Each Friday, they meet at 3 p.m. Student leaders give group updates and announce important news. Participants share reflections about personal experiences since the last meeting. Once in a while, happy birthday is sung and cupcakes are passed. But there's always someone who leads the group in a closing prayer.
They split into small groups, each according to his or her interest, and carpool to various locations around the city. Then they volunteer their time, energy, and enthusiasm for making the world a better place.
Who are they? Students Taking Active Reflective Roles (STARR). What they share is a desire to give nonprofit, social service, and other organizations—and the people they serve—a helping hand.
STARR is just one way Marian University challenges students to get involved, grow socially and spiritually, and practice their values and faith.
They engage in activities like light construction projects and seasonal yard work. They spend time with inner-city youth at after-school programs. They also interact with mentally and physically challenged adults, offering caring and companionship to those may feel forgotten.
This Friday, which is Earth Day and coincides with weekend activities coordinated by Earth Day Indiana, five STARR students drive across the White River to the Heslar Naval Armory. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Art Deco-style facility (originally known as the Indianapolis Naval Reserve Armory) was built on the river in 1936. It's also the new home of Riverside High School.
Their task is to help Groundwork Indy and Reconnecting our Waterways staff prepare for a gathering attended by about 150 local residents, community activists, civic leaders, and environmental experts.
The STARR students prepared name tags for attendees, helped with refreshments, managed parking, greeted attendees and directed them to the auditorium, and provided technical support during a visual presentation.
Then they learned about grass-roots efforts to protect and conserve the environment. They heard speakers discuss grant funding for projects to improve local waterways, greenways, parks, and urban brownfields. They saw an artist unveil a previously-funded public art project and listened as he discussed how local youth helped create it. And they got free T-shirts.
Other local organizations STARR students served this year are:
- Heritage Place—a senior center where older adults get comprehensive, coordinated services to promote health, wellness, independence, and greater quality of life through educational and social activities.
- Holy Family Shelter—an safe emergency shelter for homeless families providing food, shelter, and basic needs along with employment, life skills, and goal-setting strategies designed to move them toward self-sufficiency.
- Miracle Place—a neighborhood center providing spiritual refreshment and social services for children, families, and senior citizens, including a food pantry, community garden, home repair and rehabilitation, heating assistance, after-school programming, and summer field trips for local youth.
- Noble of Indiana—a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities and support for youth and adults with disabilities and their families through individualized services.
For information about STARR and campus ministry outreach initiatives at Marian University, contact Jeanne Grammens Hidalgo, campus minister for service and social justice, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317.955.6085.