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Connecting through service

Destiny Keys ’23 places an image on a bulletin board in Rosenwald Hall as Alaina Robinson ’23 helps and Shyanne Cazeau ’23 looks on. Photo: Sabree Hill/Dillard University.

By Eddie Francis, efrancis@dillard.edu
August 16, 2022

At Dillard, community service fits like a glove. With part of the University’s mission focused on “cultivating ethical leaders” and with a significant part of Dillard’s value resting in connection, service helps members of the community achieve high standards of self. Two weekends in a row, members of the Dillard community took advantage of opportunities to give back. On August 6, Bleu Devils came together for the Mission Day beautification project. The next Saturday, August 13, the newest Bleu Devils joined each other for the SOAR Day of Service. On Monday the 15th, the Royal Court held a back to school giveaway for their fellow Bleu Devils. 

On Mission Day, SOAR leaders, faculty and staff gathered to get the campus ready for the Class of ‘26. The beautification started the night before with employees cleaning up the flower beds that greet campus visitors at the main entrance. Early the next morning, President Rochelle L. Ford greeted students, faculty and staff as they worked on the interior of buildings. Teams of students sanitized residence hall rooms while other students and employees placed images with updated messaging on walls, assembled furniture, got television monitors back online and more.

The Day of Service saw incoming Dillard students, faculty and staff come together to serve in various capacities, including food box distribution with Lighthouse Ministries, soil preparation and vegetable planting in the AARP community garden, and a tour and cleanup of historic Pontchartrain Park.

President Rochelle L. Ford poses with Dillard volunteers and members of the Pontchartrain Park community at the Day of Service

Students who participated in the events expressed appreciation for the opportunities to serve. Trinity Alexander ‘23, a criminal justice major from New Orleans, volunteered for  Mission Day and valued being part of the beautification effort. “Dillard is a beautiful place to be, so I want it to be as beautiful to them as it is to me.”

For Alaina Robinson ‘23, a biology major from Prairieville, Louisiana, it was about preparing for the new class. “It meant a lot to have the campus look good for DU’26.” Shyanne Cazeau ‘23, a psychology major from Boston, took pride in posting new information on some of the campus bulletin boards. “I think it’s very important for the incoming students to see updated things and to see us be involved.” Asia Washington ‘23, who came to Dillard from Memphis to major in social work, appreciated the bulletin board assignments. “It’s good to be able to give out correct and better information.” 

Some of the stars of the second weekend were the Bleu Devils baseball team. The student athletes made an impression on R.J. Bond, a recruiting coordinator from Crowley High School in Texas. “There’s some good character young men on the team. They just up and offered to help us unload the (car) as I was dropping my son off. Good luck this season, I’ll be following!!!” he tweeted over the weekend. At Pontchartrain Park, members of the team showed up and got to work immediately, doing some of the heavy lifting of supplies. 

For Kaleb Gibson ‘26, a computer science major and baseball player from Baton Rouge, volunteering took on a different look at Dillard. “Most of the time, I help out with the church; but it’s cool to be out here with guys and girls my age.” One of Gibson’s teammates, criminal justice major Keymoni Coleman ‘26, also found something different in volunteering. “(Volunteering’s) not usually my area, but I’m glad to experience new people and new things,” said the Killeen, Texas native.

Alumni were also present. On Mission Day, Loriann Jett ‘16 and Jade Littleton ‘22 were among the volunteers. “Today made me feel like I haven’t lost the community feeling of being a Dillard alum,” said Jett, who is a Dallas native. Littleton, a New Orleans native, said that she had not gotten as involved as she wanted to when she was a student. “This was my second time on campus since graduation, so it was a good way to connect and feel a sense of community,” said the business administration graduate.

Perhaps the sentiment for the two weekends was captured best by Destiny Keys ‘23, a social work major from Angie, Louisiana. “Our theme for SOAR is ‘Grow by Any Means Necessary,’ so I want to be part of the growth.”