A few weeks ago, I found my way to Wine & Design for a fundraiser aimed at making Raleigh stronger by making life better for people in the city’s Southeast corridor.
While there, I struck up a conversation with folks whose fingers tinker on the pulse of solutions.
One of them was Shaw University President Tashni-Ann Dubroy, who championed service-learning as part of her leadership strategy to instill in students how civic responsibility strengthens communities where they live, work and play.
“Shaw University has been a significant anchor in the Southeast Raleigh community for 150 years,” Dubroy, who took the helm at her alma mater in August, told me later. “At any moment in our history, we have played the role of community advocate and educator, and so many times the community has done the same for us.
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“We respect that,” Dubroy said, noting the community’s rally a few years ago to save Shaw when its sustainability was at risk.
“We educate the community and, in turn, we create alumni who want to give back to the university,” Dubroy added. “We want to teach that when you are a student at Shaw University, you are going to be taught how to give a lot when you only have a little. It’s not just being present, but adding value by being present.”
Since then, I’ve seen Dubroy and her leadership team suit up in a 9/11 service project “to show our students, faculty and staff we are very willing to go out and perform acts of kindness for someone in our community,” she said.
Alumni set examples, too.
In fact, Dubroy, whose inauguration was followed by a controversial move to cut funding to band and sports programs to balance aid to all students, credits alumni with helping financially strapped students stay in school and paying off arrears for other students; and with leading etiquette and career planning sessions, and black male summits.
Last week, the Quettes, spouses of the Raleigh alumni of Iota Iota chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity, showed up at Shaw’s Dimple Newsome Women’s Residence Hall with crates of toiletries to give away. There was soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, perfume, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products and T-shirts.
Last year, St. Augustine’s University students were the benefactors of the Quettes.
Gertrude Cromwell, who graduated from Shaw in 1958, is co-chair of the school’s Women’s Care Drive. She serves as a mom-away-from-home for students.
“I come often because I don’t want to feel like a stranger,” said Cromwell, whose classmate-turned-husband, Julius, is president of the school’s Raleigh/Wake alumni chapter. “It’s not a bad idea to have people around who students can talk to – people who can keep the line kind of straight and help them know they’re connected to and part of, not set away from, the community.
“They have to learn: Even when you’re away from home, you’re home.”
Giving students free toiletries not only sets an example of what will be expected of them. It also shows firsthand how giving is receiving, said Quettes president Linda Douglas, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.
“These kids want to make this world a better place by bettering themselves through education, and we are here for them,” said Douglas, whose husband, Ken, a graduate of UNC-Charlotte, is Iota Iota’s basileus-elect. “We are happy to be an example of connecting service with the learning experience, and show tangibly how service learning comes to life.”
Students get it.
“I really see the importance of coming back to give something, whether it’s toiletries or time,” said Chantel Wright, a sophomore studying mass communications and military science. “I’m an advocate: Come back to campus and give what you can.”