Homestead Bayfront Park provided a stunning backdrop for eager volunteers who started FIU’s Homecoming week with community service. Nearly 80 students and staff came out to lend a hand with landscaping and trash collection on a day that featured blue skies and, mercifully, low humidity.
Their reasons for participating ran the gamut.
“In the spirit of FIU at 50, it was an opportunity for me and my stepdaughter to connect while also engaging in volunteer work,” said Owen Baillie, director of development for the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work. Baillie referenced the “Give 50 Service as Celebration” initiative that has collectively enticed upwards of a thousand individuals to service events throughout the year as a way of marking the 50th anniversary of FIU’s founding. His stepdaughter, Krystal Arvonio, was a good sport about being brought to two such events in as many months.
“I thought it was nice,” the Killian High School sophomore said, despite having to show up at the park by 9 a.m. on a Saturday to plant ornamental vegetation and spread mulch. And she added of her stepdad, “He’s probably more fun than my mom, I can say that.”
A trio from the International Business Honors Society—junior business management major Deidre Oge, senior international business major Veronica Chua and senior logistics and supply chain management major Peter Williams—made the trip to Homestead as a way of showing their group’s commitment to serving others. The organization earlier this year took a contingent to Costa Rica to help struggling small businesses with marketing strategy and will do the same next year in India.
“I came out really because it’s a gorgeous day today,” Williams said. “And what better way to start your weekend than helping others.”
Fiacre Bienvenu, a doctoral student in the Department of Politics & International Relations, wanted a chance to observe how Americans approach the concept of community service.
“I wanted to try it out,” the native of Rwanda said. He explained that he was intrigued by how service is often embedded within academic courses, known in the United States as service learning. “It’s important for me to explore how knowledge is connected to the social life of the larger community as a whole. I think I’m going to be observing and watching for every little detail.”
And his final impression?
“Everybody was doing it in a way that really shows a positive energy,” Bienvenu said, adding that everyone was contributing to making his or her own world a better place. “It’s a self-serving investment.”
On that last point, two-time FIU alumna Diana Young agrees. She is the community outreach and resource manager for Miami-Dade Parks.
“We have an incredible team,” Young said of a staff that manages and maintains more than 260 parks, including beaches and marinas, “but it’s always a benefit and a blessing to have extra hands from the community. At the end of the day, these are their parks. We engage the community to take ownership of their parks and to love coming here.”