Students gather at the flag mall before departing for their volunteer sites. Photo credit: Darren Heslop
The program was coordinated by the Center for Faith Engagement (CFE) in tandem with the Andrews University Student Association (AUSA). Many volunteers, project leaders, student clubs and departments made up one of the largest planning teams yet, laying the foundation for a successful day of service.
Teela Ruehle, director of student missions and service projects, expresses, “Our motto is to make World Changers, and on Thursday we were able to put our faith into action and live out that mission. When the vision for Change Day was first shared, the goal was for Andrews to not only take residence in the community, but to have a positive presence.” She goes on to say, “We had several smaller, understaffed organizations tell us this year that they were waiting for us to call and were excited that we were coming back. This is exactly what we hope for with Change Day—that our Andrews community will provide positive influence and impact so that we can help make a difference in the lives of others and show the love of God.”
On Thursday morning, volunteers gathered together to eat breakfast, grab lunches and prepare for the day. They then set off in groups to their various locations, participating in car washes, nature restoration, yard work, care package creation, community outreach and more. Ruehle affirms, “Over the past six years, we have been able to build relationships and really see the difference that we can make in the community. One day seems like it wouldn’t make a large difference, but it’s the first step in becoming World Changers. I love how our community has embraced us and learned that they can reach out and ask for help from our skilled faculty, staff and students.”
Kayla-Hope Bruno, a senior psychology major, served with a group at Warren Dunes. Her team was tasked with picking out and cutting invasive plants and species from within the woods. She explains, “That was interesting—I wasn’t really expecting it because I thought we were going to pick up trash on the beach, but it was cool!” When their work was finished, a tour guide gave them an overview of the area, pointing out different plants and explaining different aspects of the environment. She notes, “Overall, I enjoyed it! It was a good experience.”
Even when things did not go according to plan, the volunteers still found intentional ways to make a positive impact. Austin Greer, a third-year Master of Divinity student, participated as a group leader for an event. Earlier in the week, he learned that the original plan to visit a home for the elderly was canceled. On the morning of Change Day, their second project was called off at the last minute. He expresses, “Our team adapted really well. We made Niles smile by sweetening their day with baked goods, gummies for kids, water bottles and sweet phrases on sticky notes.” Despite the changing plans, his group made the best of the situation and brought joy to the community.
When the students and staff returned to campus after a successful day of service, they were greeted with a Change Day after-party. Food, games and colorful activities took place on the sunny afternoon, celebrating the day of service and the work of the volunteers.
Hailey Prestes, a junior architecture student, helped plan the event as AUSA's social vice president. She enthuses, “It was a lot of hard work put together by the team: AUSA and CFE joined together in making sure it happened. My favorite part was seeing everyone get into it, get excited, [and] get that school spirit! We’ve got that community going. Overall, I just hope everyone enjoyed the experience and had a good time.”
Change Day served as the kick-off to other upcoming service events, and Ruehle encourages the Andrews community to stay involved and active. She states, “We host service Sabbaths on the first Saturday of each month, blood drives, homeless ministries, nursing home visitation, food distribution, mission trips and so much more! We encourage students to get involved and help plan events of their own.”
“I’m so proud of our students. They are dedicated to changing the world, and it really showed,” Ruehle affirms. “We surpassed our expectations of volunteers, and it was amazing to see so many young people willing to work hard to help our neighbors. Changing the world starts by engaging the community that you are in, building relationships in those communities and fulfilling small acts of kindness.”
Founded in 1874, Andrews University is the flagship institution of higher education for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and offers more than 160 areas of study, including advanced degrees. Its main campus is in Berrien Springs, Michigan, but the University also provides instruction at colleges and universities in more than 25 countries around the world.
Isabella Koh, University Communication student writer