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Hendricks Chapel’s Office of Engagement Programs Helps Students Serve the Community
As the world navigates through a difficult and challenging time, the Office of Engagement Programs (OEP) at Hendricks Chapel continues its focus on service to the community.
“In-person community service took a big hit as COVID-19 cases were on the rise. I had to pivot and think differently about how to continue to help students serve in this community as well as their own,” says Syeisha Byrd, director of OEP. “Students continue to reach out to the Office of Engagement Programs eager to help in any way that they can, and they are responsive and proactive in this time of uncertainty. I have to continue to help students connect to organizations in need of virtual opportunities, as it is important for our students to continue to engage in meaningful service opportunities both for normalcy and self-care.”
Student mentors and volunteers are continuing the popular Girls Who Code program, which is being held virtually this summer. The students are engaging middle- and high-school girls from the North Side Learning Center and across the Syracuse community every Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. Youth are working in teams to complete a computer science impact project that solves a real-world problem in their community.
OEP is also encouraging students to get involved in their local communities through a weekly challenge. Each Monday for the next six weeks, a new challenge will be announced through the OEP on their Instagram and Facebook platforms. Students are encouraged to accept the challenge and post pictures of themselves completing the challenge using the hashtag #engagesu. This week’s challenge is to “beautify your community.” For more information on the wide range of service opportunities being offered through the OEP, both in-person and virtual, students can access an interest form at http://hendricks.syr.edu/engagement-programs/volunteer-form.html
OEP also continues to address student food insecurity. Last June, OEP, in partnership with the Office of Sustainability Management and the Falk College, created Pete’s Giving Garden. Located on South Campus, the garden produces food for the Hendricks Chapel food pantries located at the chapel and in the Carriage House on South Campus. “In April, staff from across campus worked together to plant the garden to ensure that when our students arrived back to campus for the fall semester, they would have access to fresh produce,” says Byrd. “We planted tomatoes, a variety of squash, onions, eggplant, collard greens, beans, quinoa, just to name a few.” The summer squash is ready and available at the South Campus pantry. This fall, student volunteers will be needed to help water, weed and harvest the garden, observing social distancing guidelines. Those interested may contact Syeisha Byrd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The food pantries located at Hendricks Chapel and on South Campus provide pre-packaged bags of food as well as fresh produce from the garden to any Syracuse University or SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry student in need. Opportunities for students to volunteer and stock the pantries as well as collect donations will be available during the fall semester.
Byrd is also making plans for the future. Three of OEP’s signature programs—Young Scholars, Empathy Matters and Girls who Code—will continue virtually in the fall.
“The Office of Engagement Programs is incredibly important, not only to the mission and vision of Hendricks Chapel, but to all of us who care about the spirit and soul of Syracuse University. As religious and spiritual traditions call upon us to accompany our neighbors through mutual learning and engaged service, the OEP helps us to put diverse beliefs into aligned action, to strengthen and sustain leaders both on and off campus,” says Hendricks Chapel Dean Brian Konkol. “During these important times, I am grateful that Syeisha Byrd is helping our students to learn in ways that are both informational and transformational, and I hope more students will take advantage of these opportunities to make a positive impact.”