By Paola Florencio
FSU currently offers several ways for students to get involved with charitable organizations and give back to the community.
From Relay for Life to Alternative Spring Break (ASB), FSU students are raising money for causes such as cancer research and disaster recovery projects.
According to the American Cancer Society, Relay For Life is a life-changing experience that gives everyone a chance to celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer. In 2017, FSU will host its second Relay for Life.
Will Reddy, program coordinator, said, “We did [Relay for Life] for the first time last year. I expected to raise about $5,000 … that was our goal. We raised over $20,000 our first year. I was a little bit surprised in the best way. We are going to keep pushing it this year. It’s going to be bigger and better.”
Co-founder of the FSU Relay For Life and senior Kaylee Brazell said, “Relay For Life is a day where you celebrate all who have been affected by cancer and remember those we have lost to cancer.”
She added, “It is a team-based event. The walk is supposed to simulate how hard your body is working when fighting cancer.”
She said she wanted to bring Relay for Life to FSU because “it is a great way to bring our community together and overall is an incredible cause.”
After the American Cancer Society and SILD approved the event, Brazell and several others formed a committee.
“The Relay was a big hit at Framingham State. We raised more than $22,000 and had many people attend,” said Brazell. ”This year, we are striving for $28,000 and hope to have a lot of people attend.”
ASB is a student-run trip in which participants volunteer for a community in need, according to Reddy. ASB selected its team and chose New Orleans for their destination this spring.
Junior and ASB Team Leader Bridget Green said although she had experience in community service in high school, participating in last year’s ASB trip was like nothing she had done before.
She said, “The time I was able to put into helping others made me want to get more involved with service when I returned home. I am very happy that I am able to return as a trip leader for this year’s trip. It is a great privilege to help other students get more involved with service. I am hopeful that this trip will be a great opportunity for all those involved and allow us to make even a small difference in a new place.”
ASB Team Leader and junior Kristen Hoey said she was “lucky” to be chosen for last year’s trip, during which ASB members worked with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pittsburgh.
“Throughout the week we had the privilege of interacting with the children, as well as helping clean and organize their clubs. It’s so important to realize that the only way to fix the problems of the world is to help be the solution,” said Hoey.
In regards to this year’s trip, Hoey said ASB is working with the United Saints Recovery Project in New Orleans to help with flood relief.
“Hurricane Katrina may have happened 11 years ago, but the damage to the area is nowhere near fixed. Recent floods have also added to the already existing damage. We are so excited to take a little piece of our fRAMily to NOLA and spread a little love to the people of New Orleans,” she said.
One of the selected students for this year’s trip, Raysam Donkoh-Halm, junior, said, “I went about my life under the assumption that the damage of the hurricane had been dealt with since I was not hearing about it on the news as frequently.”
He said he wishes to “learn beyond what was covered within the news.”
Another selected student for this trip, Crismely Baez, senior, said, “As a person who considers herself disadvantaged in more ways than one, I feel that I forget about the good things that I have make me privileged in other ways.”
She added, “By going to New Orleans and giving people a chance to have a luxury they do not have, I am reminding myself of the many different living situations some of us are forced to live in.”
Baez, who wants to be a teacher, said she hopes the trip will “broaden my mind, and make me a more experienced and understanding person for my future students.”
She said, “This trip would be successful if I make a positive impact on someone’s life.”
Reddy said, “As part of my job here in SILD, I am in charge of creating and monitoring community service opportunities for the campus.
“I spent the last three months collecting information from community partners who are looking for volunteers that helped us come up with this giant database that we are going to be able to share with students,” Reddy added.
SILD’s newest project is the community service Listserv, a way for students to find out how to serve within their community and for staff to collect information to share with students.
Another community service program offered at FSU is a trip to Guatemala, during which students help distribute supplies, build houses or volunteer at hospitals and schools.
Service activities include clothing, shoe and food distribution, home construction, classroom aid and care for malnourished infants and toddlers.
FSU psychology professor Pamela Ludemann has taken four groups of students to the country to perform community service.
Throughout the year, she collects clothes and packages them in a way that makes them easy to hand out to the people who need them.
Ludemann said, “I am trying to decide if I want to take one more group to Guatemala in May. I wasn’t planning to, but it’s become such a regular event for me, that now I am feeling badly about not going. I am hoping to recruit someone to take over.”
Senior Cassandra Teneus said, “My experience in Guatemala is one I’ll never forget. I couldn’t help but to shed tears every time I saw the little children with dry dirt encrusted on their little toes and fingernails.”
She added one of her most memorable experiences was the sight of an 8-month-old boy sleeping in a crate with a blanket.
“While I would often complain about my queen-size mattress in America being ‘too uncomfortable’ or ‘too hard,’” said Teneus, “I felt selfish. Although these children were living in such horrid conditions, their smiles were as bright as the burning sun.”
She said, “For the first time in my life, I witnessed young mothers desperately trying to sell homemade goods, accessories and handmade knitted clothes just so they can afford food, water and milk for their small children.
“They do not make excuses for their living conditions or their lives. They work hard to support their families,” said Teneus.
The children helped carry the materials and were eager to help with the construction. Teneus said the children “would run and greet us, as we worked to build a home for them.
“They played with [my braids] and tried to style them. I even got the opportunity, with permission of their mothers, to braid the little girls’ hair in the villages. They made me smile. They made me happy,” she said.
“I miss the people and children of Guatemala every day and I pray more people can visit them and help them through their struggle,” said Teneus.
Junior Tanya Tovar said she decided to participate in the Guatemala trip to “change lives,” but “realized that my life was changed by the people there.”
Tovar’s parents emigrated to America from Guatemala because they were “searching for a better life.”
She said, “Life in Guatemala was very difficult for both of my parents. My father wasn’t able to finish school and dropped out in the third grade and, although my mother finished high school, college was just not a realistic dream for her.”
She said, “If it wasn’t for the sacrifices or the obstacles my parents faced, who knows where I would be?
“It was truly an honor to learn more about Guatemala, my parents’ country, and have the ability to give back to the poor community. To me, this trip served as a blessing in disguise and I would recommend it to anyone,” Tovar added.