Commencement is always a time of renewal for me. As families celebrate many accomplishments, I have an opportunity to hear their stories. They remind me about the vast changes that occur in the lives of students as they journey through four years of college. Through evolving academic interests, study abroad opportunities, athletic competition, music ensembles and service-learning, our graduates blend knowledge, skill and experience. The most common phrase I hear from graduating seniors is: “I got to do so many things.”
As I meet with alumni around the world, I hear the echoes of that shared experience. The graduates from the 1980s greet those from more recent classes and begin to talk about the things they share across time. The memories of a choir tour, the conference tournament and a semester in Europe bring a recognition that they come from the same place.
Even more impressive to me is the sense today’s students and generations of alumni share something in common—they are actively engaged citizens. For some, this is reflected in community and church involvement; for others in settings around the world. They are innovators in developing new approaches and committed to a set of values reflected in a life of service. Here are a few examples:
- A group of Central students, led by Kristin Tremper, assistant director of community-based learning, traveled to Schoharie, N.Y. in the summer to assist with rebuilding efforts and run a day camp to relieve regular community volunteers recovering from home damage caused by Hurricane Irene.
- Liz Anderson ’08 wrapped up 27 months of Peace Corps service in Cameroon in December 2011. She worked closely with an orphanage for children with disabilities in her village and spearheaded a fundraising project to help with relocation and expansion, in addition to overseeing a project to prepare the land for construction of a new dormitory.
- Curtis Brobst ’09 is serving as a secondary science educator in Kenya through a two-year assignment with the Peace Corps.
- And don’t forget Cheri Trout Doane ’98, who was featured recently in Civitas. She and so many of our faculty members have ignited the passion for service in our students.
We often go to the same places in life, but we have very different journeys. Going to college is a relational experience of learning and self-discovery, not a transactional task of buying a credential to simply get the next job. The common thread is found in the values we have gained and the commitments we share. These translate into an activism each member of the Central College family expresses differently, but it’s rooted in the same experience. Our army of activists can make a profound difference in the communities we encounter. We still have the opportunity to do so many things.