NSU's Big Event strengthens university, community relationship

(Tahlequah, OK)--Preparations are underway for the sixth annual Big Event at Northeastern State University. The March 26 event is an opportunity for NSU students to recognize the importance of community.

The Big Event is a one-day service event allowing students, faculty, and staff to say, “Thank you” to citizens and businesses of the Tahlequah community for their continued support and molding of collegiate careers.

"It shows that the NSU community isn't just focused on getting a degree and taking whatever they can," said Chris Nettles, Big Event committee co-chair. "The Tahlequah community is a huge supporter of NSU and this is just one way that allows the students and faculty to give back."

The Big Event Planning Committee actively recruits job sites within the community and reaches out to the needy. During the Big Event, hundreds of students will go into the community to help residents who do not have the financial or physical means to make minor home repairs or do simple household chores. Students interact with the community and strenghten the relationship between NSU and Tahlequah.

"It allows Tahlequah residents to know that NSU is aware and willing to make a difference," said Shane Franklin, Big Event committee co-chair. "Students are given a special opportunity to give back to the community and are rewarded with a sense of humbleness. Volunteers gain a sense of understanding of why community service is so important. There is no better reward than seeing the smiles from those that you've helped."

Big Event tasks include raking leaves, cleaning gardens, painting, picking up trash, cleaning out gutters, washing windows, feeding animals, walking dogs and more. The Big Event is not about the number of jobs completed or the number of students participating; rather, it is the interaction with the residents and the resulting community unity that makes the Big Event so big.

"It gets all of the students and faculty rallied on an early Saturday morning for a great cause," said Nettles. "In addition it helps students interact with different people they may have never met if not for the event."

The Big Event is planned and coordinated by students. It began with 50 student volunteers in its first year at NSU and hit a high of 800 participants last year.

"This year our goal is 1000 students and faculty," said Nettles. "We decided this year to go outside the four walls of the school and reach out to the Tahlequah High School students and solicit their help on that day."

The Big Event is a collaborative initiative between NSU, Tahlequah government agencies, local non-profit agencies and citizens. The program's goal of thanking the community is demonstrated in the increasing number of student and citizen volunteers.

"Volunteers may obtain a number a different views by the end of the day, but overall it's always been more of a humbling experience for me," said Nettles. "There's a saying that goes, 'I once complained about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.' While in college, we sometimes tend to take being here for granted and never realize that it's a privilege. The least we can do while in school is reach out to our neighboring community and help someone in need."

The Big Events began 28 years ago at Texas A&M University and is now the largest one-day, student-run service project in the nation.

"It has become a signature student service program at Northeastern," said Laura Boren, dean of student affairs. "The student and Tahlequah community relationship grows stronger each year as a result of this NSU tradition. Oftentimes the relationship that is made between the student and local residence goes beyond the one day of service. These long-term relationships are one of many benefits of the Big Event." 

Published: 3/1/2011 2:58:46 PM

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