. “The Georgetown community has been so welcoming.”

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore

    Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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One Response to “Changing Scenery, Changing Lives”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    What an awesome group! And such a positive story.

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