I had the honor of working with over 100 women at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ on January 17, 2011, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It was the third annual leadership conference for the students and the focus was on community service. It was a fun and exciting event and the enthusiasm of the women warmed up a cold January day!
My part of the program was to present “Building Leaders Through Service®” as an interactive, two-hour leadership seminar in the morning. My approach was to get the women thinking about servant leadership and what role(s) it could play in their lives. I presented personal stories and encounters with everyday servant leaders such as a U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet, my daughters, and students that I have worked with. We talked about great servant leaders in history such as Dr. King, Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Ghandi.
I also shared eight qualities of servant leaders such as putting others above self, instilling a lifetime commitment to service in others, and serving by helping others achieve their dreams. In the last case I shared the sacrifice of a person close to me, my wonderful wife, who has sacrificed her own career goals in order to support my dream of being a professional speaker. That drew a loud “Awwww” from the audience—well deserved for my best friend in the world! We finished with the “Leadership Circle” where the women joined hands and shared their commitments to serve others, and then it was off to a fabulous lunch!
The afternoon continued with the students working on community service projects, all staged on campus. Students were randomly assigned via a colored sticker on their program folder. Some made soup for the Ocean County Coalition for Women—chopping vegetables, peeling potatoes, filling pots—while others made crafts to be given to the local Meals on Wheels program. The crafts would be added to the meal packages to brighten the day of the recipients.
“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” ~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This was a hugely successful program and one that could be duplicated on your campus. Everything took place at the school. My program was in the gymnasium, with theater-style seating and plenty of room for the interactives. There was also room to set up the tables and buffet for lunch. The service agencies came to the school and the kitchen in the gymnasium and a nearby residence hall were used for preparing and cooking the soup, while a large downstairs area served as the craft center. There were no transportation issues for the students, or additional liability, since they stayed on campus. And since everything was planned for indoors, weather was not an issue.
Do you have questions about this program? Or comments to share? Would you like to conduct a program like this on your campus? Perhaps your school does a Day of Service program already. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the space below!
“We can change the world… By serving… One life at a time.”
– Dave Kelly, creator and facilitator of Building Leaders Through Service®