SFA student volunteers poste at the Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska

A group of Stephen F. Austin State University students spent their 2016 spring break cheering up residents of the Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. The SFA Office of Student Engagement reported that students recorded almost 200,000 service hours in 2015-16, an increase of more than 85,000 hours from the prior year.

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Whether cleaning out gutters, raking yards or painting homes, statistics produced by the Stephen F. Austin State University Office of Student Engagement show SFA students logged almost 200,000 hours of volunteer service in 2015-16.

“There is a proven added value to a college experience when students are exposed to, and directly serve, the local community,” said Molly Moody, SFA assistant director of student engagement, leadership and service. “The Office of Student Engagement, through leadership and service programs, promotes a variety of opportunities for students to engage with the Nacogdoches and global community.

“Whether it be The BIG Event, volunteering with Nacogdoches ISD, at a local senior care facility, or at Millard’s Crossing, students are able to learn about the residents who live in this city all year, the history of a place that they call a home away from home, and the many ways that they can contribute to a culture of caring that will impact this community for a lifetime.”

Students volunteered a total of 193,337 hours assisting communities in 2015-16 compared to 106,775 hours in 2014-15. Moody said the increase resulted in part from an added emphasis on service-hour reporting.

“The amount of service our students humbly pour back into this city is phenomenal,” said Moody. “So much so that many chose not to record their hours of service because they do not feel they need the praise. I honestly believe a truer figure is around 500,000. Leadership and service programs focus our conversation on the importance of service and the added value it brings to the educational experience.”

The BIG Event is, as its name suggests, the largest volunteer event of the year. Approximately 1,500 students served more than 120 sites in Nacogdoches County on a single day during the 2016 event. Other small volunteer events occur throughout the year, including out-of-town service events hosted during spring break.

Though projects ranging from small to large are ongoing all year, organizations that log the most service hours traditionally include Driving Jacks, Traditions Council, Students Activities Association, Dancers Against Cancer and Jack Camp.

“As an institution, we are constantly reminding students that the most important project in college is themselves,” Moody said. “Service-learning experiences, be it volunteer work or serving in a leadership role in a service-driven organization, are some of the most transformative experiences in which a student can participate.”