The invigorating energy of motivational speaker Harvey Alston fired up an audience of faculty members at Grambling State University’s service learning lunch appreciation ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 19.
He focused on stressing the importance of service, and community heroes. He reminisced about a visit to an elementary school classroom and talking to students who defined heroes as Superman, Spiderman and Chad Ochocinco, an NFL football player.
“Does anyone know what a hero is?” asked Alston. He said the older generation is to blame for the younger generation’s hero worship.
The luncheon in the university’s Black and Gold Room in the Favrot Student Union was hosted to show appreciation for and to honor the faculty, staff and community members who have helped GSU students get academic enhancement by providing service learning opportunities. All university undergraduates are required to perform academic and community service learning hours to graduate, and the service learning office relies on the generosity of faculty and staff to get it done.
The Office of Service Learning was created at GSU by director Rory L. Bedford, allowing students to work with faculty members to complete approved community service projects as a part of their curriculum. Bedford said it’s important to recognize those who help the university and its students give back, and Alston was a great choice to encourage and support that work.
Alston engaged the audience with a series of exercises to help them gain greater confidence, including one with the audience divided into “good,” “better” and “best” groups and each challenged to shout their given word with great confidence. Alston’s point was that he boxed them in with his comments and they chose not to break out and do even better, and one group learned by listening to and watching the other two.
He also asked a group of five students to help him, each holding different letters, including P, Y, H, A, P. He didn’t give them instructions at first, allowing them to figure it out. Once they spelled the word “happy” he walked the students, and the audience, through how everyone can be happy and successful by being inclusive and respectful of others.
“We are such a selfish and greedy society that we’ve gotten away from helping other people,” said Alston. “We must understand that our destinies are tied together.”
After Alston spoke, about 124 faculty members were recognized with certificates and 11 were recognized with special plaques for going above and beyond with special service learning projects in the past year.
Loretta Walton-Jaggers, an education professor, was honored for three service learning projects in the reading and literacy graduate level courses in which students were given the opportunity to showcase what they learned and created books for K-12 level students.
“This is such an outstanding honor,” she said. “I am so very proud, not only for the recognition of myself, but also for my candidates. It’s such a pleasure to see them highlighted and showcased because they work very hard and feel a heighten sense of pride as well.”
“I thought it was creative. I thought it was excellent and I thought they did a good job with honoring everyone,” said King David Godwin, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and one of the recognized faculty members.
Larry Pannell, the music department head and band director, was recognized for a number of service learning contributions, including things the World Famed Tiger Marching Band did at two presidential inaugurations and providing post-hurricane Katrina aid. Pannell’s support included working with members of the band to donate sheet music, instruments and other items to three high schools in New Orleans. He also directed concerts to raise money to help New Orleanians.
“If it’s recognition for any services rendered by the music department, I would like to take that award and tear it up and give it to everybody in the music department,” said Pannell. “I just worked as a mediator to pull all the elements together.”