Rasmussen College hosted its ninth annual Community Service Day Friday, July 21 where approximately 900 employees from the College’s 22 campuses and three central offices participated in the national service day event in communities across the U.S. This year, the Rasmussen College New Port Richey/West Pasco and Land O’Lakes/East Pasco campuses broadened their community service efforts beyond the one-day event in a partnership with the PACE Center for Girls, a nonprofit organization that provides at-risk young women with education, counseling, training and advocacy services to better prepare them for their future.
The service activities kicked off on Wednesday, July 19 when Rasmussen College employees invited girls from the PACE Center to visit the New Port Richey/West Pasco campus—conveniently located right across the street—for an immersive experience about higher education. “It was all very interactive for them throughout the day,” says Staceyann Sinclair, Rasmussen College Tampa metro area director. Upon arrival, the girls were welcomed by the New Port Richey/West Pasco campus management team, then were given a tour of the college campus. Afterwards, Rasmussen College employees broke the ice and encouraged the girls to open up with individually engaging games and activities. College employees shared their own personal stories with the young ladies over lunchtime, which left the girls feeling “encouraged and motivated,” said Sinclair.
Two days later, for the College’s Community Service Day, Rasmussen College employees performed a whole array of service activities at the PACE Center for Girls. Some of the service activities included painting classrooms, categorizing the library, cleaning the cafeteria and organizing the clothing closet where community members donate clothing for the girls. Prior to the service activities, more than 50 girls from the PACE Center gathered to paint decorative wooden “Hope” signs with the Rasmussen College employees. This activity allowed for the girls to learn more about college education and, once again, make a personal connection with someone from the college. Dan Sibol, the Academic and Communications Resource Coordinator at the PACE Center for Girls, said “it was a good opportunity for [the girls] to hear, once again, the importance of higher education, but not from a bunch of people in suits and people talking at them. It was more of a conversation that was able to be had.”
In addition to the service activities, each volunteer participated in an hour-long workshop in which they were able to get to know one of the girls individually. For the girls, this personal connection is what makes all the difference. As Sibol puts it, “as soon as [the girls] can make a connection with the speaker, you’ve got them. All of a sudden, everything that you’re saying becomes a lot more important. Once they kind of realize, ‘Hey, this isn’t just some person who was born into a better situation than I was…that sounds like me’, you’re able to deliver your message with much more effectiveness.”
The partnership between Rasmussen College and the PACE Center for Girls includes past service activities such as hosting on-campus educational workshops, providing career services and converting a space in the PACE Center to a clinic. Most notable was the Rasmussen College Tampa/Brandon campus’ 2015 Community Service Day event, when one Rasmussen College graphic design instructor designed an entire mural for the Hillsborough PACE Center for girls, which College employees later painted in conjunction with the College’s national service day event.
For the PACE Center, community partnerships are integral to ensure that the girls have access to all the necessary services and resources. According to Sibol, the PACE Center for Girls places high emphasis on community participation, “and to have such willing partners like Rasmussen is really just so important, because it really helps us serve our girls better and that’s why all of us are here. It really makes a huge difference.”
To Rasmussen College employees, this Community Service Day meant so much more than simply volunteering some time. “’Heartwarming’ is the word I was hearing a lot. Really impactful—impactful in way that the employees know they were able to…influence [the girls] in a positive way,” Sinclair explains, “I actually have three team members that have said they want to do more with them.”
For Sinclair, “it means giving back and making an impact… I like to help when I see people struggling and not knowing where to go yet in their life.” In the past, Staceyann Sinclair was an ambassador for the PACE Center for Girls—a role in which she supported the organization through fundraising, informing the girls on education, and connecting the girls with community resources.
For more information on the PACE Center for Girls, click here.