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By Kara Pound
It’s been nearly 12 years since I graduated from Flagler College. I have fond memories of my time there including house parties in Lincolnville and riding my bike to Schmagel’s Bagels on Hypolita Street to study before a test. But one of my fondest memories is the time I volunteered at St. Francis House with my fellow Society of Professional Journalists members.
We had a set number of volunteer hours that we had to fulfill, so our group decided to put together a meal of chicken tenders, rolls, salad, and some kind of pastry dessert to serve to the residents. I remember that, though it was a relatively small gesture, it’s something that made me feel genuinely good and a memory that I will always hold onto.
I’ve delivered food and baked items for St. Francis House a few times over the years (including that time I spent Super Bowl Sunday making vats of chili and banana bread muffins with my friend, Katie). And each time, while I realize that the truest form of altruism is selfless concern for the well-being of others, I can’t help but to feel that I’m doing something for myself in a way.
When I was assigned to write a story about Flagler College and the importance of giving back to the community, it was a no-brainer. I took on the assignment. What I’ve learned is that the students at Flagler are not only doing their part to make St. Augustine and the surrounding areas better because they have some hours to fulfill or box to check off, many of them are genuinely interested in making the world a better place.
“It’s become clear to me in the short time that I’ve been here that our students just want to help people,” explains Dr. Joseph G. Joyner, president of the college. “It’s amazing to watch our students go out into the community and help others. One such group we have on campus is FC Volunteers, which is lead by two exceptional students, Paige Armstrong and Alex Quiñones.”
Senior Paige Armstrong founded Flagler College Volunteers (FC Volunteers or FCV for short) in the spring of 2015. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, the 21-year-old, who graduates this April with a major in sociology and double minor in political science and criminology, says that she founded the group because she saw an immediate need for a community service organization.
“It is important for people to have the unique opportunity to engage and integrate into the community through direct service opportunities, and equally as important for people who have never had a passion for service to similarly engage,” Armstrong explains. “I think people helping people is powerful, and should be a core value of Flagler College. FCV was my way to further expand that value.”
Over the past few years, Armstrong has organized a leadership team of nine students as well as hundreds of volunteers to execute various outreach programs including helping St. Francis House, Boys & Girls Club of Northeast Florida, Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Johns County, SAFE Pet Rescue and Haven Horse Ranch.
One extremely popular initiative that Armstrong brought to Flagler College has been the Reach Out Raise Up (RORU) Day of Service program, a countywide service day each semester that has students, staff, faculty, and alumni perform direct service for approximately 16 community partners.
Day of Service Director, Alejandro Quiñones, joined Flagler College Volunteers back when it was founded and says that the group has big plans for expanding Reach Out Raise Up (RORU) Day of Service.
“To me, giving back is more than just putting in a few hours of volunteering. It gives you an opportunity to put yourself in other’s shoes. It allows you to reflect on the privileges you have,” he explains. “It helps you grow as an active citizen and really get to know the community you call home. And it gives you an opportunity to positively impact individuals and your community.”
It seems that students all over campus are lending a helping hand. The Flagler College Department of Athletics has been named one of the finalists for the Division II Award of Excellence as a result of this year’s “Irma’s Impact” initiative where the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) coordinated with outreach groups of students to help those in need in St. Augustine following the hurricane.