A Need to Help

by Olivia Snare with Ann Hayes

Southeast’s students are dedicated to making things better by serving others.

“People go into service thinking they’ll impact someone else’s life, but little do most people know it will impact their own life.” -Joanna Shaver


The fabric of the Southeast comunity is woven with threads of varying textures and colors, gathered from pockets far and wide, and intricately bound by a common fiber–a deep-seeded commitment to serve, affect social change and extend a hand to those most in need.

Junior microbiology major Autumn Guill is no stranger to need.

“We were extremely poor when I was little,” says Guill. “We had to get assistance from our local food bank, and my family was put on our local Angel Tree, so we would have something for Christmas.”

While Guill is pursuing a degree to advance her own future, those experiences growing up and the kindness shown to her family have definitely made an impact. She serves as district governor for Circle K International and previously served as the president of Southeast’s chapter. She feels the need to help others because she understands the effect it can have. And, she wants to inspire others to do the same, encouraging her friends and sorority to serve.

Southeast’s first service organization was launched in 1939, but today there are nearly 10 service-focused organizations based on campus and working to make a difference every day in the lives of others.


Central to this crusade is Southeast Serves, providing students, faculty and staff opportunities to engage in community service on and off campus. The initiative began as a week-long project sending students into the Cape Girardeau community to serve a multitude of organizations. That effort has morphed into a variety of monthly service projects open to student volunteers.

southeast serves“Southeast Serves provides students the opportunity to do things they might not normally do, meet people they might not normally meet, and learn things about themselves and the community that they may not know,” says Joanna Shaver, coordinator of campus programming and Southeast Serves. “This new-found knowledge could lead to something more–a new passion for helping others.”

Students can serve at various organizations including the Missouri Department of Conservation, Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation Department, Cape Splash Family Aquatic Center, the University School for Young Children, the Humane Society, First Presbyterian Church, the SEMO Food Bank, the Missouri Veterans Home, Safe House for Women, Jefferson Elementary School, the Salvation Army’s annual Empty Bowls event and the Horizons Enrichment Center.

Recognizing the needs beyond Cape, Southeast Serves offered its first alternative spring break this year in which 10 students along with Shaver headed south to Pontotoc, Mississippi, where they built a house with Habitat for Humanity.

Southeast’s spirit of service has earned it a place on the national President’s Honor Roll for two consecutive years. In 2014-2015, more than 4,900 Southeast students each volunteered an average of 16 hours, totaling 79,488 service hours. The 2015-2016 Honor Roll has not yet been released.

“We are steadily growing the program,” Shaver says. “I see a lot of heart in our students.”


Having so many options for service organizations allows students to connect with organizations where they can create relationships; however, the bond lies in a passion for service.

That’s how junior hospitality management major and Gamma Sigma Sigma president Kim Cracchiolo found her place. Her resident assistant during her freshman year told her about the service sorority, so she attended an event to see what it was all about.

“I wanted something more service oriented because that’s what I was familiar with in high school,” Cracchiolo says.

Gamma Sigma Sigma holds a strong relationship with many organizations in the community, and she says many of them rely on the sorority.

Being in a service organization isn’t the only way to bond with others and help the community; Greek Life, Athletics, international students and campus ministries have embraced service as an integral part of their mission as well.

Members of Southeast’s Greek-lettered organizations each contribute about 20 hours of service a year. During Greek Week each spring, fraternities and sororities in the Interfraternity Council and Panhellenic Conference come together to partner with various non-profits to volunteer their time and raise money. This year, the organizations raised more than $15,000, collected more than 18,000 canned goods and donated 872 units of blood.

“Our Greek students always share that their most memorable experiences come from serving others,” says DeAnte’ Smith, director of Greek Life at Southeast. “We average more than 500 Greek volunteers annually to participate in Special Olympics. Most of our Greek students consider it the most rewarding volunteering experience in Greek Life. They say seeing the excited faces of the athletes who participate overwhelms them with joy.”


In addition to the local support, students are able to lend helping hands to surrounding communities, he said, referencing out-of-town treks students have made to offer relief to tornado-ravaged communities and others in need. Opportunities to help are growing, and students are taking advantage of it.

Over spring break, Catholic Campus Ministry students worked alongside the Missionaries of Charity, serving the poor and homeless in south Chicago, while students involved with Ignite volunteered with Service over Self in Memphis, Tennessee, repairing homes for families in need.


Rachel Blunt, assistant athletics director for compliance, facilitates the majority of community service in which Southeast student-athletes participate.

This generation, she says, has “grown up extremely ‘connected’ to their communities and understands the importance serving can provide to assist people in need due to the up-to-the-minute media coverage on such events. This generation has witnessed 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Sandy Hook, and many other monumental moments in real-time through social media coverage, which has affirmed the importance of giving back to your community because one single action can impact so many others.”

She says community service provides an invaluable connection among student-athletes, their programs and the local community.

Pink-Up Cape, a month-long breast cancer awareness program in Cape Girardeau in October, is one of the largest community service events in which Athletics participates.

“It’s a department-wide cause we rally to support because of its impact on women and their families in the local community. We have student-athletes and entire teams participate in a number of community service projects each academic year—the American Cancer Society’s Annual Cancer Gala, Feed My Starving Children, Adopt a Street and Read to Succeed.”


Regardless which group the student belongs to, the sentiment is the same: a need to help others.

“Being able to put a smile on the face of a child or somebody in need is a very rewarding feeling,” says Carson Echlemeyer, president of Southeast’s Beta Psi chapter of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.

“I believe serving others and their community is so important to who this group of students is as a generation because there is a genuine desire amongst most college students to want to grow and leave a place, ‘better than they found it,’” says Chris Miller, interim assistant director for facilities and operations in Residence Life and advisor to Campus United Way.

Guill wants people to know about her generation’s mission.

“There are tons of young people around the world working to make a positive difference in their community and the world.”

Shaver, too, sees the deep commitment students have to service, but says for her, the payoff is when they realize what they get in return.

“People go into service thinking they’ll impact someone else’s life, but little do most people know it will impact their own life.”

Pictured: Southeast students giving during Southeast Serves, Special Olympics, Rowdy’s Winter Wonderland, and Soles4Souls


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