Cornerstone: Reflecting on a semester of service
As the fall semester comes to a close, it only seems fitting that we take a moment to step back and reflect. For our first-year freshmen, the end of this semester also marks the end of Cornerstone. Recently, our campus had the opportunity to see what each Cornerstone group had been working on these past few months.
“These NNU students added a new sense of life and love to our efforts to share with our neighbors’ food, prayer and friendship. They served with such grace and compassion that our neighbors left with a renewed sense of hope and being loved.”
NNU’s Cornerstone Program introduces first-year students to actively participate in NNU’s mission: Enable each student to become God’s creative and redemptive agent in the world. Through this class, students come to understand, reflect on, and begin to apply the university values of Truth, Transformation, Community and Service.
Each of the 12 Cornerstone classes works directly with a community partner throughout the semester, serving alongside organizations that many didn’t know were right around the corner from NNU. These community partners included The Salvation Army, Nampa School District, Hispanic Cultural Center of Idaho, Grace Episcopal Church, Nampa Family Justice Center, Nampa Care House Partners, Family and Community Resource Center, The Mentoring Network and Because, International.
At the conclusion of the course, every Cornerstone section comes together for an exhibition where they present a display of their projects and each student has the opportunity to share about their experience.
Bridgett Ball, one of the students in Dr. David Chaplin’s section, played a key role in orchestrating her class’s engagement with their partner. Working with the Nampa School District in their Family and Community Resource Center (FCRC), Dr. Chaplin’s class spent the semester working with the FCRC and Snake River Elementary School. NNU students played with elementary students at recess, conducted one-on-one mentoring or volunteered to do odd jobs around the resource center. When asked about her experience, Bridgett said, “I was nervous at first if the kids would get involved and play with us. Part of it was having to put ourselves out there, but after a few minutes they joined in!”
Each community partnership was designed so students could engage in service opportunities, as well as a way to get to know the local community. Bridgett went on to say that engaging with the FCRC was a great experience for her because she went into the semester knowing nothing about them, but left with an understanding and appreciation for the organization and the people who are involved.
From the perspective of the community partners themselves, it may be overwhelming to invite 24 college freshmen into an organization they know nothing about. But for Pastor Tony Johnson of Nampa First Church of the Nazarene, he welcomed the help with open arms.
Pastor Johnson is the director of Nampa Care House Partners, a food pantry that serves over 500 families each month while also offering medical and counseling services. Dr. Jamee Nixon’s class partnered with the Care House volunteering in the food pantry, helping visitors get the resources they needed and interacted with the people who came through the small house three times a week.
When asked about his experience working with NNU Cornerstone students, Pastor Johnson said, “These NNU students added a new sense of life and love to our efforts to share with our neighbors’ food, prayer and friendship. They served with such grace and compassion that our neighbors left with a renewed sense of hope and being loved.” He said that the students were eager to help wherever help was needed, which really encouraged the Care House’s regular volunteers “as they saw the younger generation stepping up to the call to be the hands and heart of Jesus Christ to the less fortunate around us.”
During this past semester, Cornerstone classes were encouraged to leave any preconceived notions behind and open themselves up to the work that God is already doing in our community. As we look forward to winter break and the upcoming spring semester, we are inspired by the engagement of our students in the local area and want to encourage everyone to bless someone with service this holiday season.