Dedicated to Service

Bradley students landscaped Peoria's Renaissance Park Community Garden during Welcome Week's day of service. Students worked at several sites as part of the first volunteer day of the school year. (Photo by Duane Zehr)

Matt Hawkins
September 14, 2015

When Bradley students arrive on the Hilltop, they reach beyond Main and University Streets and become part of Peoria’s fabric as they pour thousands of hours into community service.

Students tackle volunteer projects in the city before classes start and continue to make a difference throughout the year at Peoria-area nonprofits. Through student organizations and class projects, students volunteered over 50,000 hours and raised over $128,000 for 300 nonprofits in 2014-2015.

Those efforts build bridges between students and their neighbors.

“We’re all in this together,” said engineering major Ryan Rembert ’19, of Bloomington, Illinois. “We’re not just Bradley students, we’re residents of Peoria. It’s not just about Bradley, it’s about the whole community.”

Rembert is among 15 freshmen in the Bradley Fellows program, which develops student leaders through leadership training and community engagement. Fellows is one of several service programs coordinated by the Lewis J. Burger Center for Student Leadership and Public Service, which is the hub for Bradley’s community outreach.

One of the Burger Center’s popular efforts is Service on Saturday, a monthly volunteer morning at sites around the city.

“It really is an uplifting experience to impact the place you live,” said international business and French double major Enriqueta Rodriguez ’17, of Warrenville, Illinois. “The fact that students wake up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday shows they care about the community.”

Students also volunteer regularly for community organizations, such as local food banks, soup kitchens, Girl Scouts, Easter Seals, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center and the East Bluff Community Center.

Such projects yield more than cleaner neighborhoods and funds for good causes. The Burger Center reported that students last year also collected 6,000 clothing items, 2,500 canned goods and 577 pints of blood.

“It’s great to see students who come out for a Service on Saturday continue to volunteer on a continual basis to an agency because they had a great time volunteering,” said Burger Center Director Jessica Chandler. “Then, there are student organizations that help agencies with projects they wouldn’t otherwise have time to get done. It’s little things that add up to big things for our community.”

Beyond the Burger Center’s scope, students serve the community through Greek life, honor societies and class projects such as the communication department’s Ebeling Prize competition and Bradley student organizations.

“This takes us out of the Bradley bubble and our comfort zones,” Rembert said. “As young adults, we should take time to experience new things and meet new people. I want to see the world outside my Bradley Experience.”