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franklin county times

My College Cares: One day to work, a lifetime to serve

By Staff
Oct. 26, 2001
Ah, life. What's it all about? An oft-asked and profound philosophical question, the shortest answer to which I've ever heard is, "You live and then you die."
But surely the interim, that is, the manner in which we live has some import. God help us if that's not true.
As all that gobbledy-goop relates to the college experience, perhaps agencies like Meridian Community College have a societal responsibility to promote something beyond self-improvement through the acquisition of new knowledge and skills. Perhaps colleges should also advocate service to one's fellow man.
I mean, isn't that what it's really all about? Life, that is. If one is just in it for him or herself, then what's the diff? Why be born?
At MCC, we try to promote giving something back to the community volunteerism, if you will in numerous ways. The college sponsors over 30 student organizations, most of which engage in some kind of community service activities throughout the year.
In an even broader sense, MCC invests one full school day per year in community service through a program called "My College Cares." I wish I could claim credit for it, but the program was actually initiated four years ago during the administration of longtime MCC President Dr. Bill Scaggs.
Community service
Since then, literally thousands of students and staff have volunteered their time in activities ranging from picking up trash to reading to school children to visiting nursing homes. This year's "My College Cares" day was held earlier this month.
Personally, I have weeded flower gardens at public school facilities, sorted donated clothing items at the Salvation Army, and collected trash in a North Meridian neighborhood. Being a part of the program each year has been fun and provided me with a special opportunity to interface with students.
Each year MCCers wear bright yellow "My College Cares" T-shirts for the day. In my first year at MCC, I fretted about the expense of the T-shirts, feeling there was something incongruent about promoting community service, on the one hand, and using taxpayer money to buy T-shirts, on the other.
But based on the comments I've received from the community the last four years, I've come to see the value in the T-shirts.
The public has strongly identified "My College Cares" teams with those yellow T-shirts, and that has caused the program to gain much greater recognition and appreciation.
Anyway, most MCC staff are still wearing the same T-shirt they used four years ago. In fact, I just break mine out of the closest once a year to make certain it still holds up.
T-shirts, however, isn't the point to this writing.
Important values
Rather, it's to let MCC constituents know that your community college is trying to do its part to instill certain important values in our students. One of those is giving something back to the public who so kindly supports them.
Relationships, after all, should be reciprocal. MCC is well supported by the public. The people of Lauderdale County provide tax support to MCC each year, and considerable private donations are made to The MCC Foundation by individuals and businesses. Such is how exemplary programs like the MCC "Tuition Guarantee," through which the tuition of any graduate of a public or private high school in Lauderdale County can be defrayed, are funded.
Also, my salary and the salaries of all other MCC employees are paid, in part, through those same tax dollars. Bottom line, we should never take that support for granted, and it's little enough that our students and staff can set aside a special day each year to give a little something back to the community.
I reckon one day isn't all that much, but perhaps it's not the day itself that's important. Rather, it's the statement that we're trying to make to our students that life isn't a vacuum, that service to one's fellow man is truly noble.
In other words, it's a lonely path that's trod by the person who washes only his own feet.
Dr. Scott Elliott is president of Meridian Community College.

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