Article by Alyse Phillips
Drury University offers all kinds of housing options, but perhaps the most unique is Summit Park.
In this housing option, the student gets an updated apartment for the same price as living in Wallace Hall. However, the catch is: you have to pair up with a community partner and do 15 hours of volunteering a semester. This can add to a student’s workload, but ultimately they are giving back to the Springfield community and get a discounted apartment in return.
Normally the Summit Park groups consist of either four or eight people and each have to pick their own community partner to work with. This year the group numbers varied a bit because some people have lost members, leaving the program with seven groups.
A Hope for Harmony House
The first Summit Park group consist of students Taylor Perkins, Megan Merseal, Mariah Skelly, Christina Beard and Victoria Brainerd. They entitled their community project, “A Hope for Harmony House” and have worked with the named organization throughout the semester.
Harmony House provides safe and secure emergency housing to families escaping domestic violence. So far they have done three movie nights for Harmony House, where they put on a movie for the adults and provided games and activities for the kids.
Over 25 people attended these events and they feel the movie nights have helped the women and children of Harmony House feel safe and relaxed.
However, this team’s ability to host successful events has not been without its challenges.
According to the group, they faced some struggles in the beginning of the year when they had roommates drop. Originally the group was not one group, but had two separate projects with different community partners. However, after struggling to communicate with one of the community partners this team decided to join together and form one large group.
Next semester, they plan on adding a donation drive to their project.
Champion Athletes of the Ozarks
The second group included students Alannah Blanco, Erin Sublette, Tristen Rand, Blake Jesse, Jake Decker, Jesse Nix and Michael Boone. Their community partner is Champion Athletes of the Ozarks.
Champion Athletes of the Ozarks serves children and adults with disabilities living in the Ozarks area. This group’s goals, at the beginning, were to build self-esteem, self-confidence and social skills with the kids. They also wanted to teach them how to make decisions on their own so they could live independently in the future.
This group has been working with the kids to teach appropriate behaviors by doing activities such as attending athletic games. During the semester, the students brought the kids to a Drury basketball game where they got to eat pizza and hang out in an uncontrolled environment.
The group struggled initially with getting all of their members to work together, but now they feel they have made distinct strides in understanding individuals with disabilities.
Boyd Elementary School
The third group worked with Boyd Elementary School and consisted of the following students: Bethany Bierman, Haley Olsen, Lauren Plunkett and Lydia Sharp.
They specifically partnered with the school’s counselor and worked with girls in the fourth and fifth grade. They addressed issues like self-esteem and importance of education.
The group spent the semester working in smaller groups, individually with the girls – just talking and getting to know them. One of their projects have included designing bracelets for the girls that have something special about each individual written on them. This will hopefully help the girls to remember how important and unique they are.
This group also faced a bit of a challenge when their community partner contact went on maternity leave, but the group still feels like they became good, stable role models for the young girls.
The Dream Center
The fourth group worked with The Dream Center and included students Elizabeth Menne, Paige Perry, Audrey Engleman, Kenzie Drollinger, Taegan Summers, Lily Hunter, Autumn Green and Kelsey Krause.
The Dream Center offers after-school programs to families with youth. The group helped with Wednesday Night Dinners, opportunities for families to come and eat with each other without paying, and the Circles Program, a program offering free childcare for adults who are attending class and trying to obtain their GEDs.
This group’s main struggle was the organization itself, given the Dream Center itself is fairly new to Springfield. However, the girls in this group still felt as though they connected to the children and provided them with good role-models.
Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation
The fifth group worked with OACAC and included students Lyndsey Standage, Cierra Duban, Anna Hink and Sydney Quaid.
OACAC offers innovative programs and services to lead the fight against poverty in the Ozarks. This group’s main goal was to educate Drury about poverty. They volunteered at multiple OCAC events including two poverty simulations and an adventure race.
This group faced challenges when trying to communicate with their community partner, but still feel like they raised awareness and hope to continue doing so by bringing a poverty simulation to Drury next semester.
Dickerson Park Zoo
The sixth group worked with Dickerson Park Zoo and included students Lauren Slamb, Genevieve Travers, Lauren Pyle and Alyse Phillips.
This group’s overarching goal was to educate the Drury campus about the zoo and volunteer as much as they could. The group really wants Drury students to understand that the zoo is purely preservation, meaning the animals living there need help.
After talking to their community partner, they were informed that what the zoo really needed was volunteering and a little renovation. Throughout the semester, the group volunteered at multiple events and also took care of the animals while working with the zookeepers. However, their main project was updating the kids maze.
Even though they dealt with some budget issues, the group still started their work on the maze and hope to finish removing it next semester. They also plan to bring some animals to Drury’s campus next semester for awareness purposes.
Watershed Committee of the Ozarks
The seventh and final group worked with the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks. It included students Courtney King, Megan Paul, Chelsea Stitt, and Riley Wilson.
The Watershed Committee is responsible for many things, but primarily for keeping the water supply pure and clean. This group wanted to focus on youth outreach to teach children good habits while they’re still young.
To accomplish this the group attended Petey’s Pals, a scavenger hunt for second graders. They would tell the kids a fact about keeping water clean and safe, then give them a clue for the next part of the hunt. They also attended an event at the Summit Preparatory School, where they informed middle schoolers and their parents how to get involved with the Watershed Committee.
This group has some big projects not related to the water, as well, and next semester they want to create a booklet on plant species and other facts that the Watershed Committee can hand out to visitors. The group also wants to rid the property of invasive species and replace them with the native species that belong there.
At the mid-term evaluation of the Summit Park presentations, it looks like the participants are accomplishing a lot for their community partners.
If you’ve been looking for a way to give back, you can contact the Community Outreach and Leadership Development office for more details. If you are interested in applying to live in Summit you can also find more information through the office.