Letter to the editor: Gamecocks united through resiliency, service

Vanessa Purpura / The Daily Gamecock

This week I’ll mark my 60th day as president of the University of South Carolina and it seems as if very little time has passed since I was carrying boxes for new freshmen on move-in day and preparing for convocation, my first big speech as president. Now fall break is rapidly approaching, and in about two more weeks, the semester will already be halfway over. 

When I meet with various groups on and off campus I inevitably get asked, “What is my favorite part about being president so far?” There are many great aspects to this job, but the honest reply is that I love interacting with students and it’s easily the part of my day I look forward to the most. 

Whether it’s part of a formal meeting or stopping to say hello on the way to class, students have defined for me what makes this university special. During early morning workouts at the Blatt and Strom, I’ve seen students push themselves physically beyond where they thought they could go. I’ve met with the Association of African American Students and those from the LGBTQ+ community who want to make campus a more inclusive place. Student Government leaders have shared with me their desire to amplify student voices when important decisions are being made. I’ve also stood beside members of our Greek community as they supported one another through the painful loss of a friend, turning the tragedy into an uplifting message to raise awareness about mental health.

In short, ours is a resilient student community that’s constantly seeking ways to make tomorrow even better than today. Many students aren’t content to just improve their own personal circumstances but seek to lead a life of purpose and service to others. 

Last year alone, more than 17,000 Gamecocks participated in over 118,000 hours in volunteer service — all for the benefit of helping local residents.  That includes everything from engaging in tutoring sessions, gathering donations for local food pantries to raising much-needed funds for charity organizations. Just earlier this week, I received a note from a resident about several of our students who helped neighbors with a beautification and safety project in the University Hill neighborhood. There are countless other examples of our students demonstrating personal character through service, and I learn of new ones each day. 

I’m convinced we can build on that culture, especially in helping address the needs of our state. One example is one-on-one mentorship, and I’m exploring ways in which our students can take an active role in assisting K-12 students from local South Carolina schools achieve academically. Ultimately, that will increase the number of first-generation students from under-served communities who aspire to attend college. 

For more information on how to get involved with service today, visit the Leadership and Service website. There’s a wide array of options available, even for students juggling busy class and work schedules. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me at president@sc.edu and share your vision for how Gamecocks can help make South Carolina even better. 

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