Students give back through T&T class service projects

Dec 08, 2021

Service to others is a value the Newman community hopes to instill in its students from day one.

First-year students of the semester-long Traditions and Transitions (T&T) seminar donated their time, talent and treasure through three unique class service opportunities.

Letters of appreciation

Cheryl Golden, Ph.D., professor of history and director of international studies, held a long discussion with her 10 students about service and possible service projects to choose from. 

“We asked the students to make suggestions, and creating care packages for military members was unanimously supported,” Golden said.

Cheryl Golden, Ph.D.
Cheryl Golden

Students got to work and assembled packages with handwritten letters of appreciation for military service members. Dana Beitey, director of alumni relations, and Laura Hartley, director of alumni and campus events, even provided some Newman University-themed items to be included in the packages.

“Dana and Laura provided a Saint Newman medal, a prayer card and a thermal coffee cup with the Newman logo on it,” Golden said in an email. “Thanks so much, Advancement!”

Golden’s class also reached out and wrote letters to servicemen and women within the families of faculty and staff members. 

Hand crafted care packages

Associate professor of English Susan Crane-Laracuente’s class crafted care packages and hand-delivered them to veterans at the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. The care bags included hygiene products, snacks as well as handwritten notes. 

Associate Professor of English Susan Crane-Laracuente (right) talks with visitors during Preview Day.
Associate Professor of English Susan Crane-Laracuente (right) talks with visitors during Preview Day.

Crane-Laracuente said Hallie Johnson, a first-year nursing student and member of the Newman Cheer and Dance team, expressed a special enthusiasm for the project. 

Johnson said she was happy to purchase supplies and prepare the bags, and that the project opened her eyes to giving back to others. 

Hallie Johnson
Hallie Johnson

“This project to me means that there is more to giving back to people that fought for my freedom,” she said. “Service plays a role in my life because as a nurse I am going to have to give back a lot, and also give up a lot of my time for different circumstances.”

A rewarding opportunity

Fellow Cheer and Dance team member and education major Allie Johnson worried she wouldn’t have as many opportunities to volunteer in college as she did in high school. So when it came time for the T&T class service project, she jumped on the opportunity to participate.

Allie Johnson
Allie Johnson

“This opportunity came up and made me feel right at home,” she said. “It’s awesome knowing that you’re giving back to a good cause.”

When it came time to deliver the bags, Crane-Laracuente and half of the T&T class met with Shawn Hinkle, the voluntary services officer of Dole VA Center.

“Shawn greeted us, as did a few of the older and younger vets passing through when entering or departing from hospital services,” Crane-Laracuente said. “We even saw one of the few remaining World War II vets, still able to walk on his own two feet though with a walker.”

Crane-Laracuente said Hinkle was “delighted” by just how many supplies were within each care bag, and was “happy that there were diabetic-friendly snacks included.” 

Students in Susan Crane-Laracuente's T&T class handed out goodie bags with hygiene products, food items and handwritten notes to residents of the hospital.
Students in Susan Crane-Laracuente’s T&T class handed out goodie bags with hygiene products, food items and handwritten notes to residents and care recipients of the hospital.

“Students Bailor Harris, Frank Reyes, Allie Johnson and Hallie Johnson had complete authority over what to buy within the budget, and came through with great, useful selections right in time to bag,” Crane-Laracuente said. “Allie and Hallie Johnson also bought and decorated the bags and helped as part of the delivery team.” 

Baked goods fundraiser

Kelly McFall
Kelly McFall

Kelly McFall, professor of history and director of the honors program, has worked with students in the past to host an “alternative gift” market in partnership with the local Wichita organization Alternative Gifts International (AGI)

AGI’s alternative gifts don’t always take the form of a physical object, but rather give the gift of service, sustainability or stability to individuals in need.

“A water well to a family in South Sudan, a book to a child in Ethiopia, a gift of freedom to those trapped in slavery — these are authentic gifts that will change lives,” AGI’s website reads. “Supporting one or more of these causes is always the perfect gift.”

Students of both Audrey Hane, assistant dean for arts and sciences and director of Navigator, and McFall’s Honors Program held an on-campus bake sale to raise money for AGI on Thursday, Dec. 2.

Students baked cookies, muffins, puppy chow, oreo balls and more at the bake sale fundraiser.
Students baked cookies, muffins, puppy chow, oreo balls and more at the bake sale fundraiser.

“The cause we chose to focus on is helping sexually exploited children,” student Isabel Porres said. “That really spoke to us because we’re all females and it is kind of a female-centered problem or issue. It was a great way to help little kids that have been exploited, getting them therapy and whatever they need.” 

Porres added, “I think it’s super cool that we can help people by just making a cookie.”

The table of the T&T class bake sale.
The table of the T&T class bake sale.

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