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Ole Miss Students to Serve Communities Throughout Mississippi

University of Mississippi students work with community volunteers during the inaugural M Partner Community Day. Students will volunteer across the state Oct. 26 for the second annual Community Day, contributing time and service to projects in Charleston, Lexington and New Albany. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Some 150 University of Mississippi students will contribute time and service to community projects in Charleston, Lexington and New Albany later this month for the second annual M Partner Community Day.

The day of service will take place on Oct. 26 and students can volunteer by clicking here. Meals and transportation will be provided. Students will return to campus by 4 p.m.

M Partner is a UM initiative designed to align university capabilities with priority projects in partner communities. In the first phase of the initiative, Charleston, Lexington and New Albany serve as the community partners.

Throughout the pilot phase, faculty, staff and students have been working with the three towns to address community-identified needs ranging from health and wellness promotion to developing strategies to help children pass the third-grade reading gate test, and many other projects to support community and economic development. Various Ole Miss departments are involved in projects in numerous ways.

“While the focus of M Partner is on creating opportunities for community-engaged scholarship by connecting faculty and students to community projects, we also realize that our partners have immediate needs that can be best addressed through days of service,” said Laura Martin, M Partner director and associate director at the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

“UM students have a heart for service, so we hope that M Partner Community Day can be a conduit to greater community involvement – through classes, volunteer service or other ways to contribute to a better Mississippi for all.”

Students will work on projects identified by each community: Volunteers will support the Main Street Reimagined Initiative of the Charleston Main Street Association with work on beautification projects. Landscaping projects at the public library and courthouse square in Lexington will be completed. Volunteers will clean a New Albany community center, which is being refurbished to better support community events.

Students also may take a leadership role in Community Day by choosing to be a team leader when they sign up. Team leaders, who will attend two pre-event meetings, guide volunteers through orientation and reflection sessions before the day of service, then provide guidance on-site.

“Our hope is that by offering context prior to entering the community, team leaders can guide their peers in having meaningful and authentic interactions with our community partners,” Martin said.

The first M Partner Community Day was held in October 2018 and deployed more than 150 volunteers throughout the three partner communities. 

“Even if students are unable to volunteer with Community Day, there are many ways to get involved with the M Partner initiative and the McLean Institute,” said Taylor Robertson, M Partner VISTA. “Students who are interested in getting plugged into the university’s community engagement efforts can reach out to us via the McLean Institute website.”

By Dana Engelbert

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