Students gather to volunteer in Lansing
The gymnasium quickly dissolved into chaos as the two lines of players rushed together.
In a diverse game of dodgeball, MSU students, local volunteers and Lansing schoolchildren faced off at the Boys and Girls Club of Lansing, 4315 Pleasant Grove Road. The match was part of Destination Lansing, a volunteer initiative launched this weekend.
Destination Lansing brings a diversity of on-campus groups together for a day of service and bonding. After volunteering, the groups share a meal together.
“(We work) not only to connect with the city but to connect different student groups,” said Sam Appel, the MSU Hillel program associate who organized the event.
Students from Culturas de las Razas Unidas, or CRU, MSU’s Latino student organization; the Black Student Alliance, and the Jewish Student Union all attended the event, as well as MSU athletes and intercultural aides. Appel said previous efforts to unite these groups were less successful.
“By bringing people together with meaningful service, (we) support connections between the different groups,” Appel said.
As the day started, MSU students and local children broke the ice with rock-paper-scissors, untied human knots and ran relay races. The event climaxed with a high-energy game of dodgeball, then children dispersed to play basketball, work on arts and crafts, and dance along with the TV, piping out beats. Dodgeball was a favorite.
“I like how people play safe. There is no hitting the face (even though) people can get hurt,” said Lilianne Rice, 10, who has been coming to the club for more than a year.
The Boys and Girls Club of Lansing hosts around 250 children each weekday and about 100-150 children on weekends, said Teen Services Director Dominique Devereaux.
“Our relationship with MSU is a big component of what we do, especially with mentoring and things of that nature,” she said.
The Destination Lansing volunteer group was “by far the biggest group I’ve seen,” Teen Room Supervisor Jared Seibt said.
Saturday’s inaugural event was funded through support from the MSU Federal Credit Union, said Cindy Hughey, executive director of MSU Hillel.
“(We are) very excited to launch this program, excited to give the community of Lansing and our students this opportunity,” she said. “We provide beneficial role models (for the children), they can see the possibilities ahead of them.”
Criminal justice sophomore Leo Ornelas, a CRU member, was moved by the event.
“It’s a very touching experience,” Ornelas said. “I was unaware of all these programs.”
Anthropology sophomore Jesus Leyva, a friend of Ornelas, watched as balls flew through the air in the gymnasium during dodgeball.
“This (is) my first time volunteering for this kind of work,” Leyva said. “It brings you back to when you were a little kid.”
Destination Lansing is a monthly event and the groups will be volunteering next at El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz Public School Academy, 1028 W. Barnes Ave., in Lansing.